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  • Ride turns into a lesson for Scouts

    Ride turns into a lesson for Scouts

    August 12, 2007 12:35 am

    COMMUTING sometimes offers the unexpected. Witness this encounter between the grizzled veteran commuter and the wide-eyed tourists on the VRE one sweltering summer day.

    I was sitting on the train at Union Station when it was invaded by a horde of Boy Scouts and their leaders.

    These folks were obviously not from these parts--a fact that was evident from their mannerisms as well as their dress. Out-of-towners are easy to spot: They tend to board the train and look around, as though expecting an adventure on the Orient Express. Locals tend to have bored expressions on their faces.

    The reaction of most commuters on the car was to clear out like villagers fleeing invading Huns. But we've been a Scouting family since the kids were young so I decided to stay.

    The Scout leaders were friendly but had a lot of questions. "Does this train go to Quantico?" "How many stops?" "How long does it take?" And so forth.

    There were the usual hi-jinks associated with spirited middle- and high-school boys, held to a dull roar by their leaders. All was uneventful until the train pulled into the dark tunnel between Union Station and L'Enfant Plaza. Then the lights went out.

    The locals just grunted, knowing what was in store, while the boys whooped and hollered.

    "Why do they do that?" the Boy Scout leader asked.

    "So people can sleep?" I grunted.

    "That's a power failure," he said. "Does that happen often?"

    "Yes, I'm afraid so," I replied.

    After sitting somewhere around Crystal City for a while, the train started moving again despite the power outage and resulting lack of air conditioning.

    The farther we went, the hotter we got. The locals just fanned themselves with long-suffering expressions on their faces, while the boys and their leaders--remember they're from Connecticut--wilted with the heat.

    "Does this usually happen?" they asked me.

    "No, this is the first time it's lasted this long," I said. "It's your lucky day."

    By the time we got to Woodbridge, I decided decorum had to give way to necessity and I stripped down to my T-shirt. This started a chain reaction; the boys--after asking permission--followed suit.

    While the heat was hard on everyone, the Scout leaders used their unsurpassed talents to turn misfortune into an object lesson for the boys.

    "Imagine what it's like for folks traveling by train in India," they said. And "Look around--do you see anyone else complaining?" when the boys started grumbling.

    I spent the rest of the ride talking with the Scouts about where they'd been, how long they were going to stay in Virginia, and comparing notes on Scouting here and in New England.

    The train pulled into Quantico half an hour late and the troops disembarked, thanking me for answering their questions and putting up with the boys, who were actually extremely well-behaved under the circumstances.

    Despite the heat, I was glad to make their acquaintance and would have probably missed out on some good conversation if not for the sweltering heat.

    As an added bonus, midway through the ride the conductors passed out free-ride tickets. One of the boys came timidly over to me before getting off the train.

    "Sir, we're going home soon," he said. "We have no need of these. Are you a regular passenger?"

    I was about the last commuter in the car, and the boys showered me with enough tickets for a weeks' worth of rides.

    Christopher Tripp of Spotsylvania County commutes to Rockville, Md. Write him c/o Commuter Crossroads, The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401. Or e-mail newsroom@freelance

  • #2
    Yep, Yep, Yep...

    Get your boys out and about. Get'm out of their "Comfort Zone". Get'm away from home.

    Plan that long trip. See the sights. Talk to the locals. You might even meet another Scout. The Spirit will often lead one into another.

    Here we are sitting in our local burger joint, in walks a family of 5, and the dad has on a "Florida umpty-um Council Summer Camp" Tshirt. Well, the two dads strike it off, much to the shagrin of the boys, but hospitality requires a stranger be welcomed. Info exchanged, local color recommended, smiles all around. New friends made.