When I was a clueless sophomore at Boston University in 1992, I was taking the Amtrak from my home in New York City back to Boston right after winter break. The East Coast was living up to its freezing reputation. About halfway through the trip, the train suddenly lurched to a stop. We sat in the very quiet cars for a bit, unsure of what was going on. Eventually, the conductor got on the PA system and said, “We’re having some kind of electrical problem with this train; everybody out.”

It was around 8 p.m., it was freezing, and we were somewhere between New York and Boston. But we got out and waited—not even at a station, but “near” one—for three hours, in the cold, until another train showed up. When it did, we got on (now having ...

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