Much like Rachel Watson, the protagonist of Paula Hawkins’ massive bestseller, The Girl on the Train, that’s now a major movie starring Emily Blunt, I hop aboard a train while fortified with a bit of alcohol.
But unlike Rachel’s gin and tonic, my morning libation is a Mimosa from the Dream Cafe. It comes in a beer glass, because a champagne glass just won’t cut it for most moms. So true.
This sunny, early fall day in Dallas couldn’t be more different from the gloomy, misty setting of London and its environs in the book (or New York in the film). And as a rule, houses don’t line the tracks, their backyards an open invitation for snooping.
But I set out from Dallas’ Victory Station near the American Airlines Center, intent on seeing what lies ahead on the line to DFW Airport. Just call me The Girl on The Light Rail.
I choose the Orange line. It’s not long before I laugh at the train version of Siri, who says over the loudspeaker: “This is the (long pause) Orange line.” The pause suggests she is unsure, which isn’t very encouraging. She stays miffed the entire trip.
A baby begins to cry as soon as the train pulls away. Southwest Airlines jets soar over the skyline, full of people going home or going on vacation.
A man with long hair and a large backpack wrapped in a black plastic bag exits the next stop: Southwest Medical District and Parkland. I wonder if he’s ill, or just visiting a friend who might be.
The passengers, about eight in this car, have no newspapers, jumpers, wellies, briefcases and such, like in Rachel’s car on her commute to a pretend job in London. Instead, many of them clutch a plastic bag, its contents likely lunch or dinner.
The trees are starting to turn, though not enough for a show. A soccer game is in progress near the Inwood-Love Field station, with the onlookers gathered under the sole tree nearby. Ah, Texas in October.
The Restaurante El Salvadoreno is doing good business and there’s a large crowd at the nearby lavanderia. Is Sunday laundry day no matter where you live?
Sitting across from me is a sleeping man, wearing a safety vest of some sort. I wonder if he will magically wake for his stop (he does, about five stops later).
As the train trundles along the Trinity River bottoms, I notice a pickup “parked” at a liquor store. It isn’t between the lines. It isn’t even close to the curb in front of the store. It’s as if someone just managed to turn it into the lot and then abandoned it. Just as well, the driver left it there instead of turning onto a highway. But I wonder where he ended up. I hope he’s not wandering out there in the brush.
I had expected to see people with luggage, on their way to DFW, but not a single rider seems equipped for a journey. Who are these people?
A firehouse sits along the Orange line near the Las Colinas station. A firefighter is sitting on the front bumper as we roll by, looking at his phone. What a strange job it must be. Wait, wait, wait, GO!
Apartments crowd close to the line here. The closest dwellings I’ll see along the route.
It is about now that I realize I am getting some glances. After all, I am shooting video and pictures and madly scribbling notes. “What is she doing?” the other riders must wonder. I am glad I wore my dark sunglasses.
When we pull in to the Belt Line station, a young girl holding a bright red balloon is standing there with her mother. It’s an open fields/industrial area, which makes we wonder why she is at this station. And how long she’ll hold onto that balloon.
After a short break at the airport, I take the same line back. This time, I choose the front car, so I can watch the conductor. A woman climbs into the driver’s seat, and we are off again.
I wonder if she always wanted to drive a train, how she ended up in the job.
Groups of airport employees stream past -- machinists or luggage handlers or the folks who wave a plane into the gate. Two airport police officers walk up and stand by our car. I cross my fingers, hoping no one has reported a woman surreptitiously photographing everything from the train and accidentally recording her thumb.
A worker enters the train and immediately tests my patience, yawning repeatedly and very loudly. I fight the urge to start yawning myself. It becomes so loud I wonder if he is just doing it to get anyone to look at him. No one does.
The train sways more between Belt Line and the airport than anywhere else along the route, reminding me of European trains on which I have traveled during vacations.
As we pull into the Irving station, an elderly woman motions to the driver. The driver waits, not sure what she wants. It turns out she is trying to indicate she is waiting for another train. As the train pulls out, she looks intently at me, the first person to really make eye contact on the entire route. I see a story in her eyes. I can feel it. I hope she is OK.
Near Love Field, the train passes a house with five children playing in the yard. They appear to be improvising the world's shortest zip line. I smile. At least they aren’t staring at a screen on some device, though that will be small comfort to their mothers if the dead tree they are rigging up should fall over on them. Still, it looks like fun.
The train nears its stop at Victory Plaza, but it is not alone on the tracks. An Amtrack superliner races past to the right. I can't see the riders on it because of the tint on the windows, but I wonder where they are coming from, and where they are going.
Not to be outdone, our driver surges the DART train forward. I feel gratified that we beat the behemoth to the station.
And so the journey is over. No discarded clothing, no fighting couples or embracing couples, no red flags. On this day, seemingly the most interesting thing on this trip (to others, anyway) is yours truly, the girl on the train.