NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 27, 2010

The Mother Load: For me, travel really is a laughing matter

The Mother Load
Nancy Crochiere

The man behind the Amtrak ticket counter is looking at me oddly.

My train for New York leaves South Station in 10 minutes, and the automated kiosk has refused to cough up my ticket. The man behind the counter, however, seems to have identified the problem.

"You already took this trip to New York," he tells me. "You left yesterday."

I pause to consider this information. Granted, my memory is not what it used to be, but I feel certain that this trip would have stuck in my mind.

"See, it's right here," he points at his computer screen, which, of course, I can't see at all. "You're due to return here to Boston at 5 p.m. today."

I glance around the room just to be certain, but all signs indicate that right now I am, in fact, in Boston. Especially the big sign that says "Boston — South Station."

I'm just about to point this out when the man says, "Wait a minute — I think I've found the problem. You didn't take that trip."

I breathe a sigh of relief. Even though it looks a lot like Boston, I was beginning to think I was in the Twilight Zone.

As it turns out, the ticketing problem was my mistake. Using my sophisticated calendar-reading skills, I had reserved train tickets for the day before.

"Geez, Amtrak can be so picky about little things like dates," I joked to the man. "I mean, I did get most of the other information right."

"Well, dates are very important ..." the man admonished.

Clearly, it was going to be one of those days when the world did not get my jokes, and perhaps vice versa.

I find many things amusing when I travel. But often I wonder — is it just me? Does anyone else think this is funny?

For example, recently I was on an overbooked flight where space was so tight that two people practically had to become intimate in order to pass in the aisle. I told the man who carefully shimmied by me on this way back from the restroom that in some cultures, we would now be considered engaged. (He didn't get the joke either.)

But that wasn't even the funny part. What I really found amusing was when, after a long bout of turbulence, the pilot made this announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I've turned off the seat-belt sign, so you are now free to move about the cabin. Just a reminder, though, to avoid standing in the aisle or milling about the restroom area."

I had to wonder: What other choices are there on an airplane? I mean, where else can one "move about"? (Not near the cockpit, that's for sure. They get very testy about that these days.)

On that same flight, I was amused by a sign on the door at the rear of the aircraft that said: "For Emergency Use Only." I was so glad that they clarified that! Because I was thinking of opening that door a crack to get some fresh air.

In truth, if the airline is going to post such a sign, I would prefer some elaboration. For example, a sign that says, "For Emergency Use Only WHILE ON THE GROUND" would have been reassuring, especially with the added explanation: "When in the air, DO NOT EXIT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES."

I get a chuckle from a similar "Emergency Exit Only" sign on the bus that I sometimes take into Boston. This time, the warning is printed on an escape hatch cut into the roof. I wonder: Did riders really need reminding that this exit should only be used in an emergency? Did the bus company have a problem because so many people were exiting through the roof?

As I say, maybe nobody else finds this funny. I have sort of a weird sense of humor.

Perhaps I have spent more time than I realize in the Twilight Zone.

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Nancy Crochiere works as an editor for a college textbook publisher and, in her spare time, tries to write humorously about modern family life. You can e-mail her in care of ndn@newburyportnews.com.