Combination Amtrak and Greyhound station
in St. Louis
With almost 8 hours to kill before our next train arrived, we thought we would see about checking our 8 suitcases and gym bags in storage and take a cab to visit the St. Louis Arch (Youngest-daughter and I had been there during our Route 66 road trip, but the Momma-woman has never been) and maybe a few other sites. I asked the nice ticket agent if there was a safe place to leave our luggage and after finding out our plans, she said it was pretty expensive to store the luggage there for such a short time and besides, there's not a lot to see and do in St. Louis without a car. She then looked up our itinerary and said there's more to do in Kansas City, our next scheduled stop. Then she informed us there's a train leaving in 45 minutes and she can get us on it if we'd like. Being the now wise, veteran train traveler I was, I knew "3 guaranteed seats" doesn't mean 3 seats together so I asked and she assured me there would be space so we could sit together. That sounded better than spending 8 hours sitting on a hard wooden bench in St. Louis, plus we would get to travel the whole way during daylight hours and be able to see any good scenery, so we switched to the earlier train. Good decision.
At the St. Louis station, you have to go up
and over the tracks to get into the station
|On board the Missouri River Runner|
Hermann, Missouri and two characters in my
novel - the tough-as-nails, cigar smoking female
that nobody in town messes with and her friend
who is actually an undercover KGB spy.
The cheating housewife and her "friend" the
school bus driver meeting up in downtown
Inquiring about nearby things to do and places to eat, we were told it would be $5 per bag to store them in a luggage room for the next 7 hours. Big luggage or small bags, it would still be $5 each. The fiscally-minded part of me (my wife shortens the terminology to "cheap") rebelled at spending $40 to be bag free for 7 hours. Just about the time I was going to give in and fork over the cash, the gentleman informed us there were restaurants and lots of shopping places within a few blocks if we didn't mind walking around in the hot weather. I used to love summer, but now in my dotage, I no longer like being hot and sweaty and due to a recently developed physical issue, I have a bit of difficulty walking long distances. Put it all together and I chose to save that $40 and stay in the station guarding our luggage and reading my book while the wife and daughter went out exploring. Bring me back a burger and fries and I'll be good I told them. Since you'll probably be gone for at least several hours, hold on a minute and let me take a few pictures and go powder my nose (the experience on the first train of 7 hours with no bathroom available has probably scarred me for life!).
The KGB spy in Washington, Missouri handing
over stolen secret documents to his contact
who is actually an undercover agent for
the good guys.
"We're out of sugar cones."
"Oh, ok. Then I'll take a waffle cone."
"We're out of waffle cones."
"OK, then what kind of cones do you have?"
"The regular kind."
"Well, I guess I'll have 2 scoops of chocolate in a regular kind."
At the cash register, she rang it up and said, "$3.08." Wow, that's a lot of taxes, I thought. "Is that right?" I asked. "I thought it was on sale for $2."
"The sugar and waffle cones are on sale, not the regular cones. 2 scoops in a regular cone is $2.75."
"What? Where does it say that?"
"The small print on the poster," she replied and pointed to the poster hanging on the wall a good 10 feet behind her. Not having my glasses with me, all I saw was some teeny tiny squiggly lines at the bottom of said poster.
"I don't think that's legal. You said you are out of sugar and waffle cones and forced me to get the regular cone. That's bait and switch."
"Bait and switch. Haven't you ever heard of that? It's illegal."
Total incomprehension. "Never heard of it. That will be $3.08."
"I'd like to talk to the manager, please."
"She's already gone. That will be $3.08."
It was just a dollar difference, but the whole situation and her attitude upset me. I started to refuse and just hand the damn cone back, but by then I really had a hankering for that ice cream so I forked over another dollar. It wasn't Bluebell, but it was pretty good. It would have been better for a dollar less though.
|Inside the Kansas City train station|
"I'm doing fine, thanks. How are you?"
"We're wonderful because we're bathed in the blood of the lamb."
Oh, crap. Here I am stuck with all of this luggage against a wall. Escape is impossible. Trapped like a rat.
"We'd like to share the word of The Lord with you. Do you know Jesus?"
"Yes I do and I don't mean to be rude, but I would really rather not be preached to. I'm just sitting here reading a book, minding my own business and I'd like to continue like that so if you don't mind, good luck and happy hunting somewhere else."
"You're traveling and we'd like to pray over you for God to protect and shed his grace on you."
"No, really, thanks, but no thanks." Just at that moment, the Momma-woman and Youngest-daughter walked up holding a sack containing my food. The ladies saw her and said hi. I tried to warn her off with subtle hand gestures and a negative shake of my head, but my wife, unlike me, is very nice, friendly and outgoing. She said hi back and that's all it took. It was like hungry ticks on a hound dog. By the time I insisted they leave so I could eat my food, we had been blessed and put on a prayer list.
In the front part of the Kansas City station where
the majority of the religious accosts would
later take place
Before I could finish my burger, 2 more faithful members of the flock walked up, interrupted the girls telling me about the stores they had visited and stopped me in mid-bite of a French fry wanting to tell us about Jesus and to pray for us. I told them we had already been blessed and prayed for by 2 ladies. Thankfully, they didn't persist and left.
The musicians had finished setting up by then and began playing songs of praise to God and heaven and hell and saving grace. They weren't very good, but they sure were enthusiastic. The sounds of poorly played guitars and bongos accompanying "can't carry a tune in a sack" voices echoed off the high-ceilinged walls. Instead of praying for other people, they should have been praying for musical talent. Of course, that's just my opinion.
Not 5 minutes after we had chased off the last ones, 2 more ladies wanted to tell us about Jesus and pray for us. I'm afraid I was running out of patience by then and wasn't as nice about asking them to please leave us alone.
|Outside in front of the Kansas City station|
"Have you met Jesus?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I used to pay him to mow my lawn."
"That's not really funny, sir."
"I thought it was."
Pointing to my military cap which displays a picture of an aircraft carrier and the words "USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)" one of the boys asked, "Were you in the military?"
"What, the army?"
"Um, no, not the army. The army doesn't have ships."
"Oh, the Coast Guard?"
"The Coast Guard doesn't have aircraft carriers."
"Oh. Well, I'm in the military too," he said very proudly. "I'm in the Lord's army!"
"Does the Lord's army have aircraft carriers?"
"No, sir, we have something better - the word of God."
"That's good. I'll be sure to call you if we're ever invaded by hoards of evil doers."
"I would fight them with the word of God. It's the only thing that can save your soul, you know."
"OK, whatever you think. Would you do me a favor?"
"Sure, as long as it doesn't go against God's word."
"It doesn't. You guys are the 10th of your group to accost me and I'm asking you to go away and tell all your little friends to leave me alone. Can you do that?"
"Can we pray for you first?"
"No. Just go."
"God bless you sir."
The doors we retreated through while trying to
We turned around to go back to our waiting room and surprise! Two more spreaders of the word had snuck up behind us! "Hi travelers."
"No! Look, we've already been approached by about a dozen of you people and we're tired of it. You guys need to hand out ribbons or pins or something to the people you approach so the rest of you will know not to bother those people again. Really, for your safety, I strongly suggest you just go away and don't say anything."
"Oh, ok. Sorry sir."
Security Guard telling a joke after asking the
Jesus Saves band to leave.
Retreating back to the Amtrak waiting room, we were patiently waiting when a large group of Mennonites came in. It was easy to tell from their haircuts, clothes and the way they spoke. We didn't pay much attention to them. Little did we know, we'd see a lot more of them on the next leg of our trip.