A Monthly Advice Column
This month: guest columnist John Roderick
How did railroads get to be so romanticized? Have you been on a train for any distance? It’s horrible. It’s an experience in bumpy patience, always overpriced, and always late. So why do people still love trains so much?
St. Louis, Mo.
Dear Cap’n Stan,
The “romance” of train travel has almost nothing to do with the “slave-galley” experience of actually traveling by train. Like most American nostalgia-trips, railroad travel is a fantasy based entirely on the false belief that wearing a fedora makes a man look dashing, when in fact it makes most men look like someone hid a dildo under a felt diaper. I personally love to travel by train for a different reason, namely that I love sleeping sitting upright in a vibrating chair that smells like Virginia Slims and animal sex. It’s much cheaper to buy an Amtrak ticket than to explain the whole thing to a dominatrix. Still, you can’t fight the nostalgification of America without acknowledging that the only alternative is 150 million Slim Shadys in dirty white tracksuits practicing with their nunchucks while pregnant girls fry bologna. Modern life is so chintzy and dull that even the prospect of traveling across the Jim Crow South in an un-air-conditioned train, when chewing tobacco was commonplace and before the advent of deodorant, seems sophisticated by comparison. I’ve upped the ante by flying cross-country only on old, unpressurized DC-3s and Ford Trimotors, a trip that takes three days and results in deafness. God, it’s romantic, though.
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