Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When Your Writing Sanctuary Gets Infested

Trains. The rumble, romance, storytelling potential of a train ride is limitless. I could ride the train all day, just to write. Alas, today, I finally came to my creative halt.

As I write this, I am on the northbound Amtrak train from my business trip to NYC, nurturing the day job most of us writers have… but would rather pretend we don’t. Since the moment I got off the writing-retreat train two days ago, I’ve anticipated getting back on in the same manner school boys fantasize about drilling a hole in the wall of the girls’ locker room to peek. I never know what I’m going to find.

I crawl into a pair of seats and eagerly pull out my laptop, when not 10 minutes into the trip, I hear a passenger clinking on her keyboard. She sits directly behind me. So, I’m thinking, “Cool… this must be a fellow writer and lover of trains.” A teeny smile comes to my lips. Until, her keyboard barrage turns into slamming, coupled with the clinking of fake nails, and the two sounds merge in crescendo to what feels like nails on a chalkboard instead of a keyboard. People turn around, seeing me with my laptop, thinking I’M the one with the annoying fake fingertips disturbing their peaceful two-hour commute to sane, country living. I’m mortified. I have a MAC for God’s sake. I’m QUIET (did I just yell that?). This woman isn’t going to ruin my train mojo.

I can have discipline. I can focus. I’m good at focusing. Then… the sneezing begins. It’s her. The clickity-clack, fake-nail, keyboard-banging “writer” is now sneezing the Piggy Flu at the back of my head! Instead of being the disciplined, focused, mature woman I know I can be, I’m frantically digging through my purse for spray sanitizer. Uncapping the weapon, I immediately disinfect the back of my head, sacrificing all dignity and hair care don’ts, not to mention, spraying disinfectant a little too aggressively onto other people. Come on, they should be grateful I’m saving them too. No Pig Flu is taking me down… but this “writer” is trying to!

The noises emanating from her are impalpable. Sneezing, coughing, enormous Mr. Snuffaluffagus sniffling now overpower her aggressive typing… the kind of typing that is full of rage and angst. Normally, that emotion would make me curious, but now it makes me want to move to another car. But I can’t. The last time I moved to another car, I completely missed my stop and ended up 40 minutes from my station. I’m not attentive enough to travel in the wrong compartment. I’m stuck. I’m stuck with an angry, sick, swine who gives quiet, reflective writers a bad name.

She couldn’t possibly be a REAL writer. I eject her from our club. I decide she’s simply a medical transcriptionist who works for an arrogant doctor who pays her no respect at all, hence her anger. He speaks with a deep Indian accent, mispronouncing words while he yawns from exhaustion after his 20-hr open-heart surgery. She’s mad. I understand. I hated being a medical transcriptionist too.

OMG…. I just SNEEZED! I caught it! I HAVE THE PIGGY FLU!!!!!!! That miserable typist just killed me!

RRRRING… RRRING. Yep. You guessed it. The flu-infested transciptionist is now on her cell phone talking louder than Andrew Dice Clay at a whore house.

Write. Write. Write. Ignore this woman. Oh great, MORE sneezing and the trumpeting of Dumbo’s trunk being blown. I’m going down. I’m going way down. Maybe I should stop at the hospital for a shot.

Alas, the conductor just announced we’re 10 minutes from my stop. My final destination. The end of my 2-hr reprieve from the real world. Gone. Gone! Consumed by the illness and anger of a “writer”… yes a writer. She is indeed a real writer. I admit it…. and I bet she actually gets paid for it too. Envy. *SNEEZE* Grrrr.

Dare I say, perhaps only books should be allowed on trains, and writers should have to go back to a pen and paper.

Please tell me I’m not the only one whose writing sanctuary got sick. I’d love to hear your tales of sabotage.


  1. Laughing all the way through it! Worth the wait. I wonder if the woman behind you would recognize herself if she read this! I just hope you didn't really get the 'Pig' Flu! Okay, now waiting for your next posting-

  2. ooooh-a writing retreat? I am jealous. You have no idea.

  3. ZOMG! I swear on my mother's grave EVERY FRICKEN TIME I take a day off--when the kids are, you know, in school, so I can stay home and write, someone gets sick.

  4. I'm with Roger, Sir @booksbelow, laughing! I remember full well when this all went down. Those damn clickety-clackety fingernails have haunted my dreams ever since! OK, maybe I exaggerate, but I can even SMELL the train and can surely SEE all the action. Great writing darling!

    BTW the concept of getting paid to write seems so very old school. Does it really happen? :-)


    Oh Oh, my tales of sabotage? Have me on as guest blogger and I can RUIN your REP in 500 words or less ;-) Or so I am told. x

  5. Man, that sounds like one heck of a journey - I half-expected Michale Caine to come wandering through any minute. :)

    But, look on the bright side - at least it was just clacking. Imagine if she'd been dictating, the mucus would have been EVERYWHERE! :)

  6. Oink, Snort, that was funny. And no, am not the woman who piggy flued you in the back. The person I did it to did not have a MAC.

    Yes, my writing sanctuary got the piggy flu too AND the read out loud over the shoulder... That's what happens when you decide to write in the waiting area of a hospital next to nosy old people, i suppose. Some spluttering grandpa found fascinating the fact that I wrote the f-word repeatedly in one sentence and so decided to share it with rest of emergency. Oh well, at least he wore a mask!

  7. Oh my, I am still giggling. Great post, thanks for sharing!
    Giggling Glynis @