Saturday, April 14, 2018


by: Pete Johnson

I’m curious as to why a train near your train yard in Northeast DC blew its loud whistle for such a long time at around 9pm last night. It was annoying, sure, but I’m more just genuinely curious as to why it would seem necessary to blow a train’s whistle for what felt like 20 minutes straight. I’m sure it was more like 2-3 minutes, but still, it was a long time and the reasoning escapes me.  I could hear the train moving, and not particularly slowly. If it was to warn someone/thing that was on the tracks that a train was coming, it really seems like in that amount of time the train would have just hit it already. If a train hits a deer is it Amtrak policy to lay on the whistle for an hour to honor its noble life being sacrificed to the destructive whims mankind calls progress? That would be kind of nice actually, I could live with that. There aren’t that many deer in my neighborhood.
            My wife went on Nextdoor, which, don’t ever go on Nextdoor. It’s like if you took all the bad parts of Facebook and turned up the volume on them and also now all of your annoying Facebook friends live in your actual neighborhood and have the potential to murder you. So she found out sometimes train whistles happen in our neighborhood and people think it’s because kids cut holes in the chain link fence and go on the train tracks. That sounds about right, but still, why so long? I think what probably happened is there was someone on the tracks so the conductor blew the whistle, the person got off the tracks and the train passed them just fine, but then the conductor kept right on whistling out of indignation at someone being on the tracks. Is that what this was? Is there an angry conductor out there holding whistles down too long for their own emotional benefit? Every time an Amtrak employee hears a long train whistle do they sigh and think “damn it Howard, give it a fucking rest”? If so could you tell Howard to knock it off?
            Anyway, how are you, person that has to read Amtrak customer questions? I feel like I’m talking about me a lot. I bet you get a lot of dumb questions on here. I bet it gets pretty grating to type the same polite translation of ‘google it yourself’ and ‘no, you entitled prick’ over and over again. I hope this one is at least entertaining you a little bit. I guess what I’m trying to say is, my wife hasn’t been feeling well recently. She’ll be ok, it will be fine and everything, but right now she’s pretty miserable and it’s been tough. The train didn’t even bother her all that much, although she was trying to sleep. It’s more just like, I dunno, it’s a new thing I’m dealing with and maybe it’s throwing me off kilter just enough so that I feel like I want to write a long thing to a poor Amtrak employee expressing my very specific curiosity about train physics.
            Maybe it was to cover for a really long fart?
            Or maybe it wasn’t anger at someone being on the tracks, but a different anger. Maybe the conductor just checked the mini fridge and saw that someone ate their lunch. It could have just been a mean tweet. It could have been an article ranking the best episodes of Lost that the conductor REALLY did not agree with. Do conductors ever whistle out of love? Why not?
            In conclusion, I found the coffee you served on the train I took 4 years ago to be adequate. I wonder about the most bland, unnecessary comment you’ve ever gotten in your work. Have you ever read something like “My friend worked for Amtrak 13 years ago and liked it ok” and been like WHAT IN THE WORLD MOTIVATED THIS? I’m sorry for yelling, you don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer any of this really, you deserve better. There are lots of different trains that come through my neighborhood- it probably wasn’t even an Amtrak come to think of it. Well anyway, keep your head up. I’m rooting for you.