Say it Proud, “I’m Black and I’m Loud.”
by P.J. Thomas
When one of my best buds and a fellow journalist sent me the story about the 11 women of an African- American book club who had been unceremoniously tossed off the Napa Valley Wine Train for disturbing other passengers with their laughter, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind they had been loud and gregarious.
I know if you mix my fun-loving group of sistahs with a few glasses of pinot (doesn’t matter red or white, expensive or not) we’re going to whoop, holler and trade stories regardless of who’s listening.
Consider the last couple of times my group of high school girls got together. The first time we met for “breakfast” at a restaurant in our hometown.
As the bacon and eggs gave way to burgers and fries, one group member told the story of being married to a “crazy guy.” Another replied, “Yeah, I married a crazy guy once.”
“Noooo,” another responded. “You married a crazy guy two times!”
“Who was the other?” girlfriend number one asked innocently.
Our screams permeated the restaurant. So the next time the group got together, we thought it prudent to hold our gathering more privately in the home of a girlfriend.
As the wine flowed, the James Brown music got louder, the stories bolder and the party—just us girls— lasted well past midnight. Imagine the embarrassment when a short video of the shenanigans popped up on Facebook the next day, posted by an errant daughter of a group member.
Why were we talking so loudly? Was it really THAT funny? Had we really said those things? Had we really danced like we were 18 again? We had.
I live in Philadelphia, on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, where passengers can hop on the Acela (high-speed train) and travel to New York or Washington in 60 or 90 minutes. Catch the 6 p.m. Acela leaving Washington’s Union Station and you will find it’s filled with lawyers, government employees and lobbyists all chattering away on their cell phones. I once talked with Vice President Joe Biden (then Delaware Senator Biden) during one of his daily trips on the Acela.
But guess what? When the train number for the Acela is called, passengers will literally run to get a seat in the “Quiet Car” so as not to be bothered with 90 minutes of someone else’s phone conversation.
A top executive of the Napa Valley Wine Train has since apologized for putting the group, including one of the group’s 85-year-old members, off of the train. (Yes, the even threw Mama from the train). In a story reported by CNN, “”The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100% wrong in its handling of this issue,” CEO Anthony Giaccio said in a statement. “We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”
But I hope officials of the wine train go even further in reexamining their policies and take a lead from Amtrak. There will be customers who will want to sit back, read a book, quietly reflect and gaze out of the window during their wine train journeys.
And then there will be my crew. Gregarious. Happy for a few moments away from the norms of life, thrilled to be in the company of our sisters and LOUD. Deal with us. Make accommodations for a “Loud Car.” I’m sure groups of black women are not the only passengers who enjoy a good joke over a soft, light California cabernet sauvignon.