How to ruin Valentine's Day

Being all clever, as I thought I was, I arranged for MS and I to go to a “Murder Mystery” train ride last night. I didn’t even tell her where we were going… it was all supposed to be a surprise (or a “mystery” as it were). I read about it online and it seemed like a cool idea. Sweet. I ordered tickets in advance and made sure to alert them to her food allergy so everything would be taken care of. It was filled up closer to Valentine’s Day, so we had to settle for a train a few days earlier.

We arrive and at first you could tell she’s excited that we’re going on a train ride. It’s a pretty cool/romantic idea in that sense after all. We pick up our tickets and make our way to the train. On our way to the train I told her that is’ not just any train ride, it’s a “Murder Mystery” train ride. She didn’t know what to make of that, and honestly I didn’t either. My vision was that we’d get on the train and everything would be normal, except the lights would blink out and someone would turn up dead. I also envisioned there would either be actors hidden amongst us at the tables, or at least that some of the patrons would have been given clues ahead of time that it was their job to disseminate. So, we’d end up being immersed in the murder and finding clues would be a process of overhearing comments or somesuch thing. You’ll soon see how wrong my vision was.

Because there were only two of us, I was aware we’d have to share a table with another couple. I had my fingers crossed that the couple would be a set of contemporaries, perhaps there for the same reason, with good senses of humor. We check our tickets and it says “Table 2”. We find Table 2. Uh Oh.

The couple appeared to be in their early fifties. The man wasn’t clean-shaven and had big thick glasses. His wife had her mouth closed but her jaw was set back such that we assumed she had no teeth. She was wearing a hot pink top, a train conductor’s hat, no bra, and a visible tattoo on her chest. I feared the worst.

When we sat down it turned out they were very nice. Neither of them had done this before. They were both pretty quiet. The woman was on the window-side of the train which she kept looking out of. She rarely smiled. In fact, it took us a smile until we realized that she did, in fact, have teeth. We ordered our drinks, confirmed our meals, and the train started to move.

What proceeded to happen was a murder mystery very unlike the one I’d envisioned. A woman came on a microphone and told us the whole story about these made up characters and a made up murder that took place “last night.” She then introduced us to the characters who were sitting by themselves; obvious actors with obvious roles in the show, not at all integrated with the rest of the crowd. All of the speaking from these characters was done over a handheld microphone, which not only took you out of the whole murder (feeling more like a bad stage show than a mystery you’re involved in) but also were turned up too loud, to the point where the acting drowned out any conversation you might have otherwise had with your dinner companion(s).

The way they integrate the regular passengers with the show is that the “Detective” finds a list of names, at the scene of the crime, and on that list are some of the passengers. He then talks to each one, on mic, and makes up a story about who they are. If they’re drunk and/or otherwise “into the show” they’ll get into it with him and act along with the part. It seemed like a lot of the people were really into it, but were not drunk, which was alarming to me. During the interchange with each of the passengers he found on the list, the dectective usually drops some hack jokes that aren’t at all funny, but get a laugh from the train patrons. MS and I try to watch briefly, but mostly concentrate on our food, and look out the window in a vein attempt to escape the nonsense going on in the train.

After an hour, the train stops at a winery in Washington and we can all get out for 45 minutes or so. At this point MS and I are laughing at how awful the last hour was. We joked about getting a taxi back, rather than getting back on the train. I sent a text message to Fil confirming that “This was the worst thing to happen on a train since Under Siege 2.” At one point in the evening we learned that the couple sitting across from us was there for the wife’s birthday, and that they’d travelled some distance to go. It didn’t seem like they were having a good time at all. The woman seemed depressed, and the man seemed frustrated that he hadn’t shown his wife a good time for her birthday. I was happy that MS and I could at least laugh at what was going on.

The way back was a little more fun. We knew what was going to happen so it wasn’t as jarring and annoying. Unfortunatley the train seems to structure your food such that you can only have two drinks on board. I was disappointed by this fact, because I couldn’t understand how you could enjoy yourself without being at least mildly drunk. The people at the table next to us proved me wrong, however. A skinny nerd kid was picked to be part of the “act” on the trip down, and seemed to be loving every minute of it. He looked hilarious because his girlfriend was at lest 2-3 times his size (she was a Big Girl). It wasn’t until we saw them at the winery that we realized he was wearing a kilt the whole time, which looked more like an “Army skirt” than a kilt, because it was green. Kilt boy and his heavy girl seemed to love the show – so let that be evidence enough of the type of people who find this entertaining while sober.

The murderers were revealed, and of course it was really a crap shoot as to who did the fake murder. The evidence is logically insufficient for it alone to point to a right answer, so basically you have to make up a story of who you think did it and why, and your guess is as good as anyone else’s. They really want you to guess what is written into their story, because that is the “right” answer. The actual murderers were in the far opposite corner of the train from us, which made the ending that much less climactic.

As the train pulled into the station, the power went out because of some genuine electrical failure. I laughed to myself because this was the first time all night that what was happening on the train resembled my vision of what was to happen on the train. They decided to let us off even though the power was out, and when they announced that, the couple across from us got up quickly and booked it out of the train. They had had enough. We were right behind them.

I apologized to MS but we both agreed it would make a good story. We’ll re-celebrate Valentine’s Day on Valentine’s Day.

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