I had another appointment in Portland for the nasal balloon clearing, but rather than spend time in traffic and spend money on gas, I took the train. I love taking trains in Europe because they are so fun! They have giant windows to see the scenery, little restaurants, and are usually pretty comfortable. Trains are not nearly as common in the US, but I figured it must still be a fun experience. Plus, it would give me time to write on my blog.
Arriving to the train station by Uber, I got my seat assignment at the counter and headed to the train. My seat was on the aisle and the large middle-aged woman in the window seat was not happy when she realized I needed to sit down and she’d have to move all of her stuff that was occupying my seat. She huffed and puffed as she slowly started to move stuff.
This did not seem like a woman I wanted to sit next to and I had about five minutes before the train would leave, so I went back out to the counter and asked for another seat. They gave me a window seat several rows away from that woman, which was fine with me.
Shortly after the train took off, the café opened for breakfast. The café was about six cars away from mine so I headed there, with my purse and laptop bag in tow. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, and a long line formed behind me.
The employee who got my food was frantically getting everything together in the tiny space. While my credit card was processing, I took off the coffee cup lid in anticipation of putting cream and sugar in it. But then the employee grabbed it to put it in a little holder with my sandwich and hot coffee spilled everywhere, including on my sandwich.
Looking at the angry faces of the people waiting in line, I assured the employee she didn’t need to make me another sandwich; the plastic wrap blocked most of the coffee. She said, “Are you sure? I can make you another one.” I responded, “Not a problem. I shouldn’t have taken of the lid. I’m sorry.”
Embarrassed, I carried my little cardboard box with my items, bumping into people with my laptop bag and purse as I squeezed by them to the car with tables.
After eating my sandwich, I pulled out my laptop to start writing. I like to listen to music while I write so I reached for headphones for my iPhone and then remembered that the iPhone 8 plus doesn’t have a normal headphone jack. Curse you iPhone and your stupid headphone jack! I thought. Desperate to have some music, I used my laptop (which has a normal headphone jack) but doesn’t have a lot of music on it.
The train ride was great! The large windows showed the countryside, including passing some beautiful lakes. Just after four hours or so, we arrived in Portland. I started walking to the hostel I had stayed at the week before to see if a package was delivered there after I left.
The heat was unbearable – 92 degrees with a real feel of 97 degrees. On the way, I decided to call my doctor to have them track the shipment. It turned out that it hadn’t even shipped. I asked them to cancel the order and stopped walking towards the hostel.
I still had a couple of hours to kill before my appointment, so I found a restaurant/bar called Cider Bite. It has a lot of ciders, which I love. I patiently waited for them to open at 4:00 pm and walked in as soon as they opened the doors.
It was a small, narrow place. I headed towards the back, by the bar, and sat at a table while the waitress told me about the flights they offer. Sitting at the bar was another female, in her 30s. I thought, Another single female, really? You go girl. Everywhere I went, if someone was alone, it was a male. Every. Single. Time. I wondered what her story was, why she was alone.
Across from my table, a man filled out an application while another man in his late 30s was explaining the position to him. Then the man walked to the bar and started talking with the bartender/waitress about getting some things done around the place. I figured he must be the owner. There was nobody else in the place – probably because it was 4:00 pm.
I ordered a flight of ciders and a tuna sandwich. About 40 minutes later, a man showed up, kissed the woman at the bar, and sat next to her. Oh man, she wasn’t solo after all. She was just waiting for someone to arrive.
I finished eating and asked for the bill and the owner brought the machine for me to pay. I gave him my card and we started talking, and talking, and talking some more. I told him I had been traveling and was actually staying in Seattle, but came back to Portland for a day for an appointment.
We talked about Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. The man talked about the droughts and how absurd it is that Las Vegas keeps growing, even though they don’t have any water. Then he bashed southern California for its water usage. I explained to him that while I agree that southern California is becoming unlivable (um, that’s why I sold my house), the state also has ridiculous policies making things worse – like not building a new reservoir in decades, even though the population has grown substantially over that same time period.
