Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tickets to Nowhere

Do you know where you were on June 23, 1988?

It was a Thursday. Does that help?

I'm asking because I have an idea that the book I'm currently reading, E.M. Forster's Maurice, was on the train, between New York City and Schenectady. It's just a guess, but a somewhat educated one, based on the pair of ticket stubs that fell out of the book yesterday while I was reading it:

They're round trip tickets, purchased on June 23. I didn't recognize the station designations, so I googled them, and found out that my book can never take this train journey again. While the stop at Schenectady still exists (and is in a terrible part of Schenectady, even by Schenectady standards), NYG was the abbreviation for the New York City Grand Central Station terminal, which Amtrack stopped using in 1991. Trains going to New York City now go to Penn Station, as I used to when I took the train fairly often from Albany to Penn Station in the early 2000's.

Two things occur to me as I look at these weird, random tickets, wondering how this book got to Tennessee and why a pair of 25 year old ticket stubs were still inside:

1) The price of Amtrack tickets has increased quite a bit: cost of the round trip in 1988 ($55) barely covers half the cost of the trip today ($82). On the other hand, Amtrack is still a good value if you don't have access to random dirt cheap tickets on the Megabus. For eighty bucks you can sit in a comfortable chair, have a nice view of Southern New York state along the Hudson Valley, go get a snack from the dining car if you want, and not have to worry about gas, traffic, other drivers, parking, or any of the stress and hassles of taking your own car or getting stabbed to death by other passengers on the Greyhound.

2) Nothing falls out of e-books. I often find little notes, receipts, old grocery lists, bookmarks, and other scraps of paper in used books, like prizes in a Cracker Jack box.

Of course, Cracker Jacks don't still come with little metal or plastic prizes.

But they did in June, 1988.


Marcheline said...

If you ever had any aspirations to write a novel, THIS is a great inspiration! Who bought those tickets? Were they used, or did the person only ride one way and never get to come home again? Or did something happen that meant they never got to take the trip at all... and who was waiting for them on the other end of the journey?

leonor said...

this is so fun. this is why I love used books!

leonor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcheline said...

Hey - swing by my blog - I dedicated a post to you!