A Little Happier: A Loud Noise Woke Me Up from a Sound Sleep in a Mississippi Hotel—and Made Me Very Happy.


NOTE: These episodes were recorded before the COVID-19 situation took hold. Given the rapidly changing situation, it’s jarring to hear us ignore it—and that’s why.

Recently, I did a speaking event in Tupelo, Mississippi, and something happened that made me very happy—though I’m not sure it makes everyone happy.

I’d arrived that afternoon, and that night, I was asleep in my hotel bed when, in the deepest night, I was awakened by the sound of a railroad whistle as it passed through the town. I could hear it loud, and then softer as it raced into the distance.

Now, I imagine some people in that hotel weren’t very glad to be woken up by that whistle.

But for me, it made me so happy.

I was instantly transported back to my childhood, of being ten years old, tucked in the spare room in my grandparents’ house in North Platte, Nebraska. We’d hear the railroad in the middle of the night, just like that. My grandfather was an engineer on the Union Pacific Railroad, so I felt a special sense of pride and connection to that railroad sound. It was a wild and free sound, but it also made me feel safe and protected.

My next book project is about the body and the senses, and this moment was a great illustration of the way a sensation, like a sound, can transport us back to a beautiful memory.

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