It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Tuesday, already?

Sorry! Totally lost track of time. It’s March Break, see, and I have the week off! No toddlers in the house. The potty and the high chair and the sleeping cots are all in the back porch. The blocks and puzzles are stashed away. My home looks like … a house! Instead of a toy sink.

And I, meanwhile, am NOT in Ottawa. I am in a mid-sized city in southern Ontario which I’m not sure if I’m allowed to identify, visiting with my oldest child. Who has her very own apartment! And her very own cat!! And her very own boyfriend!!!

I hugely hate long drives, so I opted to take the train, which I have always vastly preferred. You can gaze out the window at the passing scenery, you can walk up and down the aisle, you can snooze, you can read — none of which you can do while driving.

So I board my train at 12:20. Right on schedule! Which, given the weather here in Ottawa last weekend, was nothing short of a miracle.

And you really can’t demand more than one miracle in a day, can you?

My official itinerary was: four hours to Toronto; hour layover; one hour to destination, arrive in time for dinner with Haley.

Too bad about the unofficial freight train which a) needed to pass before we could go and b) broke down, requiring a NEW ENGINE. That took about two hours. We chug into motion, there is great cheering from the cluster of kids in the group seats at the front of the car and affectionate chortling from the rest of the car in response. It was cute.

Enthusiasm dissipated somewhat when we halted 200 metres down the track. “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the switch ahead is frozen. It will take about ten minutes.”

And it did. Okay, then.

Unofficially, after the unoffical frozen switch, there was ANOTHER freight train, and ANOTHER wait.

And then, unofficially, there was A THIRD DAMNED FREIGHT TRAIN. And we had to wait for it. I’m sure hoping that somewhere there were freight trains waiting on us. Just to balance out the karma.

And you know what? THAT freight train ALSO needed a NEW ENGINE.

And when we finally started moving again, and then stopped a few metres later, when the announcer-lady came on for the umpteenth time, she was sounding distinctly reluctant as she informed us that … the switch ahead had frozen.

We have sat three times waiting for freight trains, two times waiting for frozen switches, and now two times waiting for entire new engines. By now we are closing in on four hours delayed. It is past 8 p.m., and we are all still on a train that we should have vacated at 4:30.

So, when we heard this news, letting us know of this most recent delay?

We laughed.

What else could you do? There’s nowhere to go. There’s no way out.

We laughed. Why get angry? Who’s to blame? Not Via Rail, only doing their best despite the havoc caused by the 50 cm snow we got the day before. (I didn’t hear of any planes taking off from Ottawa AT ALL on Sunday, so, nyah.) Not at frozen switches because this is Canada. In March. (Which in these parts is still Dead of Winter.) Not at the poor weary crew, who have all been on the train EVEN LONGER than us.

I got to Toronto at 9. Got in line to my next train at 9:05; on the next train at 9:30; moving at 9:45.

And it’s only an hour’s trip! I’m almost there! Except for the hour-long sit-on-the-track. I forget why. It was all sort of blurring together by now, and besides, I was sleeping, mostly. And then, when we did start moving? WE WERE GOING BACKWARDS!!! A university student up at the front sing-songs “WRONG WAY-AYYYY!!!” And there are slightly hysterical giggles throughout the car. We are going backwards.

It was not a dream.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I really, really regret to inform you that the switch ahead is frozen, and we will have to back up to the previous switch.” Her voice cracks with tension. I’m thinking there had been a tussle in the microphone room and she had lost the toss. Someone is standing behind her, threatening to kidnap her children if she doesn’t MAKE THE DAMNED ANNOUNCEMENT. “I am really, really sorry. Thank you so much for your patience. We really, really appreciate your understanding.” I think she’s trying to plant some subliminal seeds, poor woman.

We backed up to the LAST STATION. Not Toronto, an intermediary station, whose name a totally and completely forget. Because by then I had no brain.

We pulled into my destination at 12:40 a.m.

My six-hour trip became a 12-hour marathon.

And my daughter was waiting at the station. Bless her sleepy heart.

And that, boys and girls, is how I came to lose track of Monday.

(Oh, and I still prefer trains.)

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Canada, holidays, my kids, Ottawa | , , | 10 Comments