Thursday, September 23, 2010

______, Trains & Automobiles, Part II

Continued from 9.12.10

As noted, I arrived at Pete (Parduba's) and Wowie's at around 11 PM, and the two were settled in the living room for what I imagined is their usual nighttime activity - Pete playing a really stunning online war simulator on his 350" plasma screen and Playstation 3, blowing away Afghanis and Wowie curled up next to him under an afghan.  

An aside: I've always been much more of a video game watcher than player, with the exception of driving games, which I really do love.  I still have some vestige of the hand/eye coordination and general puzzle-solving skills that a six or seven year period of my teenage years playing video games of all sorts (from the Star Wars arcade game to having my virtual mouth washed out with soap on the Apple ]['s Sherwood Forest.), so if someone hands me the controls I generally don't die and can get through a level, but I have no real stake in the things.  Their repetitive nature and hazy value is sort of lost on me.  So it's odd that I can spend hours and hours watching someone else play a video game and be perfectly entertained, but maybe it's a particular type of game, being an environmental game, that I can really just space out in.  If nothing else, it's a really good way to wind down from the road.

Part of my goal on the trip was to make the whole thing without car on my part.  In practical terms, this meant that I needed other people to shuttle my ass around for me.  I'd always intended for one leg of the trip - either down or back - to be by train.  Flipping a mental coin, I decided that would be the return trip.  The Dalto's drove me down, but since they were staying with family in Baltimore (Pete and Wowie live about fifteen minutes north), I decided also to take the train to the convention.

The convention was in Bethesda, and it turns out, there are no trains that go directly from Baltimore to Bethesda.  My plan was to take Maryland commuter rail (MARC) down to DC, then take the Metro out to Bethesda.  Great plan, except for the fact that MARC doesn't run on the weekends.  So it was going to be Amtrak from Baltimore to DC.  Pete and Wowie got me down to Baltimore Penn just in time to catch the 11:45, although it actually turned out to be just enough time to find that it was sold out, and that I had an hour to kill until the next train. 

I have to say: there are far worse places to have to kill time than a great old city main rail station.  I love the high ceilings, the tall windows, the wooden benches built for giants.  The sense of fleetness and activity, heavy machinery moving constantly by below with purpose and direction, all steam and electricity.  You can file this under the list of things people are supposed to hate that I rather perversely enjoy, such as the smell of gasoline and a trip to the dentist's for a good cleaning.

Plus: hey, free wi-fi.  I didn't end up using the wi-fi, since I couldn't be bothered to get up and ask what the password was, so I instead just used our little USB modem (what we call 'the dongle'), checked my mail, updated my Facebook with what I hoped was a facile enough status on the situation ('waiting in Baltimore for the next train.'), then dug in for an hour of Photoshop work.

My next status update was about 90 minutes later, commenting on my encounter with a DC Metro ticket machine: "the DC Metro ticket machine is the single most complicated thing I've ever seen."


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