THE 4:11 TRAIN
In Which the World Comes Once a Day to Visit Homeburg
Hel-lo, Jim! Darn your case-hardened old hide, but I'm glad to see you! Wait till I unclamp my fingers from this suit case handle and I'll shake hands. Whoa—look out!! That's the fourth time that chap's tried to tag me with his automobile baggage truck. He'll get me yet. I wish I were a trunk, Jim. Why aren't they as kind to the poor traveler as they are to his trunk? I don't see any electric truck here to haul me the rest of the way into New York. It's a long, long walk to the front door of this station, and my feet hurt.
That's the idea. Let the porter lug that suit case. I'd have hired one myself, but I was afraid I couldn't support him in the style you fellows have made him accustomed to. It was mighty nice of you to come down and meet me, Jim. I've been standing here for five minutes in this infernal mass meeting of locomotives, trying to keep out from underfoot, and getting myself all calm and collected before I surged out of this howling forty-acre depot and looked New York in the eye. It's nothing but a plain case of rattles. I have 'em whenever I land here, Jim. Dump me out on Broadway and I wouldn't care, but whenever I land back in the bowels of a Union Station I'm a meek little country cousin, and I always want some one to come along and take me by the hand.
It's the fault of your depots. They're the biggest things you have, and it isn't fair for you to come at me with your biggest things first. Every time I start for New York I swear to myself that I'm going to go into a fifty thousand dollar dining-room full of waiters far above my station, and tuck my napkin in my collar, just to show I'm a free-born citizen; and I'm going to trust my life to crossing policemen, and go by forty-story buildings without even flipping an eye up the corner and counting the stories by threes. I'm mighty sophisticated until I hit the city and get out into a depot which has a town square under roof and a waiting-room so high that they have to shut the front door to keep the thunder storms out. Then I begin to shrink. And by the time I've walked from Yonkers or thereabouts, clean through the station and out of a two-block hallway, with more stores on either side than there are in all Homeburg, and have committed my soul to the nearest taxicab pirate, I feel like a cheese mite in the great hall of Karnak.
No, sir; when I get into a big city depot, I'm a country Jake, and I need a compass and kind words. I've suffered a lot from those depots. I missed a train in Washington once because I figured it would take me only ten minutes to go from my hotel to the train. But I counted only the distance to the front door of the Union Station. By the time I'd journeyed on through the fool thing, my train had gone. Once I missed a train in the Boston station because I didn't know which one of the thirty tracks my train was on. I guessed it was somewhere to the right, and I guessed wrong. It was twenty-four tracks away to the left, and I couldn't get back in time....