An obese wheezing woman plops down and complains about the long
walk from her sleeper to the dining car. She joins me and a woman who tells
us her parents at age 93 recently signed a lease with oil company to get
at what might be under their family farm--a piece of the vast
Reserve in North Dakota. Wheezy is delighted, proudly declares she is
all for drilling in Alaska, too, because "they've been cutting us off at
the knees." I'm sure she has developed an entire mythology in support of
this regurgitated soundbite, probably involving a cabal of Arabs and
environmentalists, but I don't want to encourage her so I stare out the window.
Montana under snow is lovely.
But she has more to say on the topic and continues unprompted.
"I've heard some new findings that oil might be a renewable resource. It's
not fossils. It comes from the grinding of the earth's platelets."
The snow still looks good but she asks me directly, "Have you
heard anything about that?" I was thinking about the difference between blood
but I take a different tack: "No, I haven't. But aside from the issue of
supply, don't you think we're burning too much too fast?"
She swells with defiant certainty, "No, I don't!" I'm glad I
had finished my meal because I flushed hot with anger, put down a tip and
left, saying, "All right then. Good day." I wish I'd kept a cooler head and
way of engaging her but my revulsion was a reflexive response to her proud
ignorance, which I sensed was perfect and impenetrable. The only tools at
my disposal were facts and logic--no match for the propaganda and pseudoscience
which evidently formed the foundation of her unreasoning faith.
I live in a bubble where there is consensus that conservation
is never a bad idea so I was caught off-guard by this waddling metaphor for
unrepentant waste and overindulgence. She is certainly not alone in her selfish
shortsighted mindset and my simply walking away from such encounters isn't
going to help things any. Unlike oil, patience is a renewable resource
and I need to learn to tap my reserves in times of need.
They sat me with a heavyset man who was already into dessert.
He was on the aisle, I sat by the window across from him. I said hello and
he gave a little nod without taking his eyes off the scenery to the south.
Maybe he didn't speak English. I wasn't going to start so I looked out the
window north where a herd of small
across a snowy field away from the train.
My meal came, I ate in silence. He finished, got up without
a word or glance and laid down a tip--a folded bill and a coin partially
concealed by his pie plate. When the plate was taken away I could see it
bill and a gold
coin. I do the same thing sometimes.
Silent eater, unusual tip leaver--my soul brother.
...With three charmingly nerdy midwesterners--a bachelor accountant,
a web developer, and his business-to-business chemical company records keeper
Wife: Honey, would you like my tomato?
Husband: No, thank you. Would you like mine? Oh wait--of course
not or you wouldn't have asked that.