Across Canada by Train

(Based on selected notes taken three years ago when I rode from Vancouver to Toronto on VIA Rail’s flagship train, The Canadian.)

The attendant for my sleeping car is Ali. He’s responsible for this car and for half of the next one to the rear. He had greeted me on the platforrm and directed me to my “Cabin for One”. Now he’s back, standing in my doorway and reciting his standard orientation spiel. He seems agitated.

It turns out that this is Ali’s very first trip on VIA Rail without a supervisor and he apologizes in advance for the mistakes he feels sure he’s going to make. Ali is a nice looking and thoroughly likable young man and I assure him he has my complete confidence. That does little to assuage his anxiety, so I add that no matter how badly he screws up, I will never rat on him. That did the trick.

In the late afternoon—thinking a drink or two before dinner—I head back to the Park car at the rear of the train only to find every seat in the dome taken. Not a surprise. In the lounge area below the dome, entertainment being provided by a young woman with a guitar. She is in her late 20s and is performing what she says are original contemporary folksongs about her hometown of Windsor, Ontario. Passengers are listening politely, but are clearly getting restless.

During one of her original songs—it was about snakes in one of the Windsor churches—I retreated to the lounge on the  lower level in the center of the car where Karine, the extremely attractive attendant, provided a generous glass of Scotch whiskey and, with a knowing nod in the folk singer’s direction, suggested that she would be glad to run a tab for me.

A couple of hours later, back in my Cabin for One, Ali knocks on my door and asks if I would consent to be his designated buddy in assisting other passengers should there be an emergency of some kind. I agree and he puts a sticker on the door of my cabin, thus making it official.

(More to come next posting.)

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