Typed Saturday morning, on the train, and the last bit in the hotel
Sleeping on a train is harder than I thought it would be. Rather, sleeping on a train’s coach seating is harder than I thought it would be. I enjoyed the clickity-clack (very soothing) but had the hardest time finding a comfortable position. I’d think I had something, try for five or ten minutes to fall asleep, and then toss and turn in frustration. I went through permutations sitting upright, on my side, with my legs up on the tray table, everything. (I wish I’d had the guts to try my feet up on the chair in front of me, something I saw folks doing this morning and which looked somewhat comfy.) I finally managed to fall asleep, around midnight or 1AM, by sprawling across my and my neighbor’s seat, as Keith was off somewhere. I was much embarrassed this morning to find out he came back about 2AM to find me taking up both of our seats, but rather than wake me decided to sleep in the lounge car. That said, the couches in the lounge car do look pretty comfortable – I may try sleeping on one on the way back.
Breakfast was yummy, and not horribly expensive. Omelet, potatoes, and a croissant, along with communal seating. I ended up siting with Keith and two strangers, one from Spokane traveling to Georgia (a long trip!) and one from Minneapolis travelling to DC. Once again, the topic of why we were on the train came up, and I gave my cop-out answer of gay rights. Keith, of course, reiterated that he was supportive, as was Spokane. Minneapolis stayed quiet, though, while the three of us had a conversation about equality. I was too chicken to ask Minneapolis about her views and, to be honest, wasn’t sure I wanted to hear them over breakfast. Once Minneapolis left, Spokane, Keith and I continued chatting about politics, immigration, the state of the nation, and the same things any good liberals discuss when they run into each other in potentially hostile territory.
I’m on the lounge car right now, facing a river (stream? creek?) that the train has been traveling along since I woke up around 6AM. It’s very pretty, and hopefully some of the pictures I’ve been taking will turn out well. I’m not 100% sold on train travel yet – I think my ability to sleep on the way back will help determine my final verdict – but it’s hard to argue with the view and the sense of actually traveling. Not just stepping onto a magic metal tube and appearing somewhere else hours later. Likewise, as Spokane said at breakfast, strangers you might never speak to on an airplane become potential companions and conversation partners on a train. (Something I took advantage of last night to get some filming done, and something I hope to take advantage of again this morning.)
There’s a sense this morning of leaving my gender behind, as I’m thinking about No Gender Left Behind. As much as Keith’s views on women (see the previous post) were grating, I’m honest enough to admit I enjoyed his claims of how pretty I was. (And since he talked at length about his girlfriend, wasn’t too worried about his ‘gentlemanly’ flirting becoming anything more.) And there’s been something surreal of my lack of trans-ness on this train. It hasn’t been something I’ve had to reveal, and so (even if I don’t like the politics of keeping silent) I haven’t revealed it. I’ve just been another woman on the train. A lesbian, perhaps, once I start talking about traveling to DC for gay rights. But much less of an ‘other’ than I sometimes think – rightly or wrongly – that I’m viewed at.
At the same time, my gender – my trans gender – has been left behind, way back in Chicago and the Land of Lincoln, because that same sense of freedom is a sense of isolation: there is no one else like me. I’m hoping the networking and policy events for the lobbying prep will help with that. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to chat with other trans folks, and our allies. But for right now, I watch the changing-yet-the-same landscape out the window, count the windmills (20 from this view – go alternative energy!), and try to take photos without picking up the reflections in the glass.
Written in the hotel
After getting off the train, there was an amazing feeling of the calm of train travel: this is a civilized way to travel. No obnoxious security checks, no ridiculous lines, and you’re deposited in the heart of the city rather than the outskirts. I’m hoping my sleep on the way back will be better, because I WANT to be convinced that train is superior to plane; I’ve enjoyed every single thing – the food, the space, the sense of travel, the atmosphere – except sleeping. So we’ll see how the trip back goes.
Checking in was fine. A little trouble with payment from using United rewards miles, but everything is figured out and I’m about to hop in the shower. More updates later!