The 13:00 to Nice
Carol and I have been traveling together for two weeks now, and we've been having as wonderful a time as I'd expected. It's when I think that everything is going great that I normally start to worry that something is about to reveal itself as terribly wrong. Carol calls it Reid being Reid.
“I'm having a wonderful time,” Carol said to me, as we waited for our train to Nice. “I love these train rides.”
Fact is, though, I need to be worrying about something in order to feel engaged with the world, and Carol was being of no help having as much fun on this trip as I was. I was left thinking I'd spend the entire three-hour trip to Nice with nothing to do but stare out the train window imagining the Cote d'Azur destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. Fortunately, an annoying French woman with an even more annoying little lap dog was occupying my reserved seat.
Happily for my sense of discomfort and worry, the woman smiled and politely explained in French that she had no intention of moving, because her assigned seat did not offer an empty one for her little Fifi. I looked at the slightly bewildered and shivering hairball who seemed to be saying, Don't look at me, I can't reason with her either. They were both perched next to man who seemed to be the woman's husband, someone who seemed to be trying to dissolve himself into thin air. The woman pointed to an empty seat across from Carol and suggested I take that one. (Why the reservation system couldn't put us both there in the first place as I'd requested, I couldn't figure.)
I looked at the husband's blank, forward stare and read in that expression the pointlessness of arguing with his wife. At least for now, Carol and I were seated across from each other, and I could relax and look out the window imagining the effects of a nuclear winter on the landscape.
The true bearer of the seat reservation we'd occupied got on in Toulon, she walked past us twice before explaining we were in her seat. That prompted Dog Lady to immediately intervene, and explain the inconvenience of her own assigned seat. She offered the woman the seat occupied by Fifi across from her, moving the dog into her lap as she spoke. Strangely, the woman immediately accepted, perhaps also reading the hopelessly forlorn look on her husband’s face and realized further argument would be useless.
Soon after departing, the new arrival left and returned with a hot lunch from the cafe car. I ceased fretting about World War Ill, and began worrying instead about the woman refusing to eat her lunch across from a dog, instead of the much more private accommodation of the single seat that we had robbed her of. But she ate her lunch comfortably, as if the annoying woman and even more annoying dog had ceased to exist. I reasoned this, based on the fact that her facial expression exactly matched that of the husband's, whom I had concluded had wished the woman and the dog into oblivion years ago.
We arrived in Nice late that afternoon to a warm day filled with sunshine and the glittering blue Mediterranean. No sign of a nuclear holocaust here, which I'm sure must have come as a bitter disappointment to the husband. For me, arriving at a place Carol had been looking forward to (she's a beach girl) left me suddenly with nothing to worry about. Then it occurred to me the apartment I'd reserved could be a dump in a dodgy part of town. I set off from the train station with a song in my heart and a head full of concern. I was very happy.