Disorient Express


Each night, while the train jostles merrily along the railroad track, I negotiate my skinny bunk bed ladder in a clattering feat of clumsy, clanging acrobatics. All too often I find myself ‘past the point of no return’, in a rigorous full body contortion, with one foot tentatively searching in the dark for the mini sink while the other rests high atop my bunk bed, finally reaching the bathroom by falling head first into the toilet. As I make my way up and down in this fashion, I marvel at how VIA rail manages to accommodate it’s many senior citizens on board. I imagine one of the delightful 90 year old ladies I have met in the dining cars, attempting the same type of manoeuvre several times each night. Many of these passengers are avid fans of train travel and have made this trip many a time in their lives, so they must have worked out some kind of trick with the accommodation. Perhaps my elderly neighbours have perfected the art of leaping through the air from the top rung of their ladder in a moving rail car, only to land magnificently on the toilet in one graceful arc of movement. If this is the case, it is this place of nimble finesse that I aspire to reach at some point 60 years from now, when I am still singing for my supper.


It might well be that, as one gets accustomed to the erratic movements of the train, a special kind of equilibrium is reached. A perfect balance that is only engaged (or enhanced) when the train is moving. A young VIA rail waitress confirmed this theory as she admitted to the fact that, while she can graciously float her way around the rail cars with plates of hot food and drink, it is only when the train has stopped that she starts spilling glasses of water.

The night time soundscape onboard the Montreal to Halifax line merits some description. En route back to Montreal, I woke up afraid in the dead of night to startling blasts of high pitched wailing. With the ghost stories of Halifax permeating my fertile imagination, I firmly reassured myself that I was not going to start believing in the supernatural at this ripe age. Armed with this grounding rationale, I actively engaged my listening skills and concluded that VIA Rail had instead captured a fleet of cranky baby elephants from a nearby circus facility and they were all running amok in the dining car.

The only other place I’ve heard a sound like this is on Gabriola Island where I have experienced first hand the scare tactics of an overly aggressive monster goose. I didn’t think there was anything that could prepare a person for the terrorizing honk of a guard-goose…in fact I didn’t realize until a few months ago how effective a guard animal one loyal goose could be… but I know now that an overnight passage on a train will certainly familiarize a person with this peculiar type of cry.

Maybe there is a cabin full of monster geese somewhere on this train…



What’s that noise??
I wonder if I can figure out what pitch that is on my guitar…

Anyone who has taken an ear training class will tell you that every sound is a pitch and that even mechanical sounding blasts are most likely a string of pitches at different intervals. Sometimes the string of pitches even sounds like part of a well known song. For instance, not only were the tired train hydraulics simulating the sounds of angry baby circus elephants, or cabins full of Gabriola Island monster geese, the first few pitches were clear and distinct, and they happened to be the opening notes of My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean. No joke.

I noticed that the noise diminished when I put a plug in the sink, leaving me only to conclude that all of this musical activity must have been taking place somewhere in the plumbing of the train.

I have absolutely no explanation for this whatsoever.


aaron bethune