The 10:00 to Basel
The 13:21 to Strasbourg
The 17:49 to Metz
The 20:33 to Luxembourg
It was only because of a three-hour delay in Basel caused by the French rail strike that I broke my normal social rule of not engaging anyone in conversation over the age of three. The rail strike had hit as I was leaving Zurich and heading for Luxembourg. While the helpful Zurich agent bravely treated my journey from Zurich to Luxembourg as if it was a one-person version of Dunkirk, it would still result in the most connections in one day of rail travel since I began. After departing Zurich, I would travel to Basel, where I’d change to a French train to Strasbourg, changing again in Metz before reaching Luxembourg sometime around 9:30 that night. The original five hours journey would now take eleven, as a result of the French rail workers exercise of their political and economic rights. I just hope they get what they’re fighting for. I’m still a union man, even though the proles will be driving me to distraction today.
But the effects of the strike stranded me in Basel, along with what appeared and sounded to be a group of American musicians. We sat across from each other at a cafe opposite the train station for the better part of an hour. Just as I had convinced myself I would not engage these potentially interesting individuals in conversation, I blurted out, “Are you a country band?”
The one in the cowboy hat smiled and said, “What gave it away?” They were surrounded by guitar cases, but I answered, “I think it was the hat.”
They were the John Arthur Martinez band out of Austin, Texas. (www.johnarthurmartinez.net) They were trying to get to Paris for a gig at Euro Disney. They'd been together and touring for thirteen years. I shared my story of widowhood and train travel. That's when John Arthur's (the one in the cowboy hat) ears perked up.
“Let me have the details on your blog. I'm writing a song about widowhood called ‘That train’s already gone.’ I will work your blog into the song.”
Now, being in a country song had not been a bucket list item for me, but it sure became one now. I started feeding John some suggestions, like how Carolyn and I met at a county fair, and that it started to rain and the pickup got stuck, and how she got mud all over her purty little gingham dress, while John continued to stare uncomfortably at the train station.
Later, we gathered ourselves to mosey on over to the stage...i mean train station. We exchanged photos and those empty road promises to stay in touch. I last saw them boarding the Strasbourg train with me. Since I eventually made it to my destination, I assume they made it to theirs.
From here on in, though, my self-imposed withdrawal from the people around me ended, and I would begin to discover a whole new world composed of some of the most boring and pathetic excuses for humanity I'd ever experienced in my life.
(Not really. You had to know I was kidding about that.)