We agreed that the American dream is dying. Many places have become so affordable, people are working to just pay rent. He said he’s thought about selling his condo in Portland because the housing market was doing so well, but then he’d have nowhere to live. I replied, “You could live nowhere, like me.”
The man asked how I liked Portland and I told him I really liked it – it has character. Seattle felt more like a min-Los Angeles. He said he didn’t care much for California – Los Angeles has a stereotype of the “blonde bimbos” and San Francisco has a stereotype that everyone works in Tech. Slightly offended, I said, “Yeah, everywhere has a stereotype. Take Portland for example, there’s the stereotype that everyone is a weird hippy.”
I was really enjoying our conversation but my anxiety was setting in as I didn’t know the time and was afraid I’d be late for my appointment. I didn’t want to look at the time and give the impression I wasn’t interested in talking with him. I mean, he was also pretty attractive and around my age.
Finally, I looked at my phone to see the time and realized I had about five minutes to get to my appointment, 15 minutes away. I grabbed my purse and stood up and said I needed to be somewhere. We agreed it was great talking to each other and I gave him my card.
I ordered an Uber and realized we had talked for about 40 minutes! But it was ok. That is the main reason I like traveling – meeting new people.
Thankfully I was still able to get to my appointment and the doctor was running late anyway. The student doctor took all my vitals and he was fascinated by my slow heartbeat. He asked if he could use the stethoscope to listen and I said sure. He said, “Wow, I keep questioning whether I’m even hearing it. It’s so faint.”
My train back to Seattle was leaving soon and it was the last train that evening. The student doctor said they might have to reschedule because the procedure will take some time. I pleaded with them to hurry and do it because I had come all the way from Seattle and needed to catch that train.
The doctor came in, did the procedure, and I rushed out the door to get a Lyft. The Lyft driver took a route that the GPS did not suggest and took us right through downtown. My anxiety increased with each red light we hit – which was basically every light.
I jumped out of the Lyft, ran into the train station and the overhead announcement said, “30 seconds to last boarding on the 408 to Seattle.” I ran to the podium to check-in and get my seat assignment. As I was pulling up the email with the confirmation number, a man in his 40s, about 5’9” with dark blonde hair, raced up next to me.
The employee asked, “Are you two together?”
Man in an English accent, “Well, not yet.”
We all laughed.
Man, “Sorry, that was totally inappropriate.”
The employee found the man’s seat assignment and said, “Business Class, here you go.”
Me, “Oh, I’m coach.”
Employee, “Well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
We both raced off to our trains – me in coach and him in business class. I sighed to
myself, I used to be able to afford business class.
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Post Edited By: Misty Kosek
Really great story. Interesting how every city has a stereotype for people. I never thought about that. I also do t know how I feel about the bbn position that the American dream is dying. Humanity has always been struggling to survive. We must work to eat, have shelter and be mobile. I suppose this too is relative. While o e man is content with what he needs, another insists on building wealth. Yet others luck into vast wealth. May e that is the American dream since no other country affords those possibilities.
Thanks for reading!! I guess what I mean by the “American dream” is what we’ve been told for decades that you can own a home in your 20s, raise a family, and afford a nice lifestyle. I agree that people have turned that into an extreme lifestyle (that’s why I prefer minimalism), but in a lot of major cities, people can’t buy a condo or a house at all, or not until their mid-30s. When I compare that to my parents, my mom stayed at home until I was in kindergarten and they bought a house at age 23. In Los Angeles or even cities like Seattle, the housing is so expensive, people can’t afford a house. It’s not because they’re looking for a giant house, they can’t even afford a small house or condo. So I think the American dream has changed over the last few decades and it’s more unaffordable to live than it was for my parent’s generation. But, I do think as a society, we’ve increased what our “needs” are, which adds to the problem. St. Louis is one of the most affordable cities in America, so I think it’s more realistic that people can have the “American dream” there.