Ceiling gazing, or how long is too long?

The ceiling of the train station in Portland, Oregon is really beautiful. It is covered in 4’ X 4’ ceramic/stucco(?) squares, each one bordered by what look like wicker canes, containing another square, about 2’ X 2,’ with its own petal filled border, and then in the center, a flower, that I can’t quite place, not a lily, rose or daisy, all of it multi-colored in tones of turquoise, apricot, sepia and coral, each square repeated, truly quite perfect. 

And I know this as I have been studying it for almost eight hours. 

Well, that’s not quite fair. Some of this time I have been walking around and reading. I did go outside earlier in the evening, when it was still light out to sit on the park bench in the “smokers” area. 

It was a lovely night with a light breeze. The smokers’ area was a bit weird as there were a bunch of signs that said “no loitering.” Isn’t that the whole point of having an outdoor smoking area? So that all the poor nicotine addicts who aren’t allowed to indulge their stinky habit anywhere anymore can “loiter” there? 

And another thing about those signs. The word loiter. You know when people loiter, they never say, “I’m going out to loiter. See you in a few minutes.” Or “I was thinking of having a fun time loitering. Do you wanna’ make a day of it?” I don’t think anyone has ever invited me to loiter with them. Is that because I am not good loitering company? Am I too much of a bore to bring along? 

Or do people just not loiter anymore? Has it gone the way of bowling and the Elks club? 


I also spent some time this evening-now-morning, pondering whether or not to get a candy bar from the vending machine. I eventually gave in, like you do, getting a Snickers bar and eating it in about a minute. 

Turns out, that isn’t very much time when you find out later that you had more than eight hours to kill. 

There was also all the time I spent trying to sleep, curled up in that awkward traveler position of not quite fetal, because the train benches aren’t really wide enough. Some young girls lie stretched out, their lean, tan legs sticking out of shorts meant for a shorter journey—no pun intended. And we note flimsy summer jackets and long sleeve shirts draped over said legs because the train station is getting Pacific NW cold. They had the overhead fans going full tilt, maybe part of Covid mitigation. I haven’t been wearing my mask because the doors are flung wide and all the windows open, but I am thinking about it now, just to spare fellow travelers my bad, post “Snickers” breath—if they have the misfortune of coming too close to me, that is, if we ever get to board. 

However, a decent amount of time I have been lying on the train “pews” looking up at the ceiling. Sleep is elusive, and so I am filled with deep thoughts like, “How long did it take one person to paint those petals?” “How long did it take one person to paint the stamen or the pistils for that matter?” “How many people did it take to sculpt all those flowers?” And, most importantly “HOW MUCH LONGER AM I GOING TO BE STARING AT THIS FUCKING CEILING?!?” 

We just got the answer. The train should be pulling in, in about nine minutes, at 3:20 am—a far cry from 7:25 pm the day before. 

Those were the salad days, when my biggest worry was getting in after my 10 pm bedtime. And Kyle’s biggest worry was battling the Seattle Mariners’ traffic after the game to come pick me up. I don’t think there will be much traffic at 7 am on a Sunday morning, baby. *sigh*

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