how to travel by train without annoying your fellow passengers

We went from Oregon to California (and back!) by train. Nineteen hours spent inside a rail car. And it looks like it’s time for another installment of Things That Make Me Cranky: Travel Edition.

Traveling isn’t always easy, especially if you’re traveling with a kid. And since you can’t check them with the luggage, you’re pretty much stuck traveling with a kid if you’re a parent. But here’s the thing: you’re the parent. And if there was ever a time to act like a parent, it’s when you’re stuck inside a rail car with forty or fifty strangers.

Here are some tips, from you to me:

1. If your kid doesn’t want to sleep after lights out, bring your child to the lounge car, where the incessant renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle” interspersed with fits of weeping and declarations of “No more train!” will not keep your fellow passengers awake.

2. If your child is still in diapers, utilize the changing station in the bathrooms just below. Do not change diapers in the seat behind me. The windows on the train? Do not open. FYI.

3. When the entire car is quiet, it does not mean everyone will enjoy your child’s exhuberant recital of the ABCs at the top of his or her lungs.

4. Use the words “Keep your volume down” or something similar instead of choosing to ignore your child’s extremely loud demands and/or running commentary. Yes, it’s lovely that your child is so observant and can point out every tree we pass. I’m sure you and possibly your mother find this kind of thing fascinating. Share appropriately, not indiscriminately.

5. However, when calling your mother to share such news, DO NOT USE SPEAKERPHONE. This is not your living room. Do not act like it is.

But it’s not just parents who need a gentle reminder about how to behave like a civilized human being when utilizing mass transit. A few examples:

1. When watching a movie on your clever portable DVD-playing device of choice, use headphones. Do not turn the volume up so you and your seat mate can hear the movie over the sound of the train. You should not wait to see if any of your fellow passengers are annoyed enough to ask you to turn it down. What you’re doing? Is inherently annoying. Stop it at once.

2. After the lights are turned down and the conductor announces that radio silence is falling is not an appropriate time to begin a conversation about your cousin’s intrauterine cancer. It’s a tragic subject and one that you clearly have strong feelings about, but your fellow passengers do not need to hear all about those feelings while they are trying to sleep.

3. When passing a parent with a small child who has just fallen asleep on the seat beside her, do not stop to loudly exclaim “Oh, how cute! I remember when I could sleep anywhere!” I can pretty much guarantee that the child in question cannot sleep ‘anywhere’ and will then wake up, cranky and disoriented, while you go on your merry way.

4. Finally, don’t get so drunk that you decide pulling the emergency brake halfway through Southern Oregon would be a good idea.

Basically, all of these things come down to “Have a little fucking common sense and be considerate.” Should I have to explain this? No. Do I? Let’s just say: I didn’t make any of this up.