Father and daughters

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

“Dad, why are we going so slowly?” That’s my daughter Barbara, head of academics at a Seattle girls school.

“Because we’re in a siding,” I reply.

“What’s a siding?”

That’s the fun of a father-daughters vacation. I expected them to be curious about the intricacies of railroad operations as the three of us crossed Canada for four days and nights. After all, that’s their father’s obsession. But it’s obvious that if Barbara doesn’t know what a siding is (I explaining a siding to her in the dining car by rearranging our tableware), she and kid sister Liz have pretty much zero interest in how a railroad is run, although they are willing to listen to me prattle on in the dome car about operating plans and horsepower per ton. (Middle sister Nicole, I should add, is mom to my trainophile grandson Franklin.)

What’s fun about this is that I’m realizing rather late in life that you can enjoy extended train travel without being interested in the business of trains. I should have known this all along. But in my family I’ve been the lone wolf when it comes to trains, always traveling by myself. I paid a price for this, in not understanding how different people process this experience differently. The first morning out, through the mountains of British Columbia, we sat in the dome car, me craning my head as the tracks twisted alongside the North Thompson River. Barbara and Liz (she works for an internet startup in New York City) were absorbed in their Kindles. Actually, Barbara was knitting a sweater while simultaneously reading from her Kindle. If you can do those two things at once, you’re not leaving much time for the scenery. I thought to myself, damn, they’re bored, and felt depressed.

Then I came to find out over glasses of wine that afternoon they’re having a fine time. The experience is exceeding their expectations, although those expectations were not great (“What am I going to do all this time?” Liz had asked). So what Liz did was read books and decompress from the stress of her job. Barbara made progress on the sleeves of her sweater. I watched the railroad outside the windows. As the days passed, all three of us grew comfortable doing our things. Showing commendable restraint, I postponed indefinitely my plan to deliver an hour-long lecture on Canadian National’s operating plan across Northern Ontario.

This morning, our last, I asked my daughters what they enjoyed most about this experience. Barbara: “Having a chance to be relaxed, not stressed.” Liz: “Being separated from [name of her employer], both physically and psychologically.” They were both saying the same thing: escape. Last night, after we finished watching “Chinatown” on the monitor in my Prestige cabin, Barbara asked if we could next take the Chinese high-speed train to Tibet. Don’t push your luck, I replied.

Today, I think all three of us are bored. It’s a dreary day. VIA Rail had it right when it devised our train’s schedule, putting us into Toronto at 9:30 a.m. the fourth morning. Enough is enough. Except that it isn’t enough because at best we’ll get there eight hours late today. Kiddos, I said, we’ve got some wine left. Let’s watch ”Casablanca” after lunch. So that’s what we are doing, father and daughters, drifting toward Toronto.—Fred W. Frailey

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