“There was something ever so slightly reminiscent of a Steinbeck story I had read years ago.”
At 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday I sat sipping a cup of Philz from a leather seat in the Oakland Amtrak station. Out of data, per usual, I joined the complementary Wi-Fi and surfed the feeds of various apps, in the attempt to avoid awkward eye contact with strangers and waste away the hours which sat so morbidly in front of me until I reached San Luis Obispo, CA.
Yet, despite my valiant attempt to escape any sort of interaction with the world surrounding me, I couldn’t help but look up as a group of about twenty-five people pranced through the door. An eccentric group to say the least, not that I would expect any less from a group of Oakland millennials, looked as if they had hopped out of an Uber X from the 1950’s. To my utter surprise, I let my phone screen fade to black as I watched the group. Bright red lips moved quickly as a story I could just barely hear unfolded. A cherry printed white skirt swished back and forth as a young couple performed an elegant twirl in the middle of the station, and vintage sunglasses slid to the tips of noses as the bottle of Dom was flashed from its hiding place.
With the trains arrival only about 15 minutes away, I figured I couldn’t possibly miss that much on my ever-updating Instagram feed. As my phone lay dormant in the seat next to me I watched with just enough detail in order to determine the groups MO, but not appear creepy. I quickly discovered that the eclectic group was embarking on a journey all the way down to San Diego, where their bests friends planned on getting married in the iconic Balboa Park. They had booked out an entire train car to house the wedding party, minister included. The little red wagon (a spitting image of the one I so loyally dragged behind me as a child) was chalk full of sustenance for the nearly eleven-hour joy ride down the coast. Now initially, I had thought that such a mission seemed rather miserable. Who would want to be stuck on a sub-par, clunky, American train, stocked full of angry commuters, overpriced yet, watered down coffee, and stale sandwiches. Yeah, no thanks, for that amount of time, I’ll opt for a destination wedding in Paris. But with some careful observation I had been enlightened. Bags of Acme baguettes, jars of fig jam, brie cheese, champagne, olives, gourmet deli meets, hell; is that jar of Beluga caviar I spy?! This group had absolutely no interest in reality, they were here for a good time AND a long time.
Just as I imagined it, the whistle blew as the train came screeching into the station only about 10 minutes behind schedule. I quickly grabbed my bag and hurried out the door of the waiting area. As I was leaving I couldn’t help but notice the exquisite architecture of the station. Tall ceilings supported by enormous iron beams, glass from floor to ceiling. While it was obviously a modern design, there was something ever so slightly reminiscent of a Steinbeck story I had read years ago. A large man, a small mouse, something like that. Anyway, I figured that the train, which had already been running late, could spare thirty more seconds for me to snap a photo. I reached for my back pocket. Alarmed when I didn’t feel four-inch extension of my body, and brain for that matter, stuffed into the fabric of my jeans, I looked up. Panicked, I scanned the room. There it was, peacefully napping on the leather seat where I had left it. So, serene, sleek, and simply, insignificant.
Photos: Bella Braconi
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