Amtrak in four conversations / by mrm

8:15am Sunday morning, San Francisco 

Because they rearranged the bus stop, I almost missed my shuttle to Emeryville, which would have caused me to miss my train to Sacramento.  "Didn't you see the signs?" the Amtrak employee asked me as he gave me directions to the new, temporary bus stop, "They're everywhere."  I had not.  I looked around.  I did not see the signs which were everywhere.  I expressed my fear that I would miss the train to Sacramento.  "Don't worry," he told me "there's another train right after it going to Sacramento, back to back."  But I've read well and I said "You mean the one that gets in over half an hour later?" (this is a quintessential Amtrak paradox: two trains leave the same stop at almost exactly the same time, they arrive at the same destination but one arrives a half an hour later and both cost $26) 
"Yeah," he responded, "you don't want that one?"
"No," I affirmed, "I do not."
I walked to the temporary bus stop.  I continued to not see the signs.

At the coffee shop in the Emeryville Station, a sign:
Now Available
Different Flavors

8:50am Sunday, Emeryville

A small boy, I'd guess about five years old, sat down across from me, stared, smiled, and launched.  "Hello," he said.  "Hello," I answered. 
"Some of the kids in my class, they're bad."
"Yeah.  They don't listen to the teacher."
"Why not?"
"I don't know."
"Do you listen to the teacher?"
"Good for you."
"I get a sticker everyday."
"You must have a lot of stickers."
This child spoke quickly and with energy but he was focused.  He was watching me.  He asked permission, then took my picture with his cell phone.  My train arrived first.  "I've got to go," I said.
"Goodbye!  My name's Javier."
"Goodbye Javier.  My name's Margaret."
"Goodbye Margaret!"

7:40am, Monday

The conductor makes the usual announcements about seating, the location of the snack car, etc., then: "Ladies and gentlemen," she said "if you look out your window in the direction we're moving, there's a huge, beautiful rainbow."  There was.  It lasted all the way to Richmond, which is almost an hour and a half of rainbow.  Forward in hope.

9:30am, Monday
I was the first person to get on the shuttle from Emeryville to San Francisco and so I moved partway back.  No one else got on.  "Looks like you're my only passenger," said the driver.  "You're a princess today!"
"In that case, I'm going to move up and keep you company."
We nattered all the way to San Francico.  He told me about when he met Michelle Obama at a fundraiser, and we both admired her for awhile and agreed that the White House mattresses must be getting a better workout since god only knows when.  We talked about education and communication and tourists and being a stranger in a strange land.  The driver's name, I found out eventually, was Rufus.  He used to operate a cable car.  "You must have met all kinds of people doing that," I said.  "Yes," he remarked, "but of all the people I've met, you're the most interesting."

I bet he says that to everybody.  Still.  I'll take what I can get.