Saturday, June 28, 2014

The travails of a solo traveler

I had forgotten how busy a train station can be in India even in the early hours of the day, in the darkness of the clock barely past five.  The heat, the humidity, the crowds, the noise, and stray dogs seeming to bear witness to everything that happens, is a world away from my daily existence by the Willamette River.

"I travel to get out of my comfort zone" is one of the many responses I give students if ever they ask me about my peripatetic preferences.  Especially when the older I get, the more I seem to want to stay with the familiar and the comfortable.

Getting into the coach--the compartment, in the vernacular--was, thus, a wonderful entrance into a world of cool and quiet comfort.  An aisle seat in the direction of travel.  Phew!

I stepped out to confirm my name and seat number 51 on the chart by the door.  It was the correct train and coach.  Phew!

I settled into my spacious seat.

If everything is so well, then the cosmos might have other plans, I worried.  Experiences I have had in plenty, right from my formative years in the old country, when I have been subject to the disadvantage-of-the-young-single-male-traveler.  Almost always, I have ended up losing my seat that I would have carefully selected.

A gent about fifteen to twenty years older than me took up the seat across the aisle from me.  He asked his seatmate by the window whether he would mind trading seats with his wife.  "Number 1 is also a window seat" he said.  The guy couldn't because the rest of his travel party was in the row ahead.

I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I would be ... when I felt my left hand being tapped.

"Would you mind switching seats with my wife who is in "1"--a window seat?"

"Am sorry I can't.  I hate window seats and choose the aisle because I am a tad claustrophobic."

"Oh, that's ok."

"But, tell you what ... we can do a double switch if you want.  You can ask my seatmate when he or she comes, and then I can trade seats with you." Following baseball for a few years means that the game's "double switch" jargon comes easily.

Which is what happened.  Phew!

Sriram 1, Cosmos 0.

I now worried that the cosmos would want to get its sweet revenge ...
... to be continued ;)

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