Cliff Gardner

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I've been doing lots of train travelling lately, almost all by "platscart," or the "half the price of a regular ticket" method. The only difference between a platscart trip and a regular "coopee" trip is that in platscart, everything is open--there are just lines of little compartments with beds and no doors. This is normally ok, but I've been doing so much of it lately that I thought I would characterize the different types of people I am usually with in my compartment.

1) The tired babushka. I love tired old people because they usually go to sleep almost immediately and are quite for the rest of the night. This lets me go to sleep and wake up 8 hours later wherever I'm going, which is what I really want. They're the best!

2) The loud drunk guy(s). I don't understand why anyone would drink heavily on a train given that the bathrooms are usually pretty bad and the constant rocking back and forth sometimes makes even sober people sick. These folks keep everyone in the car awake with singing, jumping and rough-housing.

3) The entire family. They might be on their way to a wedding someplace and have purchased four seats together. These folks spend hours eating, talking, laughing and doing each others' hair/makeup for the morning festivities. They don't bother me so much unless they have...

4) The little screaming kid! Remember on Delta Airlines flights when there would be a little screaming toddler, per FAA regulations, right behind you on every 6 hour flight you took? Well it's like that, only for 12 hours and when you're trying to sleep.

5) The politician. I have a strict "radio silence" policy on trains, meaning that I don't speak unless I have to because the second I do, everyone will know I'm a foreigner and someone in the vicinity will try to talk to me for the next 6 hours about every political event that ever happened in the history of the former Soviet Union. Normally discussions like this are great, but not when I'm trying to sleep.

As you can see, there's only a 1 in 5 chance that I'll get a good night sleep. Whenever I ask someone how their recent night-train trip went, and they reply "uneventful," they really mean "perfect." I'll be criss-crossing the country a few times over Winter Break, so let's hope that I get lots of sleepy old people! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


  • Speaking of trains, you should take some (or better yet airplanes) and come see us in London in March. I'll send you details.

    You're not that far from London, right?

    By Blogger magic, and with love from Sam,, at 9:59 AM  

  • How about the smugglers? You left out that category, and they're the best. I've found that just about any train that heads west has some of them, particularly border trains. They run around frantically just before customs and stash cigarettes in ingenious places (like under the toilet seat) until after customs. Then they sell them to unsuspecting foreigners!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:34 PM  

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