I am planning a train trip to North Dakota and — as hard as it is for me to contemplate going to an exotic foreign country without my husband, my dog and that herd of four-legged free-loaders — it's the thought of traveling by public transportation that is really disturbing me.
You've read the headlines. You know what happens when a bunch of strangers are crammed together in a vehicle of mass conveyance. Mental switches that are better left in their upright and locked position are flipped on anyway and, all of a sudden, people who were otherwise cleared for take-off are in need of assistance getting fitted with handcuffs or a straight-jacket.
Seems like once a week the news waves are flooded with a new report of a passenger, flight attendant or pilot needing to be subdued with the aid of passengers, who may or may not be fortified with a complimentary bag of munchies and beverage.
On airlines the situation is getting to the point that the flight attendants' safety speech at the beginning of the flight should go:
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Pamville Airlines flight OMG with non-stop service to the nearest emergency landing.
"There are three emergency exits on this aircraft, along with four passengers acting suspiciously and two who look ready to crack emotionally under minimal pressure. Please take the time to locate your nearest racially or emotionally profiled suspect and be prepared to subdue him or her in the event of an emergency.
"If you think you are seated next to a terrorist or otherwise emotionally unstable person, please familiarize yourself with the special 'tactical offense maneuvers and unarmed take-downs' instructions on the card in the seat pocket in front of you. If you think you cannot perform the maneuvers pictured, please ask a flight attendant to reseat you near less jittery and shifty-eyed passengers."
I know, all I've pointed out so far is about airline travel and I'm taking the train, which is a completely different mode of travel.
For starters, of course, trains have all the flight capabilities of a sledge hammer, plus being attached to rails seriously impedes the ability of those with ill intent to secretly change the train's course to hit a structure vital to our national security or identity.
And more importantly, train passengers are not pre-agitated by having to abandon all food items at the gate, perform a public striptease before entering a full-body metal scanner or subject themselves to an obligatory pat-down with a complimentary groping. So the general feeling among passengers before take-off is positive.
However, that doesn't mean that things can't happen. Things for which no train attendant has helped passengers prepare.
There will be no pre-trip safety briefing and no Pinkerton men to go it old-school, shake down the shifty-eyed passengers and toss them out along the tracks in the middle of nowhere.
I, therefore, as a decent citizen of the world, have pre-prepared myself to defend myself and my fellow passengers from evil-doers and the temporarily or permanently misguided who are intent on creating havoc, doing bodily harm or generally disrupting our estimated time of arrival.
I dug out my old Advanced First Aid certification card, so I look qualified for medical emergencies. I've been increasing my physical fitness with crunches and pushups — and can do a couple dozen ... dozen-ish, of each. And I've been training in self-defense, having mastered five warm-up moves in the ancient martial art of tai chi.
I am ready go all old-school on these miscreants myself. Shazam.
(At this point, I could probably be registered as a lethal weapon at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)