Saturday, December 22, 2012

BNSF Railway

You will find, on this site, many caustic remarks about advertising. But this is a season of reflection and of good cheer, hence I will bring you today my favorite television ad. It is shown almost every night on Public Television as the lead-in to the PBS Newshour. Herewith the ad:

Now I grew up with railways. When World War II broke out, I was on a train in Hungary, three years old. But because I was suffering from a stomach ache, I have actual memories of that event. News came at one of our stops and caused great excitement. The adults were swarming about in the passage-ways talking. And rails remained central to our life there. Our great migration, eventually ending in the United States, began by train in 1944, continued in 1951, featured an ocean voyage from Bremerhaven to New Orleans, and continued from New Orleans north to Kansas City by rail, the Southern Pacific; yes, it reached to New Orleans. Since then it has been absorbed by the Union Pacific.

Much later—as in after growing up, returning again to Europe, back from there after marriage and Army service—we’ve had a special relationship to BNSF. Brigitte and our two children (then), travelled the last of her leg of a train-voyage from Newark to Chicago to Kansas City on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. I remained behind another week to effect my discharge and then followed in a little VW we’d purchased in Europe. And later yet, our relationship to BNSF continued while we lived many years in Hopkins, Minnesota. This railway, which is the merger of the Burlington Northern and the Santa Fe, passed just north of a suburban enclave where we lived, in Bellgrove. It ran within hearing distance, but its sound had a kind of reassuring reminder that the world was vast. It was bound from Chicago, by way of Minneapolis, to Billings, Spokane, and eventually Seattle—or back the other way. The line was close enough so that I walked along it virtually daily with the most famed dog in our lives, Winston, a gigantic golden lab. Deer, rabbits, the occasional fox.

Rails are a perennial for us. May they survive the coming energy collapse. Meanwhile the BNSF spot (our last fond linkage) remains. The company’s ad is the only one we ever gladly watch. And as the brief image of the dispatcher in his high roost waves his greetings to an approaching train—so we, at least mentally, wave back to him. May your ways continue to earn ample and profitable traffic!

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