COLLIN PRECIADO

Lines, lines, everywhere lines. If you don’t have young children or a passion for trains, you may be surprised to know that the Polar Express, the animated movie featuring a lifeless Tom Hanks, has become a holiday classic. In fact, Warner Brothers has found a way to capitalize on its popularity by offering families the chance to ride the real Polar Express and visit Santa at the North Pole. As a parent of a three-year-old, my family and I decided to book four tickets in coach, because even the Polar Express has a class system. We arrived at Union Station on a Thursday afternoon, opting for a cheaper daytime ride to the North Pole. We joined a loud and lively line, sizing up the other exhausted parents and their children. Some families were even wearing matching pajamas, flaunting their togetherness and love. I, too, was wearing my pajamas, but only because I sometimes go to bed in my belt and jeans like a crazy person. But I digress. We were then led into a Christmas activity hall, complete with coloring stations, a gift shop, and a screening of the Polar Express movie, setting unrealistic expectations for some of the children. One kid even wore the same pajamas as the main character from the movie. I couldn’t help but think he was too old to be visiting Santa, and he must have caught my disapproving glance because he gave me a dirty look that made me feel like a jerk. However, my guilt quickly dissipated when we were herded into the holding area in front of the train, and the same kid turned out to be part of a skit where he talks to the conductor about boarding the Polar Express. Like the Titanic, the Polar Express is divided by class. We were escorted to our designated train car, where we found a wrapped cookie and napkin waiting for us on a seat that had been sat on by countless others. The interior was beautifully decorated with garlands, lights, tinsel, and other festive decorations. As we waited for the rest of the passengers to board, a frantic and off-key song, sung by Tom Hanks, blared in our ears on repeat, as if we were being interrogated by the CIA. Thankfully, it stopped once the train started moving. Our journey to the North Pole included various forms of entertainment, such as Christmas carol sing-alongs, a recording of the Polar Express book read by the author, and more tone-deaf shouting from Tom Hanks, while performers in chef hats handed out hot chocolate. The chef hat people were truly exceptional, engaging with the passengers and adding to the festive atmosphere. 

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