I spent 45 minutes in Washington, DC today, and four hours on a train, getting there and coming back. I went for work, to deliver a document that absolutely, positively had to be in today. People were working and rushing to get it done all morning, while I sat quietly in my office, waiting to be given the signal to go. Everything was ready 12 minutes before the 12:58 train, and I rushed out the door, to see if I could make it. I missed it by 4 minutes.
The waiting was nice thought. I got to spend nearly an hour sitting in the main hall of 30th Street Station, watching waves of people arrive, scatter and regather again. The board announcing which trains were departing and at which gate, flipped it tiles regularly, always shuffling back into words and numbers, Regional–2:13, Keystone–1:43, Acela 1:09.
One of the first times I went to 30th Street Station I was a freshman in college. My mom and I were in Philly visiting my grandparents over my spring break. My good friend Andrea was home with her parents outside of Washington, DC and we decided that it would be fun if I went down to see her for an overnight. On the morning I was supposed to leave we all woke up to grey skies and a mild drizzle. The weather conditions sent my grandpa Sid into fits of worry, as he reflected his own fear of traveling in incliment weather onto me. My mom and I convinced him that I would be fine, but just to be sure, he made me leave a full hour and a half prior to the train time. I got to the station with so much time to spare that I was able to take a train an entire hour earlier than the one I had intended.
Arriving at the station that day, I felt grown up and metropolitan. I admired the architecture of the hall, and the echos of the eras past that exist in the signs and stairwells. Other people might find my five hour errand this afternoon irritating, but for me, it was a treat.
I love to take an extended break once in a while at 30th st station. Just soak in the grandeur, the atmosphere, the people, the pigeons.
The hustle and bustle is muted by the large open space, so you can chose to focus on the flow of humanity or the insignificance of each person relative to the imposing structure surrounding us.
I’d chose this over Grand Central any day. Granted, it was fun to lie down and watch a laser light show during the Christmas season projected on the Main Concourse’s ceiling, but 30th st feels much more “mine”, more like home, and certainly because of that, I feel more safe and secure when dozing off…
I love train travel, it’s the best! Beats them all.
30th Street is almost a kind of spiritual place; it reminds me of a church.
I once had to deliver a package from New York to Toronto, and so did the round trip flight in one day. It was fun! There I was in a new city, walking around, eating lunch in a new place.
I miss those little unexpected jaunts.