Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, will not drown.

It’s only taken a couple of days for life to fall back into its familiar rythym. Thirtieth Street Station’s platform four is stacked with orange shipping crates, each crate bursting with fifth-class periodicals. “The Ironworker” is scrawled on one shrink-wrapped cube; “Teen People” on another. “Waste and Water” magazine is on the top, so you can read the cover stories: “Editorial Emphasis: Tanks, Liners, and Covers!”

Inside the train, things are also reassuringly normal. Conductor-with-bald-head-and-mustache-over-200-pounds* (He’s a familiar face, but I don’t know his name) gives a crackly, impressionistic performance of his pulling-into-Philly speech. “Ladies and gentlemen wed like to thank you for riding amtrak please remember to check your seat and the area over your head for any personal belongings and…”, except that all you get is his cadence and the vowel sounds over the speakers, like a Talmudic cantor: “ayangenwelithayoufridinamtraplecheck…” As always, he gives specific and valuable advice about how to save twenty minutes on the trip to New York by switching to train 180, but the information can only be deciphered by those who already know what he’s saying. So it has always been with received knowledge, I suppose, from the time the first Gnostic priest passed the seven passwords of salvation to his Aramaic acolyte; he probably mumbled them through his soup and a heavy growth of beard.

Gino, the conductor for the rear end of train 180, is also back in his normal, jocular form. Amtrak conductors love to complain about their jobs, in a good-natured, GI-in-the-trench tone. They have a right to; Amtrak isn’t well managed, the rules are complicated, and ever since September 11th, conductors have had the unpleasant task of kicking the unwary and unprepared off the train at North Philadelphia. “No, I’m sorry, you can’t buy a ticket on the train any more.”

Today, Gino’s story was about managing the business-class car, the Metroliner equivalent of first class. Gino’s young for a conductor, maybe in his early forties. He has dark hair, and he talks loudly and good-humoredly. Imagine a skinnier Tom Arnold:

So this guy gets on the business class car, but he’s in the bathroom at Trenton, and he comes out when there’s a million people getting on, right? So I say, ‘can I see your ticket?’, and he says ‘you already took my ticket!’, and I say, [gesturing broadly], ‘I just need to see everybody’s ticket’, and he says, ‘give me your name’, and I say ‘why, what for?’, and he says, ‘you made me feel like I don’t belong in business class!’

So I say, ‘Aw, you seem like a pretty sensitive guy. Do you want a hug?’

(General hilarity among the wholesale garment buyers, stockbrokers, and computer programmers in the car.)

So, all in all, everything’s back in its groove.

* A kindom, phylum, and class of Amtrak conductors could split the genera along lines of mustache/no mustache, bald/pompadour, under/over 200 pounds. So this conductor, I suppose, would be Mustachidens BaldiLargidae.

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