Train Talk


I first saw them after the doors chimed shut and the train began to pull away from Newark Penn Station.

Outside of being visibly drunk and wearing cheap suits, I wasn’t getting a strong sense for what these two middle-aged men did. The obvious guess would be dead end corporate jobs selling something they could care less about, since that is half the tri-state area.

They sat down in front of me on opposite seats, facing one another, before picking back up.

“Oh man, that was so good,” said the guy I named Tim (I never found out what his real name was).

“Yeah that was really good,” replied John (this name is legit).

Tim continued, “The steak, the way it was cooked.”

“Oh, it was really good,” agreed John.

“Oh man. It was like so good,” double agreed Tim.

“Yeah….” said John, trailing off. He stared out the window, his mind seemingly beginning to replay the dinner they just had.

Tim belched, shifted his weight and kept the conversation going. “The sides. I really liked the sides. French fries. Do you like French fries?“

“I do.”

Tim seemed to transport himself back to that moment of the first bite. Wanting to share every detail, he continued, “They were crispy on the outside and…”

“I liked the salad,” John blurted out, keeping with the time-honored tradition of drunks being terrible listeners. “Have you eaten a Caesar like that? That creamy sauce on it was just the right amount.” He then paused to savor this thought, before letting out a satisfying, “Ahhh maaan.”

Undeterred by John’s attempt to hijack the discussion, Tim stuck to his guns and continued with his plan to list off the remaining items on the restaurant’s menu. “They had cheese and lobster and all that…they had a helluva dessert menu…”

Not wanting to derail the conversation entirely, John met Tim halfway, by staying on the topic of shellfish. “You know what I like? I like crab.”

Tim sensed an opportunity to get them back on the same page. “Yeah, I thought they had…Mike told me that on the menu they had lobster and crab.”

“Crab would’ve been better. Definitely, ” said John. “Lobsters got to be cooked just perfectly, or it tastes like rubber.”

Tim’s phone beeped, effectively ending their “food on a menu” conversation. Fishing it from his pocket, he unlocked it and held it close to his face, scanning through his messages. After a few minutes, he broke the silence. “Here it is. Denise Franz.”

“Denise Franz,” John parroted.

After staring intently at his phone for another few minutes, Tim looked up at John and said, “She’s Franzie man,” and followed this with a chuckle.

“She’s what?” John asked, confused at Tim’s lame attempt to comment on Denise’s attractiveness.

Sensing failure in expressing his admiration, Tim tried a different approach “She’s the Franz.”

That seemed to connect with John. After taking a moment to think about what Tim said, he replied, “No, she’s much cooler.”

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