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Oct 3, 2022

Take The (Terminal) “A” Train

Why the airport monorail may be more fun than the plane ride

By Ed Goldman

The most reliable carriers at Sacramento International Airport may be the trains.

I’m not talking about whatever light-rail service may be available to shuttle you from California’s capital region to SMF, as the airport’s called for reasons we needn’t discuss herein. (I think the M used to stand for  Metropolitan before one of the airlines started a one-way service to Ensenada, but you might want to Google that.)  

Edgy Cartoon


The trains I’m referencing run from the terminal to the boarding gates, and from the gates back to the terminal. Most of the time, these monorail cars run with precise accuracy and a minimum of fuss. As a veteran mom I know put it, it’s a bit like watching a little boy play with a toy train on a carpet, pushing it forward then pulling it back, possibly adding, “Choo-choooo!” 

It’s a robotic experience, I hasten to point out. Without a human conductor present, the doors can close savagely fast as the mechanical female voice informs you the train is now leaving. In truth, I’ve never seen anyone get a tie, anklet or serape caught in the door but I’ve both seen (and personally experienced) pretty close calls. 

Once was when I wore an untucked dress shirt because I was led to believe that Utterly Disheveled was the new Shabby Chic. I’d learned this from ads by manufacturers who, I theorize, had accidentally squared off the bottoms of their dress shirts and decided to create a trend rather than do a recall. 

Just as the door was sliding closed I noticed one of my full-frontal tails was in its path and was able to leap backward, with a grace that  might have made Nureyev envious, especially now (he died 29 years ago). I imagine the door would have automatically opened before I became even partially squished but I’ve never wanted to use the first day of a vacation or business trip to conduct a social experiment. In summary, I had no need to bring closure to closure.

I would also strongly urge you to find either a seat or something to hang onto for the trip, which may last only about 90 seconds but can seem longer if you start it by banging your teeth into one of the metal poles then slumping to the train’s floor. 

I’m sure you know that airport “people movers” of one sort or another are hardly unique. But quality and comfort can vary. At some airports you can climb into this box-like apparatus that takes you right up to, and downloads you directly from, the airplane door. 

Edgy Cartoon

Airport Train Stop (Photo by Edgy)

When I visited Washington, D.C. more than a decade ago, partly to interview Congresswoman Doris Matsui—it wouldn’t have been much of a tax deduction if I’d interviewed her in her local office, which is about five miles from my home—I vaguely recall there being a subway train. It took you under the airport tarmac, a pale imitation of the posher underground shuttle that elected officials can take to and from chambers and offices—and, presumably, beneath an attempted coup d’état

Which reminds me: Why didn’t any of the January 6 insurrectionists claim they broke into the U.S. Capitol because they were afraid it was going to rain at any minute?

As we know, winter weather can be unpredictable along the eastern seaboard of this great country. Recall that in 1842, President William Henry Harrison came down with pneumonia right after his inauguration, where he had given what amounted to the longest debutante-ball coming-out speech in history. He died about a month later. As I’m sure his mom would’ve pointed out at the time, “I told him, Willy-Boy, ‘Wear a hat! Wear gloves! Put on a coat! Stop talking and give others a chance once in a while!’ But did he listen to me? He did not. These kids today… .”

As I write this, I’m looking forward to my next flight. But really, to my next train ride. Choo-choooo!

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).