Training Your Mind

Cooch
Been thinking about trains a lot lately …

Bast
It’s hard not to, right? They’re all over the news these days. And then of course there’s the fact that you just took an epic cross-country trip by train.

Cooch
Right – and what I’ve been thinking about is how those two things are connected. A week ago, I was touting that trip as a surprisingly entertaining experiment in lessening my carbon footprint, and talking about how government types should take the train once in a while rather than flying, to connect better with Canadians and the places where we live. I mean, you really get a grasp of the country when you spend 60+ hours winding through trees and rocks and prairies. And you really get a grasp of where people come from when you spend 60+ hours with them in coach.


Bast
And now?

Cooch
Well, now it seems like train travel (or at least the lack of it) is forcing government types to have more meaningful conversations with indigenous people, who after all, were the first stewards of all those trees and rocks and prairies. Seems very fitting.

Cooch
I propose that elected leaders board a train with representatives of the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory and start out across the country, picking up local representatives as they go, and make their way out to BC and the Wet’suwet’en territory. That should take at least a week, and I feel like it can’t help but result in something meaningful.

Bast
We should make this a thing. #traintalks

Bast
Also, I’m curious about these enlightening conversations you had. Care to share the enlightenment?

Cooch
Well for one thing, we actually acted out Einstein’s relativity of simultaneity – the one about the train – on the train. Super cool.

Cooch
Also: discussed creationism, free will, the role of the letter “h” in various languages. And I learned a new card game.

Bast
I could pretend like I know about Einstein’s relativity of simultaneity but I have no idea. Is that E=mc2 stuff?

Cooch
It’s related to his theory of relativity. (Get it?) It’s how he started his thinking process and it has to do with lightening and a train.

Bast
Leave it to you to start a conversation with strangers about Einstein, in the coach section of a train. And who were the characters who engaged in these conversations with you?

Cooch
Well, we were an interesting bunch. A winemaker from France who had been visiting vineyards in BC, a couple of students from Belgium studying at UBC, a web designer who’s been saving up since he moved to Canada three years ago so he could go to Churchill to see the northern lights. The grandmother who has travelled with her sister to every Junos award show for the past 13 years. I could go on.

Cooch
I was honestly very moved by our discussions. People talk more on the train. It’s like when you open up to strangers because you know you’ll never see them again. Also, fatigue sets in after about the 36-hour mark and conversations get more interesting.

Bast
Sounds like a Canadian version of the classic thriller: Dialogue on the Orient Express.

Bast
But how do these conversations even start? I just want to stay in my own little bubble when I travel.

Cooch
I think some people manage to do that, but it’s tough to keep the bubble intact for 60+ hours. Some of us spent a lot of time in the sky car, and maybe the wide-open views made us more open to talking. Also, some of the porters tried hard to get us to interact with each other. Magic tricks, trivia games, stuff like that. Less crabby passengers that way, I guess. Distracted us from all the delays along the way.

Bast
I had a huge crush on our porter when we took the train across Canada.

Cooch
Of course you did. How old were you?

Bast
About nine. We were moving to Ontario. Our cat came along too.

Cooch
Well, travelling by train does seem to have some kind of enduring romance, doesn’t it? Which reminds me, apparently the Harlequin Romance publishing empire was founded in Winnipeg in 1949. (I learned that from a tourism guide called “Factoids” I picked up in the Winnipeg train station during a stop there.)

Bast
My Mom was hooked on those in middle age.

Cooch
Light bulb: what if Tourism Winnipeg supplied free copies of Harlequin Romance novels at the train stations that passengers could borrow, and then leave behind at the end of their trip?

Bast
Hmmm. Methinks that could lead to a whole lot of different kinds of interactions on the train …

Cooch
Yikes. You’re right. NVM. Safer to stick with the crib boards and magic tricks.

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