Concrete is harder at sixty-three than it was when you were roller skating at seven, and falling when your knees were snugged up under you with your little butt inches from the ground was no big deal. You got scraped and bruised a little, but suffered no permanent damage, and kept skating.
Careening to cement from a train step is a very different turkey forty-six years later. Not that the conductor actually pushed me–he knew I’d have him up for assault if he did–but he hustled me down the passageway so fast the momentum carried me off, literally. I didn’t think the back was twisted that badly, until I moved; the knees were definitely going to need replacement surgery next week, and the left hip felt pulpy.
I winced as my little travel bag landed beside me. Would my laptop still work OK? Did my shampoo bottle crack? What about the strawberries–were they all mashed up? Throwing someone’s bag isn’t very nice, after all.
The conductor’s teeth were set so tightly I was afraid he’d crack them. He wrenched them open enough to hail Security on his radio, then glared Death at me.
“You’ll never ride Amtrak again!” he shot, “not this train, not while I’m conductor!” With that he disappeared into the car, nearly exploding the door as he shut it.
What really had I done? I just wanted to see ahead of us, look where we were going. It’s so frustrating to only be able to see to the sides. So at the previous stop I’d climbed up over the cow catcher on the locomotive and comfortably spreadeagled myself across the front, facing foreward. It was a great view, and as there were plenty of hand grips and foot rest options, I felt as safe as being in a recliner chair at home.
Somebody must have seen me from the overpass a few miles back and called in. Do-gooding rat’s ass spoilsport.
A genial SUV in a Security uniform walked up to me.
“Are you all tight, ma’am?”
Well, at least he was polite. He gently helped me up, slowly because of that damned hip, picked up my bag like a true gentleman, and indicated down the track. “This way, ma’am.”
“Am I under arrest?”
“Only if they decide to press charges.”
“I didn’t think anyone would mind. I was perfectly safe up there. ”
He turned to me with a positively pixy-ish look, not an easy act to accomplish when you’re six feet tall and four feet wide, with a face made of Silly Putty, and said, “I know. I found that out when I was twelve, and a little smaller.”