“Either way, the lumberjacks of America thank you.”

He is the station master at my local station. He seems as old as the station itself. He wears a sweater vest and tie, no matter the weather. He sits in an office behind an old iron scrolled screen, dispensing tickets and quiet cheery humor. He has exactly the same jokes for everything – like the lumberjack line, which he always issues with his offer of a receipt for the purchase of tickets. He loves the chance to speak on the scratchy intercom to make important announcements. His biggest pleasure is a new schedule, which he carefully unfolds and lays out on his desk, like a big treasure map. He pores over every new schedule with a magnifying glass, making tiny notations in the margins and memorizing every change. I imagine that he was the boy who watched trains go by all day long and built model railroads complete with fuzzy trees and tiny plastic people with permanent smiles.

For him, I like to pretend the train has no schedule – which is actually pretty close to the truth these days. I arrive at all different times, looking confused and disheveled just so he can press a fresh schedule in my hand and tell me what train to catch next. And so he can tell me the same joke every time, at which I always chuckle.

It is our routine, the stationmaster and I, and I take comfort in it.

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