Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Surreal Life

A few days ago, my night could only be described as surreal (having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; or utterly fantastic). How else would you describe a night in which an evacuation, a smoke-filled train, and a high-speed police chase all took place within the space of a couple of hours?

At least I was dressed for the excitement though!

dress — (thrifted)
jacket — (thrifted)
boots — Dansko (Factory Outlet)
necklace / belt — (thrifted)

Before I get into the events of the night, though ... I had to laugh when I saw this picture of the horn in the back of my head! (Don't you think that I disguised it pretty well?) Unfortunately the camera never lies, or lets you forget, for that matter!

So ... the events of the other night. Let me set the scene a bit. I was commuting home to Delaware from Herndon, Virginia, and had finished the walk and the bus ride and the metro ride (A side note ... I had met a lovely woman at the bus depot, and we rode the bus and the metro together. I got off at Union Station, but she continued on to Silver Spring. We had been having this conversation about how the long commute was a bear, but something interesting was always happening. Truer words were never spoken!) 

But back to my story ... I was at Union Station, and I was pretty exhausted. It had been a long day and a long week (when is it not?). I usually have about a two-hour wait in Union Station before my train leaves, and for the most part I'll spend it in the Amtrak waiting area — maybe venture out to McDonald's and get a hamburger. This particular night, I was going to treat myself, and went upstairs to a restaurant. I ordered me some appetizers, and even a beer.

My food had just arrived, when all of a sudden, sirens started going off! (Truth be told, I didn't realize that I was hearing sirens. I thought it was just this annoying sound that was starting to get under my skin and not allowing me to relax the way that I had intended!)

Next thing I know, the waitress is bringing my bill and telling me that Union Station was being evacuated and that we had to leave! GULP! I gulped down as much food as I could, grabbed my belongings, and left. It was pretty strange to walk through the Station and see a place that was usually bustling with activity, completely deserted and eerily silent, except for the sirens and the voice over the loudspeaker that said, An emergency had been detected.” Yikes.

Outside the station, the people were milling about, but nobody seemed to be all that worried. As time passed and the minutes ticked by, my thoughts turned from what was going on to how I was going to get home?! My stop is at the end of the line — the last station. It's so far out there (read about that here) that there aren't that many trains to pick and choose from. The 9 pm train is the last one until the next morning. The people around me assured me that the trains probably had to evacuate as well, but I wasn’t convinced. It got later and later … 8:15 ..., 8:30 ..., 8:45 ..., 8:50 ..., 8:55 pm. Uh oh, by this point, I had pretty much reconciled myself to spending the night — all night — in DC.

All of a sudden, the security guards showed up and opened the doors. I rushed inside the station and heard the announcer saying that the 9:00 pm commuter train to Perryville was boarding at Gate C Track 13 and would be leaving as scheduled. Aw geez … no ifs, ands, or buts, I ran.

I managed to get on the train before it left. I didn't need to run, because it didn’t leave on time, but it also didn’t leave all that late. If it wasn't for all the people rushing on board at 9, it would have left on time. I was lucky! WHEW! Crisis averted.


I sat down, chatted with the guy sitting across from me, and then leaned back in my seat, put my head phones on, closed my eyes and started to relax.

All of a sudden, I smell candle smoke. I opened my eyes, and I ask the guy across from me, “Do you smell smoke?” Well, I didn’t need him to answer, because he had this look of sheer panic on his face. I look behind me, and OH MY God! The train’s on fire! The smoke was so thick that I couldn’t see to the back of the car! By this time, the guy sitting across from me is climbing over me trying to get out.

I start grabbing my things, and I’m about to follow him, when the conductor gets on the speaker and says, “Folks! The train is NOT on fire. There’s no need to panic.” From what I understand, our train was in the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel with a freight train, and the exhaust from the freight train ended up inside our train.As one passenger said to me as he got off the train — There's no need to panic unless you want to breathe!

By this time, I just want to get home. I had had enough. We finally pull into Perryville about an hour later, and now it's just a 25 minute drive down I95, and I'll be home and crawl into bed (or maybe even under the bed ...) But nothing more is going to happen, right? Wrong.  As I'm driving down the highway, this car goes flying by me (and I have a lead foot, so when I say the car was flying, I mean it!). I see flashing red lights in my rear view window, and I think to myself that this person got caught.


The police car goes flying by. And then another one goes flying by. And another one! All of them were gone in a matter of seconds. Can you believe it? What a night! It was surreal!

Linking up to Patti at Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday.


  1. You lead an incredibly interesting life! And you need to dress to be prepared for anything--guard rails, fires, speeding vehicles. I wouldn't have noticed the "rooster" if you hadn't pointed it out!

  2. Wow, what a commute! I hope most of your evenings are dull, dull, dull, compared to this one : > You look sharp in your navy and black combination.

  3. You look really nice in black and blue. Holey cow, you had an exciting night. That is one long commute. I hate traveling and I could not imagine doing that day after day.

  4. Surreal is a good word for it. Glad you go home safe.

  5. Yikes! It's a good thing you wore your stylish-yet-practical running boots!

  6. Kari, you are so funny!
    I'm exhausted just reading your adventures.
    Btw, you look fabulous!


  7. That is insane! Surreal, indeed. I'm surprised you didn't take a day off afterwards to recover.

    Oh, and I love your dress - great shape!

  8. Unreal is more like it! Sounds totally crazy. Glad you ultimately got home safely. At least you can say life was never boring!

  9. Holy Cow! Sounds like an apocalyptic movie script.


Thanks for reading. Honest opinions and constructive criticism are always welcome.

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