I’ve just returned from Seattle where I was visiting my son. On the train trip back, I became repeatedly confused trying to locate my seat. Here’s the process in some detail. Although I had a seat in one of the coach cars, I usually spend most of my time in the lounge car writing or reading at one of the tables. I have to return to the second coach back to my seat occasionally, however, for one reason or another. Several times, however, I got confused about which way to turn to get from the lounge car back to my seat. (Just to be clear: on a train there are only two directions to choose from.) One end of the lounge car has tables and the other swivel chairs, but during these episodes I couldn’t remember which end of the car I’d entered. I would take a few seconds and then head in the direction I guessed my seat was located. I’d walk a few steps, however, and then realize I wasn’t sure. So I’d have to concentrate on the logical connections between each step in the entire thinking process. It went something like this:
- I would remember watching (at the beginning of the trip) the lounge car being physically hooked up at the very end of the train; therefore,
- the lounge car must behind my coach car; therefore,
- if I want to go from my coach seat to the lounge car, I have to walk toward the rear of the train; therefore
- if I want to go back to my regular seat from the lounge car, I have to walk toward the front of the train; therefore,
- I have to look out the window to recognize which direction the train is going. In my confusion, even if I looked at the scenery as it passed by I had to consciously decide which way the train was going. Therefore,
- I should walk in that forward direction; and
- while I walked through the coaches I should double check that I was going in the same direction that the seats were facing.
I actually had to go through each step consciously and deliberately, step by step. I was especially startled when the direction the train was going wasn’t intuitively obvious as I looked out the window; I’d have to decide which way the scenery was going and remember that the train would be heading in the opposite direction. But the bigger problem was that I couldn’t simultaneously keep in my mind the several needed bits of information. I would remember, for instance, that the lounge car was at the end of the train, but as I was trying to decide which direction the train was going, I’d forget where the lounge car was in relationship to the train. Or I’d figure out where the lounge car was relationship to the rest of the train, but get confused about the relationship between my car and the lounge car. It was very weird. And, then, on the way to my seat after having actually reasoned it all out, I’d get confused, stop, and have to go through the entire process again. One time I walked almost completely through one car, reversed direction, walked back almost to the lounge car, and then reversed direction again before I had it right.
And then other times, even when I got the direction right, I’d just forget where my seat was within the car. So I’d have to walk through the car looking for my suitcase in the overhead rack. A couple of times I went right past my seat it without recognizing it.
I felt confused, of course, but I was surprised that I wasn’t more frustrated. Part of it was that on the train, there’s no hurry with anything, so the confusion doesn’t cause a problem. But the other part (and I find this difficult to believe myself) was that I found the episodes fascinating: How, for instance, was it possible to look out the window yet have to consciously reason out which way the train was going? I did get embarrassed wondering what people thought of me wandering up one direction, stopping and walking back, and then changing again, but in reality, of course, no one was paying attention or would have cared.
And then just as quickly as it came on, it would be over until the next time. Mostly I’m fine and then something like this will happen. It is so intermittent.