Those Who Share the Journey

And there we sat, passengers on an Amtrak train going nowhere in the city of nonstop hustle and bustle. A Saturday evening in New York City.

In August.

The signs foreshadowed the evening's events: Train 165 to Washington, delayed 0:10. Then we were advised to STAND BY. Finally we boarded, only to be told the train was experiencing "mechanical difficulties" and that we'd be on our way as soon as possible.

We were apologized to, and thanked for our patience and for choosing Amtrak.

I looked around at my fellow passengers, a sparse lot. High school students from a Philadelphia prep school, talking academics and Classics Club and college applications, fresh from seeing West Side Story for the first time and suitably awed. A guy across the aisle, searching for an Internet connection. A middle aged woman, asleep.

The train needed a new motor, one that was on its way to us. The crews were working as quickly as they could.

More apologies, more thanks for our patience, and a suggestion to feed any nicotine cravings. "If you feel the need for a cigarette, you're welcome to step out onto the platform to do so."

Several people departed, pacing the platform alongside our smudged windows. The glow of their cigarettes soon became the only illumination as pffffft went the train's lights, taking the air-conditioning with it. (Did I mention this is August? In New York?)

Unable to read, I turned on my laptop and edited my BlogHer '10 photos by the monitor's glow. Snippets of cell phone conversations, pick-ups postponed, plans thwarted. Clicks of texts.

Reaching out to make a connection with anyone except those right in our midst.

An hour later, the motor had arrived and had been installed. Cleared to go, we chugged towards Newark and Trenton and Philadelphia. It was after 11 p.m. when the train arrived and we departed, a weary lot, the evening's exhaustion etched on our faces. I lugged my suitcase and conference swag and laptop case and purse down the steps, catching a glimpse of someone familiar.

"Rachel?" I said. The person turned.

"Rachel Simon?!" I said, greeting one of my favorite authors of all time. We hugged, Facebook friends that we are, commiserated about the train ride and the delay.

"I can't believe you were on my train!" we exclaimed. She had been at a conference in Stamford, me at BlogHer. Yes, I absolutely did know of Cecily K's blog and how about that? She was at BlogHer too, as was I, and such a small world that she knew Rachel too.

Together we walked into the breezy night and Rachel pointed out her car, her husband at the wheel.

"Would you like to meet Hal?" she said, and of course I'd already had done so, through the pages of her most recent book The House on Teacher's Lane (titled Building a House with My Husband in hardback) and the bestselling Riding the Bus with My Sister.

Hal greeted us with the bemused look of one accustomed - and thus unfazed - by his bride chatting animatedly with a stranger, a new or long-lost friend (it didn't make any difference) at a city train station shortly before midnight. We shook hands, I introduced myself with the tagline of being a longtime fangirl of Rachel's. We hugged goodbye, promising to stay in touch and find each other on Twitter, departing in different directions into the night.

I smiled all the way to the parking garage where my car was parked. Wow, I marveled, the frustrations of the delayed train melting away in the summer's air. How cool was that? What are the chances that one of my favorite authors - and one of my favorite persons, truly - had been on this same train with me and I didn't even know it. If I hadn't been on that broken-down train or if I turned around to spend one more night in New York, I would have completely missed this chance.

We are all connected, aren't we? I thought, as the effects of three days of being immersed in the power of connections online washed over me once more. Yes, we are most definitely on this crazy journey together.

Especially when we think we're just traveling solo.


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