I am now an official, seasoned Amtrak traveller: I have taken a coffin-shower bath. This is it: big enough to stand up in, and w/ surprisingly good pressure. Considering I on this next leg from Chicago to Fort Worth for 24 hours, I’m just glad for the access!
In places where I’ve lived, running water — much less hot running water — is a luxury. At least, not a consistent given. I know about line heaters (they don’t make the kind I grew up with, now): the lighting of the match as you turn the gas on, and the tiny flicker of flame that was supposed to somehow heat the water passing over it in a copper tube. Note: this didn’t work very well.
I know about turning the water on when there’s a water outage, so that when it does finally come on, you can get up & shower. No matter the time. And maybe bathe. In Algiers, where I spent my first year of married life, running water might be off for 10, even 24, hours. And in Thailand, down-country in the small rural areas where my father worked when I was in highschool, we collected rain water in big cisterns, where sometimes small gold fish swam to keep the mosquitos down. Dipping cups into it, we would wet our hair, shampoo, then rinse. Then bathe, all with rain water from a jug where fish swam lazily in the tropical heat.
In other words? I don’t take water for granted.
There are so many things like this in our everyday lives — things we don’t see because they’re familiar. Like running water, or the space to stretch your arms out in the shower. And part of what makes a trip an ‘adventure’ is that it isn’t like everyday life. You sleep rocking to the rhythm of wheels over rail, lit by the thin light of Mars & Venus and a hundred other stars clearly visible in the Ohio darkness. As I did, last night, two seats folded into a good-enough bed. Not the luxury king of an international 5-star, but certainly good enough.
Look around today. What in your life is everyday magic? What would my friend Tuli, who joined me from Botswana in a summer workshop, find incredible? Coloured pencils for students, picture books, air conditioning, men helping with laundry… Her list was long! Mine is, too — perhaps because I grew up minus many things Americans take for granted. It includes the magic of a shower — with hot water! — on a train. And on this train ride, with time to write & think, my childhood awe comes back. And everyday life is once again an adventure.