America really needs to put back all the missing trains. I’ve played Ticket to Ride! I know this entire country used to be nothing but trains, trains and more trains! The entire Gilded Age is based on train-made fortunes. And where were all those trains this week when I needed to get from Chicago to Pittsburgh during a storm and thought my flight was going to be canceled? They were NOT AVAILABLE. In fact, there was one train available and it was sold out from Chicago to Pittsburgh, even though I would absolutely have taken it as an overnight sleeper if I’d had to.
However, this is not actually a blog post about how America is, in general, devoid of trains. It is rather a post about how I had to go to Chicago this week, and then to Pittsburgh, and I had to take two planes, one train and a lot of automobiles to do so. Still, I am actually beginning to prefer trains: they are more sustainable in terms of carbon output, and also make me far less nervous. My anxiety over the impact of late-stage capitalism on the safety of a plane to fly gets worse every year, as I worry that a plane will be improperly maintained due to airline cutbacks on service costs. I also worry that the pilots will be over-exhausted and overworked as their pay is cut and they have to fly more hours to maintain a decent wage. And in the last couple years of this New Gilded Age, as inequality becomes more extreme, I am more anxious as a plane takes off and lands than I have ever been in the past.
And yet, it’s a necessary evil. There is no other real way to travel for business, and we’ve set up our society so that planes have made distance less relevant. The expectation is, once again, that we meet in person when possible, with clients or with colleagues. And so, I am back on the road, and back on planes, worrying quietly in my seat that I won’t be on one of the planes that collides while taking off from an overscheduled airport, or is hit by lightning flying in unsafe conditions. I am more comfortable on the ground, in a train, where it may derail but I’m less likely to actually die if it does.
Still, I survived all the transportation this week, and now I’m back home, able to sleep again. It was actually a worthwhile trip, and I had such a nice time seeing all my colleagues in Chicago and in Pittsburgh. I so rarely get to actually be in an office with people I work with anymore that it feels so special when I’m in a room, not a Zoom, for even one day – and I had three days this week in real space, plus a dinner with my team on Monday. I suppose I can get used to travel again for this reason, in that I just like working in person with people, and these are my chances to do it.