Suddenly, the conductors’ walkie-talkies crackle:
“Emergency, emergency, emergency. Train 649 is in emergency at Overbrook.” (Train 649 is us.) Immediately, the train starts to lurch to a stop.
Which would be more disturbing if the voice over the walkie-talkie wasn’t delivering it in a tired, “oh boy, here we go again” voice, but still all the blase monthly commuters look up from their laptops and newspapers. Like any dutiful blogger, I hit my “Movable Type” shortcut on Firefox and begin typing.
By now, the train has ground to a halt. The conductor pushes his hat back on his head and remarks to all of us in general, “Well, we must have hit a squirrel again.”
The walkie-talkie crackles again:
“This is train 649. We have a trespasser in the property. They made the clear…”
The conductor and the flag (that’s the assistant conductor) look at each other. The flag says “I’ll get the flashlight.”
A passenger asks, “Does that mean we hit them?”
The conductor says “Well, we won’t know until we get out and have a look.”
They walk for the car doors. The walkie-talkie crackles again: “Train 649, we have protection.” Goodness knows what that means: DHS snipers standing behind the catenary?
I’ll let you know what happens.
Update: Well, the engineers are back, shaking their heads and laughing dolorously. Someone ran across the track, just missing the train. The flag looks gravely at another Amtrak employee (out of uniform) sitting across the aisle: “You look upset. Shaken, like. I recommend a nice bottle of wine tonight, to help calm your nerves.” Then, he gets out his leather travel case (Amtrak conductors have rolly suitcases, just like airline pilots do) and goes back to doing his paperwork on top of it.
This flag is the one that calls himself “The Angry American” — like “Mean Marv”, he has his own speech that he likes to make every day: “Ladies and gentlemen, please be considerate and keep your cellphone conversations to an absolute minimum of both volume and duration. The people sitting behind you do not want to become a part of your social life, and they won’t be impressed by your business acumen.”