Railroad Retirement Travel

You Don’t Look Like…

Flying SWA to PHX yesterday morning. Let’s just say I LOVE being an A-List flyer. I usually get a TSA-PRE designation on my boarding pass…which means, nothing comes out of bags and shoes and jackets stay on!  Wow.  Sweet.

Anyway, my roller bag is heavy today.  I have three days of work in AZ and had to bring my work boots.  Along with my carry-on with my work computer, my purse…which fits nicely into my computer bag…only two carry-ons you know.  I am laden down with stuff.

They call boarding and just as cattle are lead into a shoot of a stockyard pen (minus the cattle prod and pending death to become ground beef), my fellow flyers and I funnel down the jet way and into the plane.

With my purse/computer bag hefted onto my nearly sixty-year old left shoulder, I am double fisting my roller bag carrying it down the slim walkway between the rows trying to avoid the typical aisle seat sitter’s tripping hazards:  feet, elbows and heads.  All of this is heavy. And this is always the time I rethink what is in my bag…and why did I bring it. But, as usually never leave any of it at home.

The train of people slam to a complete abrupt halt; some lady is rearranging her carry-on in an overhead bin and is so intent on retreating her newest People Magazine she is obviously oblivious to the queue of passengers pining for the unclaimed seats her butt is blocking.

I usually don’t make eye contact while waiting and mindless stare straight between the shoulders of the person in front of me. However, this youngish guy sitting in the aisle seat says. “That bag looks pretty heavy.”  I acknowledge it is and explain it is holding a pair of steel toe boots (Why did I go there???). The denim draped derriere is still dangling ahead and is deterring our quest for passage…so the moment of conversation continues.

“Why do you have those?” he asks with a very quizzical perplexed way. A bit too interested in my lipstick red TravelPro 21inch for my taste. The easiest and quickest explanation I can think of is “I work on the railroad and need them for my job.”  Without missing a beat, he shoots back, “You don’t look like you work on the railroad.” I blankly stare back at him.  Seriously, what do you say back to a remark like that?

Now, I am internally seething at butt lady. She is still working her magazines…there must be a new edition of the Enquirer to peruse. Her bulbous backside continues to block the remaining A list and now pouring in B list passenger’s way. And by now my arms are getting tired and I still have to lift my suitcase way above my head and thread it into the compartment reserved for such bags.

You have to  realize this whole scene is played out in about 90 seconds. Although it appears in writing to have taken months.

Finally, she tucks in her tremendous tush and we can pass.  I get two steps past Mr. Aisle Seat and start hefting my bag into the overhead.  He leans around, peers over this shoulder and sees me…no he did not get up to help me… and says, “I meant it as a complement.”  I just grin and find my window seat two rows away. Again, what do you say back to something like that?

This exchange got me thinking, what does someone who works in the railroad industry look like?  Are we to wear striped bib overalls, red neckerchief, and matching striped hat?

Foamer alert:  Just as information, the striped hat was fashioned from some scrap fabric.  In the olden days, yes…when I was born…railroad wives sewed their husband’s overalls to wear to work.  These garments were essential for keeping soot, grease, smoke and dirt away from and protected their good clothes underneath. I kid you not, take a look at some old-time photos and you will see guys with a suit and tie with bibs on top.

Some smart wife decided there was enough left over ticking (the material first used for overalls…hardy enough for mattress and pillow covers) and made her beau a chapeau.  The rest is as they say is history. Another interesting fact…oh I know it is not interesting at all…but if an engineer wore a poke-a-dot hat…that meant he was a passenger man.  Stripes were strictly freight. I still have my dad’s poke-dot-hat…for a photo; see my post “Retirement isn’t for Everybody.”

Back to my trip: There is no point here. Except that all my railroad friends look normal to me.  No cow-catcher noses, smoke stacks sticking out of craniums or additional limbs or heads. We are just normal folks that talk funny. Between ourselves we use a lot of jargon and words that are usually not acceptable in polite company.

As of January 24, I celebrated my 40th year working around trains and railroad people. And a lifetime of living within the industry since I am 4th generation. It has been and continues to be a fun and interesting journey.

Lonnie now two years retired!! And loving it…relaxed, golfing, putzting around the house. All of our family, friends, and neighbors are enjoying Mr. Fix-It fixing it.

And with me quickly approaching 60, friends are asking if I am ready to “pull the pin.” (RR jargon for leaving)

The simple and direct answer is: No. I enjoy my job…except for a few folks…and I am good at it.  I don’t see any reason to leave.

My job allows me creative freedom, some travel, excitement, diversity in duties, great benefits, good vacation and sick time. But most importantly to me I am in a position to make a difference in other people’s lives in a good way.

So, right now retirement is not for me.  But, thank goodness not for the same reason it was for my dad.

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