I met an angel.
For my day job I’ve been to Santa Barbara twice in the past 5 months.
Early last week, I received an emergency email from my colleague there asking for help with observing and grading new coaches. She’d had some challenges with the local coaches she usually worked with.
For this trip, I took Amtrak from Salinas. The six-hour journey gave me a huge block of knitting time with a shawl I’ve been working on all summer, I listened to a lot of Snow Patrol (my new favorite group), I was delighted to notice fine white feathers on the legs of three red tail hawks as they landed for dinner, and I watched a small herd of deer shyly navigating up the hillside just outside my train window.
I don’t have much experience with train stations. Frankly I don’t remember ever taking Amtrak anywhere. (Long story about why I took the train instead of flying or even driving that we can talk about over a cup of coffee if you really want to know).
My Airbnb was walking distance to the venue and downtown. Everything went well jobwise. Santa Barbara is picturesque, lots of Spanish style structures. I especially liked the memorialization of the old stagecoach route from 1861 to 1901. Dinner choices were exciting; many great restaurants with tables spilling out onto the sidewalks. The evening Indian summer weather was perfect.
On Saturday, I Ubered to the train station almost forty minutes early; I was terrified of missing the train so I chose to be super early instead. The weather was hot and sticky, unlike the cool evening temperatures. The train station afforded very little shaded seating outside, where I wanted to be. In the only shaded area facing the train tracks, all the small cluster of benches were taken. I wandered for a bit, seeking a shaded area to hang out for nearly 30 minutes.
I rounded the corner to the left of the terminal and found a long overhang that afforded some shade.Other people had found that shady area as well. I was too hypervigilant to do anything calming like read or close my eyes and space out. I sat on a very low windowsill for about ten minutes as people milled about, smoking vaped or real cigarettes, arguing with each other or themselves, and children being scolded.
Uncomfortable with where I was with my body being scrunched up on the sill, I loosened myself upright, collected my large backpack and purse and stepped into the glaring sun.
I turned right, back towards the terminal. I have no idea why as I was actually walking away from the visible train tracks about 50 feet away. Suddenly a woman with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing a white tee-shirt, dark sweater, and dark pants appeared before me.
She wasn’t exactly friendly although I did feel like she was telling me the truth.
“For business class, go to that sign over there.”
I glanced back over my right shoulder to the spot she was pointing at and sure enough, there was a sign that I’d never noticed.
I turned back to thank her and she was gone. I had also wondered how she could have known I was traveling business class and wasn’t she hot in the black sweater?
I searched the shaded area where I’d been resting, looked around the front of the terminal where the benches were and poof! She was gone. I shouldered my backpack and went to stand at the business class sign. By this time, other people had noticed it and began to congregate.
A few minutes later the Coast Starlight trudged into the station. We were all puzzled because when the train braked to a halt neither of the two doors that stopped near us, the business class passengers, actually lined up with the sign.
I quickly walked up to the door on the right and it said, ‘dining car’. A lot of the passengers made their way to that doorway, bewildering the young man with the chef’s toque.
Hurriedly I marched to the other door; there was one other couple in front of me and yes, this was the boarding entrance for business class.
Out of curiosity, right before I climbed the stairs, I looked back to see if I could get a glimpse of my angel. No such luck.