Talking to Strange Ladies on Trains, Published 28 June 1946
Old age caught up with me this week on the Rlverdale bus. A young lad of 18 got up and gave me his seat. O death, wher is thy sting, O grave, thy victory. Operation harp is just around the corner.
When I was young, I used to look over the luscious young ladies on the train, wistfully wishing I had enough courage to speak to one. Finally I did and married her. Those who are sticklers for dates will be interested to know that the conversation which led to the altar took place on July 26, 1925, on the Rocky Mountain Limited, Train No. 7, ex-Chlcago. The vows of course came some years later than the original conversations, but I quote the instance to show what can happen when you speak to strange ladies on the train.
What I was going to say was this, that In those days, the girls I talked to were young, and they sometimes pulled out their purses to show me snaps of their mothers and fathers, maybe their brothers. Then as time went on, I found myself talking to young married women, whose snaps often showed a sturdy boy of two, a little blond angel of four. Time marched on, and the fond mammas that talked to me on the streamliners flashed photos of daughters about to graduate from high school; of sons who played on the freshman team.
* * *
For the last while back, when ever I got talking to a pleasant lady on a train, I usually figured that somewhere in the background, there was a half to three-quarters grown family. The girls of 20 to 23 seem so very young, and above all, not the slightest interested in old men of 47. That was the situation till recently.
But when I boarded the Hiawatha not so long ago, for a mile-a-mlnute trip on this svelte streamliner, I happened in the lounge of the train to be seated opposite a most pleasant lady. We chatted about a number of things, as we whisked across western Wisconsin. Then, as Inevitable, came the snaps.
"Here" she said. "I want to show you the picture of my little grandson."
So, I said to myself, It's the grandmas I get now!
It hit me right then and there that I was no longer a young man. When I get talking to pleasant women whom I think are most agreeable, and they turn out to be grandmothers, then I can only agree that I am getting old. I can only hope that I can put off as long as possible, looking at snaps of the great grandchildren.
This thought paralleled the one about the lads giving me the seat. On the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha, the best I can do is a grandmother. On the Riverdale bus, a young man rises and given me his seat. Wait a minute, Methusalch, here I come.