Trains that wind across North America take days … and nights. But they are “sociable”, and many tall tales are told in the dining cars and lounges. Some have a ring of authenticity.
On the Texas Eagle, this guy came to lunch carrying a baseball bat.
“What’s with the bat?” I asked.
“Never leaves me on this trip,” he replied. “They don’t like you taking bats on a plane.”
“So why not check it?”
“It’s worth too much. Personally signed after a home run in Yankee Stadium. Check the signature.”
There it was … Babe Ruth. I had to ask: “Is it real?”
“Sure is. 1927. Got all the papers. A guy in Chicago bought it for one-and-a-half million bucks. I’m just the delivery guy, bringing it up from Little Rock, Arkansas.”
I asked tentatively, “Can I hold it?”
“Sure can,” and I did, in some awe.
Now Elaine is a tennis fan, and I have picked up some clues about that game. But my spectator sport of choice is baseball, and in return, Elaine has learned the rules and now appreciates some of the nuances of the game. “Can I hold it too?” she asked. She was so allowed, and also impressed.
Then a lady from New York, whose accent resembled Edith Bunker’s also held it … and then dropped it. For a few moments, only the train was audible. “Don’t worry about it, lady,” said the guy, “if Babe Ruth couldn’t break it, nor can you.”
In Chicago I ran into the guy, and the bat, again. This time outside Union Station, which is not perhaps the safest place in town. “Hey, just the man,” he said, “hold the bat for a moment while I wave my ride over.”
One-and-a-half million dollars. “What do I do if someone tries to steal it?” I asked.
“Hit ‘em with the bat! I’ll be right back.”
And, unfortunately, he was.
Then to Midway Airport and the whole security caper brought us back to the realities of flying. Unpractised I tried to put on my shoes on before my belt. My trousers descended and added an amusing note to the otherwise grim business.
The plane was an hour or so late, and we worried about getting into Toronto Island before they turn the lights out at 11 p.m. But this was Porter Airlines, and the gate attendants joined the cabin crew to clean the plane in record time. Then it was a fast climb, a high-speed cruise and a rapid descent with three minutes to spare. Porter really goes the extra mile, and tries hard to overcome the now-familiar airport hassles. The shuttle to the Royal York Hotel also helped, and we are now home for Christmas.
Which reminds me … from Elaine and myself:
Merry Christmas … and a Happy New Year