The Train

This weekend I went to Waterloo to visit my mother. She and my stepfather were originally supposed to come and see me in Toronto so we could visit the King Tut exhibit at the AGO, and go to one of my favourite neighbourhood eateries, Caplansky’s. But my mother has been very ill these last few weeks (she’s on the mend, never fear), and it’s perfectly reasonable for me to be the one to travel instead. I love traveling by train, and it tends to be a tad cheaper than the bus, so I booked a ticket on Via Rail, and off I went. Those of you following me on Twitter know what happened.

I sleep when I travel. I don’t know why this is so, but it’s been the way of things since I was too young to speak my own name. Put me in a car, a bus, a train, a boat, sometimes even an airplane, and I’ll be in the land of Nod before we’ve gone more than a couple of miles. I’m a decent highway driver with a lot of experience on different road conditions, but this selective narcolepsy generally makes me a poor choice for driver on long trips. Anyway, I knew I would fall asleep on the train ride to Kitchener (only getting two hours sleep the night before didn’t help), so I asked the guy in the seat next to me to wake me when we got there. He agreed, put on his headphones, and did his thing.

The next thing I know I’m being nudged awake by the guy in the headphones. I look at my watch, and we’re right on schedule. I stumble out of my seat, wipe my eyes, and zombie-walk my way to the terminal. I look around, and my ride has not arrived, so I go to the washroom and wash some of the sleep out of my eyes and off my face before heading out to the parking lot.

Here’s something you may not know about the Kitchener train terminal: it doesn’t have a large entrance with steps and stone pillars, nor is it on the crest of a hill. Somehow those things are present. Still groggy, my first thought is: when did they renovate this place? Disoriented is not the word. The terminal looks pretty much as I remember it on the inside, though granted I’d only been there the once, but everything outside is cockeyed. Familiar, but not quite right. A rather bracing blast of wind and snow hits my face, and I wake up enough to read the signs on the businesses across the street. They tell me I’m in fucking Guelph.

Christ on a bike.

I turn around and grab the terminal door so I can cut through, and the damned thing is locked. I look through the window, and, oh yeah, the fucking train is gone, snuck off like some fucking diesel ninja on rails. Now don’t get me wrong, Guelph is a lovely community, home to one of Canada’s finest bookstores, and the reason it had looked sort-of familiar is because I had been there before. But Guelph clearly wasn’t where I wanted to be. I walked around the terminal trying all the doors, and every one of them was locked. I have no idea how I even made it inside the first time. Perhaps I didn’t, and was simply so groggy I was peeing on some frozen bush and didn’t even realize it. The world may never know.

Thirty or so minutes later, as I was beginning to fear for my fingers and toes, my mother and stepfather arrived to collect me, finding the situation rather funnier than I did. You know, I didn’t realize there was such a plethora of traveler-at-the-wrong-stop jokes out there, but by God I’ve heard them all now. I was extra careful on the way back. I didn’t even fall asleep.

Fucking Guelph.


Writer. Editor. Critic.


  1. August, I laughed all through this post, but I’m sorry it happened! I’m glad your parents could come and get you. I don’t tend to sleep on any form of public transportation when I’m travelling by myself for a couple reasons–I’m self-conscious so I don’t want strangers looking at me when I’m sleeping; I’m cynical so I’m afraid I might get robbed and lastly, once I’m out, I’m really out – the train could probably derail and I’d sleep right through it. However, if I’m really tired and worried I’ll fall asleep in spite of all the above, I’ve come up with a system. Try this: set your cell phone alarm (on vibrate if you’re worried about pissing off anyone else who’s sleeping) for a little ahead of your eta, and put it in your pocket. That should do the trick.

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