Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Savannah Encounters

It's the middle of the night on the train to Savannah. I'm squirming around for the umpteenth time trying to find a semi-comfortable position. I notice that the seats behind me are empty - they must have got off at some point. The guards, I mean attendants, aren't around so I decide to move back and give myself and my basketball player sized seat-mate a little more room. A few hours later we make a stop and the attendants reappear. I pretend to be asleep in hopes they'll leave me alone. No chance, they make a point of coming over several times and telling me that they're going to need that seat. (Which is a stretch since the car is only half full.) For some reason it always pisses them off if you don't behave like a good school kid. I've been chewed out about it and seen other people get in trouble over it as well. It's not like it's hurting anyone, or causing any trouble. A while later they can't stand my impertinence any longer and they order me back to my assigned seat. The seat behind stays empty for the rest of the trip. I try not to get too worked up about it. It's demeaning to be treated this way, but there's not much you can do. I don't imagine arguing with them would be a good move. It's not so much the comfort issue, I'd have no problem if the train was full, it's the irrationality of it that gets me. I don't think it has ever occurred to them that their job is actually to make the customers happy. Instead, they seem entirely focused on keeping the unruly inmates under control.

I was organizing my pack in the Savannah train station when I realized there was someone standing beside me. I had noticed him and his pack when he boarded the train and wondered if he was a backpacker and if so, what trail he was headed for. I said hi. He said "I noticed your backpack. Mine is over there", nodding towards his pack. I asked where he was headed. He said "Here. This is Savannah isn't it?" He asked "Is there an 'occupy' here? Or some other campground?"  (Shelley will relate to how "occupy" is morphing from a movement to a campground.) I said I didn't know, I had a hotel. Suddenly I was no longer his bro and he wandered off.

Train stations are often conveniently downtown, but not this one. It was miles (literally) outside town. I could have taken one of the waiting taxis, but after sitting for so long I felt more like walking. I had downloaded some offline maps to my iPhone but I hadn't got a big enough area and I didn't have around the station. But I knew the river was north and downtown was east, so I headed for the rising sun. It took about an hour and a half of walking to reach downtown, but it was a beautiful sunny warm morning. (My sympathies went out to everyone at home in snowy Saskatoon!)

Almost everyone on the train with me was African-American. (Although that probably wasn't the case in first class.) As were the people I saw in the poor neighborhoods on the way into town. (Except for one white guy jogging down the street smoking a cigarette!) But once you got downtown the situation reversed and almost everyone was white. Sadly, some things take a long time to change.

I was pretty happy that the hotel (Planters Inn) had a room ready, even though it was only 9am. Refreshed after a shower and a change of clothes, I headed down the elevator. (Annoyingly, the stairs are emergencies only.) Four middle aged tourist looking women got on the elevator with me. They eyed me up and down and one of them said "We caught you!" Huh? I had no idea what they were talking about. "You were out late partying and you slept in and now you're going for breakfast." she explained. Sorry to disappoint their imaginations I said, "No, I just got in from the overnight train." I probably should have made up a good story about my wild night, I'm sure it would have made their day!

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