Saturday, and the north-bound Northeast Regional train was packed. We had boarded in Philadelphia, heading to New York City for a day trip, lunch and a matinee. We had no luggage. But we were the exception and exiting the train was going to be a scrum.
The family in front of us must have gotten on long before Philadelphia, as they had one of the rare sets of facing seats. Father with wire-rimmed glasses, mother in an Indian print skirt, and two daughters, around 9 and 12 years old. They had spread their various bags and belongings widely about them. When the conductor announced “Now arriving, Penn Station,” they began to scramble. The father stood up. He moved across the aisle from us, into seats already vacated, to put his backpack back together. He struggled with some zippers and flap buckles, clearly becoming agitated.
By then I was standing also, immediately across from the father. I witnessed the following:
Older daughter, still sitting: “Da-ad! You forgot your water bottle!”
Father, turning sharply, but smiling: “Oh, thank you, darling girl!”
Older daughter, still seated, snapped: “Well, I’m not going to carry it for you!”
Sympathetic audience (me), locking eyes with father, mused: “Hmmm. Maybe not so darling?”
Father, with a pause, then a sigh: “Right. Girl… just girl.”