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Small Talk: All aboard for girls weekend

It’s time for more of Jean Gillette’s adventures with trains.

This chapter is not harrowing or inconvenient like the last one. In fact, this latest train ride, from Oceanside to Van Nuys on a Saturday morning and back on Sunday afternoon, was almost pleasant.

Sadly, I learned that even with a good book, sitting for three hours in seats that are shaped like someone’s body, but not mine, isn’t heaven. It’s manageable, but goes about an hour past my tolerance limit. I feel this way about cars, too, so I am just … out of luck, as they say. Clearly I was meant to have my own helicopter and pilot. I remain puzzled as to why it has failed to show up.

I took Amtrak this time, for the simplicity of getting my tickets ahead of time, online and because it is nice to have some knowledgeable staff on hand when things go awry. As I have mentioned before, Amtrak has that staff, and Metrolink does not, and Amtrak will not be the slightest help with Metrolink questions.

So, I packed my bag for a visit to girlfriends in the San Fernando Valley and headed out to catch a 10:15 a.m. train. My train was on time, but the train before it was canceled, leaving my train feeling a bit like an overstuffed playpen, with standing room only for some. I had been directed to Platform 3 and was there when a well-meaning rookie announced, twice, that we should be on Platform 2. The waiting passengers “discussed” this puzzlement briefly, until an Amtrak angel named Stephanie hustled up to tell us to disregard that announcement and stay put.

When I hopped off at Van Nuys and called my girlfriend, I discovered that she had expected me in Chatsworth. I will never know how our signals got so crossed, but we both took the blame, as good friends do. We were due at a spa for facials an hour hence, and I roundly cheered the fact that it is 2017, and I could jump on my cell phone and call a Lyft at a moment’s notice.

But I soon realized, to my enormous frustration, that the shoe box of freshly picked tomatoes from my garden, brought up as a hostess gift, had been absent-mindedly left on the train. I can only guess whether some train cleaner had a lovely salad for dinner or a bomb squad went home covered in tomato juice.

The rest of the visit was glorious, as time with bright women friends of longstanding always is. After a marvelous meal out, we relaxed in the warm, summer evening sharing Jim Beam honey bourbon and a lot of laughter. I returned home feeling relaxed and loved, and it had nothing to do with the spa.

I am hoping, though, that my facial made me look 20 years younger, and that people will scarcely recognize me. If not, don’t hesitate to lie to me. I’m just too content to argue. 

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer mourning the lost tomatoes, but counting her other blessings. Contact her at

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