Homebound from Baltimore. Amtrak 2150.


5:30 a.m. Return from Baltimore on Amtrak’s first run of the day.  The Quiet car is sparsely populated. Light rain falls. The train rumbles north to NYC . . . Boston last stop.

At Penn Station, commuters fill the empty seats. A Suit takes the open seat next to me. He opens his laptop, twists in his earbuds and settles in. I glance over. Millennial. Blue navy suit. Sharp red tie. Country of origin? Non-U.S.

Five minutes pass.

He grabs his laptop and walks to the back of the train and disappears into the next car. I’m happy for the elbow room. I return to my emails.

P.A.: “45 minutes to the Stamford Station.”  On Time.

I scan the morning papers.

40 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I hadn’t noticed his black duffel bag on the floor – black straps, logo-free and hulking motionless in the shadows.  A black umbrella rests on top. The aisle seat remains empty.

30 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I return to my reading, but my eyes are drawn to the unmarked bag, the umbrella and the empty aisle seat. My ears are alive. Ticking? Flashing digital countdown timer?

20 minutes to the Stamford Station.

The Conductor walks down the aisle.
Tell him. Go ahead. “If you see something, say something.”
I’m silent.

10 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I look down, from way up.
The NY Times Front Page Headline on Thursday February 25, 2016: Explosion on Amtrak 2150.
On a quiet gray morning.
Unsuspecting passengers catapulted from the Quiet Car.
Spread like confetti…

5 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I get up.
I tip toe over The Bag.
I open the overhead bin, grab my coat and the overnight bag.
I look up the train car for the Conductor.
I look back down the train car while I put on my coat.
And here He comes.
My Seat Mate.
Walking down aisle, smiling, holding his cup of coffee.

I let him pass by so he can get into his seat:

“Good morning. Thank you.”



  1. DAVID!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn, but these judgement calls are a bear these days. Can’t imagine anyone walking off and leaving his stuff like that, but then again, I’m surprised every time someone asks me to watch his bag while he “runs to the restroom.” What a world we live in…. Glad this story had a happy ending, pal….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I can relate to your imagination! We were on a train in Paris in 2011 and a guy got off the train and left his backpack on the seat. I was the first to notice he left it behind and the first to imagine we were all exploding on the train! It is not crazy to have these thoughts, it happens. I am just glad it didn’t happen to you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We live in tense times where anything is possible….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The new reality – do I say something or nothing. And what if our choice is wrong?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, and what if I was wrong, and he was walking down the aisle and my reporting set off a chain reaction of events – bomb squad, train shut down. Yet one soul hurt for the protection of many….all this clanking in the head.


  6. When the new reality is known by everyone, the person with the bag will say something and the observer will not be in this state of wondering.
    In airports it’s a given…. We still have ways to go to connect more and support more. Especially in commuter trains.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. City life is just too creepy for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. yikes. it’s a tough call. i was once in our downtown post office and saw that someone had left a black leather valise in the corner. i picked it up and gave it to a postal worker and he kind of backed up. as i wasn’t thinking anything was amiss, i was surprised by his reaction. he said,
    ‘we are housed in a federal building and never approach a bag left behind.’ i was shocked as it had never occurred to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sorry, but…I had to laugh while I was reading all of that. Blame it on the glass of wine I’ve been sipping for the last hour. I would never normally laugh at such fears, would I??? It actually reminded me of when I was a bank teller (many, many years ago), and someone would place their briefcase onto the counter. But that was a long time ago, and now we worry about all sorts of other things. It’s funny and awful all at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. AND…”The NY Times Front Page Headline on Thursday February 25, 2016: Explosion on Amtrak 2150.
    On a quiet gray morning.
    Unsuspecting passengers catapulted from the Quiet Car.
    Spread like confetti…” On a quiet gray morning? Spread like confetti? Sheesh, what kind of newspaper is this??? No notes about the beloved blogger who was well known to many?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I felt like i was right there with you in this post. So grateful that all turned out ok. Whew. Scary times, aren’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Tough call man. I’d have probably reported it at about the 10 minute mark.
    Kinda like this…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Actually I smiled. Knowingly. Got lots of practice on my latest trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. OMG…DK…you so had me. Love the ‘looking down, from way up’…wow!
    Ok, I can exhale now. What a choice to have to consider.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have less patience for stuff like that. Just ask my neighbors about the time I called the police on their elderly mother who was trying to use her key to get in their apartment. In my defense, it was after midnight, I’d only lived there a few weeks, her back was to me, and she was talking to herself. Great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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