This is a pretty random post detailing an encounter I had last summer on the Amtrak train journey from Penn station, New York to Miami station (FL).
After travelling through many of the states and spending days aboard different trains I thought Amtrak was a pretty boring means of transport, no one I'd met on board had been interesting or even really talked much. I had heard the East coast was more lively but I thought that was just a pretty biased generalisation, turns out I was wrong!
Just after boarding a "weathered" looking man in his 50s came down and sat next to me, straight away he said 'Hello' and offered me a beer (It's illegal for under 21s to drink in the states and I was 18 at the time, I took it anyway because I was from England where it's legal to drink at 18 so I figured I could always use that as an excuse if I got caught.).
We got talking and just about straight away he told me his life story, he was a builder in New York and was involved in the cleaning up process of the Twin Towers (post 9/11), he said whilst working there due to the dust he developed some lung problems, he was prescribed some painkillers that he consequently overdosed on and fell into a 3 month coma. He told me how he had "seen things" through the coma and was adamant that God exists and that Heaven is waiting for him.
He followed on to say he was waiting on a cheque from the government to compensate for his ill-health. Whilst telling me about his fragile relationship with his wife and the difficulties he faces trying to see his son I transferred all his contacts from his old to his new phone (as he asked me to do), as a thanks for my nifty handywork he gave me $40 and then later that night bought me a steak dinner in the trains dining cart (it's actually pretty good quality).
It sounds like he was grooming me, which he probably was but as long as I got some free steak I didn't care.
He continued to drink through dinner and started buying me some drinks (we had established earlier in the night that I couldn't get served at the bar so he was getting everything for me, another win/win or potentially win/loseandgetraped situation for me.). A couple sat down and the man stopped talking about how he could use a salt shaker as a weapon and bragging about how versatile his weapon-mind was and started more civilised chat. He insisted on paying for everyone's meal on the table even though the cheque soured above $100, it didn't look like he was in a position to be throwing around cash like he was but I didn't say anything... how immoral of me.
Later in the night he started buying bottles upon bottles of spirits and giving me some, I got pretty drunk and as did he, he told me stories about how he jumped off a bridge and broke his nose in the shallow water and showed me pictures of his naked girlfriends. Throughout the rest of the night he gave me $40 more dollars, cologne and some high strength pain killers that "would make me feel good" (I just flushed them, unfortunately for him the next morning when he asked for them back), eventually he went to the bar leaving me alone in my seat and he continued to party the night away while I went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up in my little bed behind the bins at the end of a carriage (more space to lie down), I returned to my seat where he was reading a book of daily quotes and bible passages that apparently gets him through the day, he bought me breakfast and then shortly left without saying goodbye.
This little experience has made me think a lot about it since, not just about the sheer bizarreness of the train ride but more about the man himself, although his alcoholism and prescription painkiller addiction had clearly made him at least slightly insane he was one of the most interesting and eccentric men I've ever met, I can't clearly depict what he was like in a blog and you'd have to meet him for yourself to see what I mean. But what makes me think is just what it would be like to live a day in his shoes, he gets on a casual train journey and makes the train his own, by the end of the night he was recognised by every passenger (to say he was popular with them would be a bit of a lie) but regardless the experiences he must have living the lifestyle he does with the mindset he has must be mind blowing for a normal person to think about.
Perhaps I've just not met a big enough variety of people, I don't know. For me though I regard this as a story definitley worth retelling. If any of you have met anyone similar then please share your stories too!