We wait to catch trains and we also wait “for” trains. That “for” can be when the 200-car coal beds rumble through the tracks in your neighborhood, sticking you in your car long enough for a snooze.
That’s also one of the best times to use your smart phone. In fact, I must say, that situation provides one of the strongest arguments for keeping your phone charged and ready in the car.
It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been stuck at a train crossing. We lived Columbus, NE years ago, and freight trains regularly honked through town. You got used to the delay, and twiddled your thumbs. Smart phones hadn’t been invented 15 years ago.
It didn’t matter back then because you still knew how to daydream on your own. There was no need for the Internet, streaming music, or the phone numbers of hundreds of friends and colleagues at your fingertips. You enjoyed the weather, hummed a tune, wondered what was for dinner.
I’m not sure our kids relate to those days. In fact, it seems even those of us who lived and remember those days don’t take the time to enjoy the solitude of stopped traffic provided by a train flashing by.
Instead, we pick up our phones and browse. I must admit this is an ideal time to find out the lifetime batting average of Bobby Richardson, who played second base for the New York Yankees in the early 1960s, of find out the age of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
You can settle bets during these times. You can even instigate bets, sending text messages with random questions to select friends that no one could conceivably have the answer to without online research.
Waiting like this is a good time to research weekend movies or your upcoming vacation. You can fantasize about going someplace exotic and pretend that might actually happen. Then you can check all the web sites to see what it will cost and disavow yourself of the notion that will ever happen.
If you’re a concert or sports junkie, you can use this time productively as the train cars slowly chug past you. Look up your favorite sports team, see when they are town, the tap the phone to see how much tickets will deplete your income. If you’re hoping to see the reunion tour of Lynyrd Skynyrd, you’ll be able to access every city they’ll visit and figure out that none are close enough at your home to justify a purchase.
Recently, I watched a train take 15-20 minutes to clear a local road. Two days later, I was stuck waiting for one. I was ready.
The smart phone came out. I double-checked the speed and vast number of cars that appeared to follow the engine. Given the pace, it was clear there would be a long wait.
I responded to two texts, cleared off my email, played my turn in “Words With Friends,” checked the local weather, and mapped out my business trip for the next day. That took 90 seconds. I was still bored.
So I daydreamed. I thought about my next column, putting down some notes. I wrote this column in my head. Here it is.