There’s a moral in this story

When I boarded the train this morning inbound for Paris, I made a conscious decision to not stay in the same car with the overly anxious woman who’d been riding me in the ticket queue, and who was manically chainsmoking and pacing on the platform right up to the moment that the train arrived. 

So of course the car I settled in was full of screaming toddlers. 

I considered changing cars again. A stop went by, and then another. The train was filling up. At the third stop, two elderly women got on board, and with so many single passengers sitting in two-seat rows—including myself—they took their places across the aisle from one another, one of them next to me. 

Her suitcase was heavy so I helped her set it on the overhead shelf. We smiled at each other and exchanged pleasantries and sat down. She thanked me for my help calling me Mademoiselle, and my heart melted. 

She told me that she was on her way to Barcelona, but only for a couple days because she had to get back to feed her animals. We talked about travel and about trains. She told me how much she loved the town she lived in, but they could really do with better train service. She didn’t have a car after all, so what was she to do if she had to get to the neighboring town to shop? The stores in the smaller towns are all but gone now…

She said, “With age, you know, you see things change. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes,” and she shrugged and made that universal face meaning, “not so much.”

As we chatted, she would check in periodically on her friend across the aisle, making sure she was okay and not too alone. 

This woman was kind, inquisitive and receptive, and seemed to genuinely want to share. But not too much. Just the right amount. She was delightful. 

The screaming toddlers enventually stopped screaming. 

I’m really glad I didn’t change cars.