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Hints to Travellers

The following hints and observations have occurred to me
during a recent trip across the continent: they are
written in no spirit of complaint against existing railroad
methods, but merely in the hope that they may prove useful
to those who travel, like myself, in a spirit of meek,
observant ignorance.

1. Sleeping in a Pullman car presents some difficulties
to the novice. Care should be taken to allay all sense
of danger. The frequent whistling of the engine during
the night is apt to be a source of alarm. Find out,
therefore, before travelling, the meaning of the various
whistles. One means "station," two, "railroad crossing,"
and so on. Five whistles, short and rapid, mean sudden
danger. When you hear whistles in the night, sit up
smartly in your bunk and count them. Should they reach
five, draw on your trousers over your pyjamas and leave
the train instantly. As a further precaution against
accident, sleep with the feet towards the engine if you
prefer to have the feet crushed, or with the head towards
the engine, if you think it best to have the head crushed.
In making this decision try to be as unselfish as possible.
If indifferent, sleep crosswise with the head hanging
over into the aisle.

2. I have devoted some thought to the proper method of
changing trains. The system which I have observed to be
the most popular with travellers of my own class, is
something as follows: Suppose that you have been told on
leaving New York that you are to change at Kansas City.
The evening before approaching Kansas City, stop the
conductor in the aisle of the car (you can do this best
by putting out your foot and tripping him), and say
politely, "Do I change at Kansas City?" He says "Yes."
Very good. Don't believe him. On going into the dining-car
for supper, take a negro aside and put it to him as a
personal matter between a white man and a black, whether
he thinks you ought to change at Kansas City. Don't be
satisfied with this. In the course of the evening pass
through the entire train from time to time, and say to
people casually, "Oh, can you tell me if I change at
Kansas City?" Ask the conductor about it a few more times
in the evening: a repetition of the question will ensure
pleasant relations with him. Before falling asleep watch
for his passage and ask him through the curtains of your
berth, "Oh, by the way, did you say I changed at Kansas
City?" If he refuses to stop, hook him by the neck with
your walking-stick, and draw him gently to your bedside.
In the morning when the train stops and a man calls,
"Kansas City! All change!" approach the conductor again
and say, "Is this Kansas City?" Don't be discouraged at
his answer. Pick yourself up and go to the other end of
the car and say to the brakesman, "Do you know, sir, if
this is Kansas City?" Don't be too easily convinced.
Remember that both brakesman and conductor may be in
collusion to deceive you. Look around, therefore, for
the name of the station on the signboard. Having found
it, alight and ask the first man you see if this is Kansas
City. He will answer, "Why, where in blank are your blank
eyes? Can't you see it there, plain as blank?" When you
hear language of this sort, ask no more. You are now in
Kansas and this is Kansas City.

3. I have observed that it is now the practice of the
conductors to stick bits of paper in the hats of the
passengers. They do this, I believe, to mark which ones
they like best. The device is pretty, and adds much to
the scenic appearance of the car. But I notice with pain
that the system is fraught with much trouble for the
conductors. The task of crushing two or three passengers
together, in order to reach over them and stick a ticket
into the chinks of a silk skull cap is embarrassing for
a conductor of refined feelings. It would be simpler if
the conductor should carry a small hammer and a packet
of shingle nails and nail the paid-up passenger to the
back of the seat. Or better still, let the conductor
carry a small pot of paint and a brush, and mark the
passengers in such a way that he cannot easily mistake
them. In the case of bald-headed passengers, the hats
might be politely removed and red crosses painted on the
craniums. This will indicate that they are bald. Through
passengers might be distinguished by a complete coat of
paint. In the hands of a man of taste, much might be
effected by a little grouping of painted passengers and
the leisure time of the conductor agreeably occupied.

4. I have observed in travelling in the West that the
irregularity of railroad accidents is a fruitful cause
of complaint. The frequent disappointment of the holders
of accident policy tickets on western roads is leading
to widespread protest. Certainly the conditions of travel
in the West are altering rapidly and accidents can no
longer be relied upon. This is deeply to be regretted,
in so much as, apart from accidents, the tickets may be
said to be practically valueless.

Stephen Leacock