Toting bags and boxes, they are homeward bound

December 23, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Already, they're appearing -- Christmas travelers, getting a jump on the holiday, infiltrating the cadres of commuters who fill Baltimore's Penn Station most mornings.

Amid the briefcases, there are more and more shopping bags filled with beribboned boxes. A couple struggles with sacks of gifts. A little girl clutches a stuffed Santa.

Amtrak supervisor Don Peterson said yesterday was "about a normal day." Traffic wasn't noticeably heavier. But things had begun to look a little different:

Mary Tandy, on her way to Newark, N.J., wore a sprig of mistletoe on her lapel. Jacqueline Noble, from Oakland, Calif., arrived with a giant gold-wrapped box. Daniel Finder, a Hopkins student en route to Washington, where he'd board a plane for his home in Buenos Aires, napped on his duffel bag.

Tom Johnson, a Towson State student, stood with his arm around Shari Mark, who was going home to Long Island for the holiday. She wore a white-and-navy sweater, his Christmas gift to her. As the train glided into the station and business commuters bustled past, Ms. Mark and Mr. Johnson kissed good-bye. Then she was off to New York and he was on his way to the car, talking about a trip to meet her for New Year's Eve.

At 11 a.m., Carol and Thomas Wellein, of Towson, were awaiting the Montrealer and their son, Stephen, a freshman at Norwich University in Vermont.

And then the welcoming party got bigger. Stephanie Selway, Katherine Lewis and Marty Walker -- all 18, all college freshmen, all from Towson -- arrived to greet Steve with balloons and plastic leis.

They were wearing garish get-ups: green-and-red striped socks, mismatched plaids. "We're Christmas nerds," they said.

The train was listed as 10 minutes late, then 20. And then the board ominously declared the train was "DELAYED." Mr. Wellein sprinted for the information desk to find out what the problem was. He returned with news: The train was stopped at Aberdeen, where a sick passenger was transferred from the train to an ambulance.

The group broke for hot chocolate and coffee. Mrs. Wellein talked about midnight services on Christmas Eve, the whole family back together. The girls talked about parties and movies.

And finally, nearly two hours after it was supposed to arrive, the Montrealer pulled into Baltimore and off stepped Stephen, who had begun his trip 17 hours earlier -- at 5 Monday night, in the cold of Montpelier, Vt. The first to reach him was his mother. The girls and his father were right behind.

Spokesmen for Amtrak and Baltimore-Washington International Airport expect tomorrow to be the biggest travel day of the holiday season. But look for more passengers carrying presents today -- and more welcoming parties for passengers home for the holidays.

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