Crater Lake To Stanley, Day -1 : Amusement

Mr. Breakpoint rushes me to the train station Speed Racer style. I walk inside with all my luggage prepared on my back, and my ticket in hand. Of course, that’s when the attendant tells me that the train is running almost an hour late. I should have expected that.

When I get on board, I am seated behind a young man yammering on his cellphone. He stays on it for the next four hours, even switching seats temporarily to plug in and charge. After the first hour, a tough old man with a walking stick and an Army cap boards the train, and is assigned the seat next to me. We both try to sleep. Four or five stops later he gets up and goes wandering around the train. When he comes back, he passes the young man yapping on the phone, and makes a face like, “Duuuh!!” at me. I laugh. We can’t believe he is STILL on the phone.

Since we won’t be getting any sleep, the vet and I start talking. He tells me about the time he spent in Vietnam, doing night-time tank battles. He throws me a bunch of jargon about how they redesigned the tanks over the years to minimize both the exhaust vent from firing, and the muzzle flash. Apparently the muzzle flash at night was so conspicuous that it was easier to target than anything seen during the day. “So of course, the first rule was, fire and then move immediately,” he says.

“That’s funny,” I say, “because there are kids playing computer games today who learned the same tactic.”

“Oh but they don’t learn what it’s really like. Not really.”

“Well, yeah. For one thing, they don’t crap their pants with fear when they hear return fire.”

He laughs. “Well I never crapped my pants, but, I sure paid attention all right.”

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