Making friends in confined spaces.

30 Jan

Last week I committed two faux pas while riding the rails from Boston to DC. The first occurred on the Boston to NYC leg. The timing worked out so that I needed to eat dinner on the train, so before sitting down, I went to the Café Car. If you’ve never taken the train, let me assure you: the Café Car on Acela is not like what you see in movies.

NOT the Acela.

There’s no white tablecloth, and definitely no silver. While it’s not fine dining, there are still some decent options, which is how I came to order Legal Seafoods’ Clam Chowder. Since we were departing Boston, it seemed fitting.

That’s about as much thought as I gave it – until I sat down back on the Quiet Car and removed the lid. At which point, the seafood smell of it rose up like a fist and punched me in the face. Yes, I was that person. The one who buys a tuna sandwich and opens it up on a plane right after take-off, ensuring the entire cabin smells like fish.

Horrified, I channeled my embarrassment back at Amtrak in the form of outrage: Why on Earth would they offer this on their menu? This should only be served at establishments with open-air patios! Fortunately, since I was on the Quiet Car, I knew no one would actually confront me, so I just kept my eyes on the bowl so I wouldn’t have to endure any angry glances.

Not wanting to make the same mistake on the NYC to DC leg the next day, I picked up a quesadilla at Penn Station for the ride. Once I was settled into my seat on the train, I began producing the items for my meal: quesadilla, salsa, napkins, soft drink, fork, Purell.

That’s right: Purell. Have I mentioned that I’m slightly OCD? And that I get sick almost every time I travel? Those two factors have combined to make me a religious user of  liquid hand sanitizer. I have a refillable dispenser that looks like a highlighter and sprays the Purell almost like a squirt gun.

So as I tucked into my meal, I pulled out my Purell highlighter, gave it a few pumps and rubbed my hands together. And — nothing. There was no Purell on my hands. I looked at the dispenser to see if it had run dry, and then I realized: the spray hole hadn’t been lined up with my hands.

No. It had sprayed out fine. Just not on my hands. With a sense of dread, I started looking around to see where it might have landed. And that’s when I saw two quarter-sized blobs running down the laptop screen of the man seated next to me. Gah!

Fortunately, he was standing up at the time, placing his coat in the overhead bin, so he hadn’t seen me spray down his MacBook Pro. Hoping to eliminate the evidence, I leaned over with my napkin and started trying to wipe his screen discreetly. About this time, I noticed the man across the aisle scowling at me, clearly thinking I was tampering with a stranger’s laptop. Which, in fairness, I suppose I was.

I gave him my most disarming smile (which, I believe, looks I’m channeling Amelie from the French movie, but actually probably more accurately looks like a baby filling its diaper) and abandoned Operation Wipedown, turning to stare out the window. At just this moment, my seatmate sat back down and began typing.

I continued to face the window, my shoulders shaking as I silently giggled, praying that he wouldn’t ask me why his laptop had a clear schmear across the screen. And I could not stop laughing. To say it tickled my funny bone would be an understatement. I sat there, silently shaking, until I had tears running down my cheeks.

At one point, I thought I had composed myself well enough to apologize, but I turned around saw the schmeary outline of the gel on his screen and just lost it. He gave me an odd look and returned to his work, no doubt wondering what kind of nutjob he was sharing a seat with.

Ultimately, I wasn’t busted. But I can’t exactly say I got away with it. Because I’m pretty sure he was sitting there writing a blog about the freakshow next to him who alternately sprayed Purell and convulsed for the duration of the ride.

Actually, now that I think about it, he probably should’ve thanked me for the material. Or at least for disinfecting his screen. You’re welcome, Amtrak Stranger! Now pay it forward…

12 Responses to “Making friends in confined spaces.”

  1. becomingcliche January 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I need to take the train more often.

  2. thesinglecell January 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    The way I see it, this could have been way worse. You could have spooged mayo or tartar sauce on his screen, from a little packet. That would have been A) more obvious; 2) exactly the opposite of sanitary; and lastly, potentially having the appearance of a bodily fluid. I say you did him a favor, disinfecting his screen like that. Well done, you.

    • pithypants January 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

      Could have, but never would. Know why? Because my OCD self won’t EAT mayo or tartar sauce or yogurt or sour cream or pudding. Talk about issues…

  3. Ms Mary January 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    That. Was. Hilarious. Thanks for the belly laughs.

    • pithypants January 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Thanks for laughing! Now you know how NOT to handle that situation.

  4. mysending January 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I love the Amelie/diaper image. Oh I can relate to the not-so-glamorous travel on the train!

  5. Kelly Thompson January 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    I’ve taken that Boston train but my seatmate was nowhere near as entertaining (or sanitary) as you. She did, however, come with her own cooler of exotic but pretty much odor-free delicacies. Talk about your strangers on a train…

  6. John January 31, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Next time he decides to kiss his MacBook he’ll be at no risk for infection!

  7. Michele Hoke Steele January 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    I’ve been on somewhat of a hiatus of regular reading on Pithypants since having Addy but I am happy to be welcomed back with a huge laugh out loud while sitting in my cube at work and looking like a total idiot! How does this crap happen to you? I mean you can’t make this stuff up!

    • pithypants January 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Welcome back! Glad I could bring a smile to your cube.

  8. Lorna's Voice January 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    I loathe fish. Always have. I would have given you the serious Stink Eye if I’d been in that rail car.

    By the way, I just a nightmare about dead and rotting fish. What are the odds? 😐

    • pithypants January 31, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      I know… I’m the same. I’m usually the one yelling, “Seriously? Fish? Save that for home!”

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