That Time I Turned Into Gollum on the Train

I was taking the train from Portland to Seattle. A just-short-enough-but-just-long-enough 3.5 hour trip. I’d gotten my delicious chai, bought a new book about the Inklings, and allowed myself to imagine what the ride would be like. I planned to stare out the window the entire time, it was raining (perfection!), I’d finished my work for the weekend, and I had the playlist all picked out for my magical Hogwartsy trip.


The train even looked a little oldish (or my imagination just made it that way.) I reached Car #9, (so close to 9 & 3/4!) pulled out my ticket, and looked for seat #4. Super excited for the trip, I sat down next to the Scrabble-playing lady before I realized…I was sitting in an aisle seat. An aisle seat at the back of the train (aka: half a window instead of a whole.) Wait, wait, wait, HOLD THE TRAIN. I  had specifically requested and paid for (I think) a window seat.

I could feel my mental fingernails struggling to cling to my promised creative-filled train ride.


No, I would not let the aisle seat change that. I’d be fine. *breathes into brown paper bag*

Then the lady beside me–who had set up her spot as though she planned to live there for the next six months–said, “Oh. I think your ticket is for the window seat.” She gave an innocent laugh. “We can switch if you like, but I like the window seat because I can tuck my stuff up against the wall.”

Woah, woah, woah, stop. She took my seat?! I gaped at her and somehow words fell out: “No, it’s fine.”

But I was so not fine. It was not fine at all. I wanted to say, “Yeah, well I like the window because it keeps me from getting motion sick and throwing up in your lap. ALSO I AM MAGICAL AND YOU ARE MUGGLE. GIVE ME MY WINDOW SEAT.”

Do you ever have those moments where some sort of inner beast awakens and gets instantly level-100 enraged over something that is–in comparison to eternity and world hunger–THE STUPIDEST TINY THING IN THE EXISTENCE OF EVER?

That was me.

All I could think was, “That’s my window seat. It was mine! I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE IT! And it’s raining and perfect and itwasmineitwasmineitwasmine.” *insert Gollum hisses*

I couldn’t stop. I felt myself almost physically battling my brain as my “perfect train ride of imagination” started slipping away. I’d built it up so much in my mind that I teetered on the edge of not being able to do anything creative for the entire train ride. All because this little lady sat in my seat.

It was just one of those days, my friends.

She played Scrabble on her iPad and watched movies and barely even appreciated the visual portal of life on her left. (aka: window.) Meanwhile, I was leaning over her for pictures, elbowing her in the face, and totally sending subliminal hate mail.

I started mental chanting. “I have a train ride home in two days. And then I’ll have the window.” And “When compared to the big picture of life and Jesus and all things important, this is no big deal.” And “Just pretend she didn’t take your seat. Pretend your ticket was for an aisle seat in the first place.”

I felt the tears coming and laughed to myself at how utterly ridiculous this was. “If any of my friends knew about my inner war zone right now, they’d see me in a whole new light — impatient, irrational, petty . . . Gollum.”

It was bad, guys. And so here’s a blog-confession. A blogfession. Because I know I’m not alone in this. We all have those Gollum-moments when we don’t get what we wanted/expected/deserved. Whether it’s quiet time, an oven-fresh cookie, a nap, or the window seat on a rainy train ride. And we’re mortified that a part of us would react with anything other than sacrificial grace.

In the end, I finally turned into a regular hobbit again. It took me about 20 minutes to fully let it go. I blogged this out (secretly hoping she’d peek and read ABOUT THE INJUSTICE SHE HAD CAUSED) and finally entered my creative like I’d originally hoped. I found my space, my solitude. I ranted a bit to God and He probably just thought, “I know you’re irritated, but look at the blog post that you now have.”

In the end, I read my book, I wrote some words. I could still see the beautiful scenery every time I looked up (because the lady was short and didn’t even block the view with her head, go figure.) Everything turned out fine. And I knew it would. But I had the internal meltdown anyway. Now that it’s over, having only been witnessed by Jesus (and, now, you), I’m okay. I don’t feel ashamed. I feel . . . human.

Angry thoughts can be okay when we know they’re not okay and we’re trying to beat them. Does that make sense? This was practice trying to quell the injustice. So that with the next tiny issue that turns me into Gollum it might be a 15-minute battle instead of a 20-minute one. And after that, maybe a 10 minute one. Someday, I hope to be the inner-Gollum Olympian — 1-minute or less.

But until then, I’ll continue to be real with my friends (you!) and I’ll share the small battles. (It’s more of a joust than a battle, but who’s judging?) Because we’re in the same army. And my victory is shared this day.

Do you ever have Gollum moments?

How do you beat them?




About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Um, yes. *winces* A trip to Chicago with my friends where I’d been dreaming of spending time in museums and barely got any sleep the night before because I was so excited, then all they wanted to do was go shopping. *winces again* It actually took me until the next day, after I’d gotten a decent night of sleep, before I finally calmed down.

  2. Welcome to Oregon…😂😂😂 I don’t think we are quite known for our communication skills….
    But yeah…my Gollum moments are usually with my family unfortunately. It is just hard to keep your head with older sisters.

    • Don’t I know it! I always joked with my older sis that she was the only person who could make me truly irrationally furious in less than 10 seconds. LOL

      • Yes! I totally understand! But you gotta love them…
        Anyway, I hope you loved Oregon (not all of us pack our houses with us on trains!).

  3. I think we all have our gollum moments. You aren’t alone.

  4. Hey! I love Oregon!!! 😀

    Um, yeah, I do, as well. (Maybe Gollum shouldn’t be my role-model… 😉 ) But I have five siblings and a very temper, so, yeah. I feel ya.

  5. I think I can relate to having gollum moments. My brother certainly can be good at pressing my buttons. Though I think I have a bit better handle on it then I did last year.

  6. So sorry!!

    I’ve taken that EXACT train from Portland to Seattle too. 😉

  7. Oh man, I would be SO Gollum-like if that happened to me – I can totally relate XD. Good luck on becoming the inner-Gollum Olympian! *fistbump*

  8. Anna Bourassa

    Oh yes. I relate.
    How many times have I fallen apart over someone buying me the wrong candy bar or forgetting to pick something up for me or cutting in line at the fair or somebody creating an inconvenience and laughing it off in front of me… my blood boils, my eyes probably blaze like fire, and I–I–I sometimes mock them in my mind, or I replay the scenario over and over in my mind as I arrange the perfect speech that will wake that person up and show them how unjust they really are. They have no idea; they just see my strained smile and hear my silence.
    A day later, I realize how foolish I was. How ridiculous the situation was. And how I wish I’d been remembering Jesus in the situation 😢 instead of planning a volley of words never to be spoken.
    Thanks for being real and opening up about it. 😊

  9. I’ve been having some issues with one of my co-workers. He presents his ideas very strongly, even if they don’t always make sense. That and he doesn’t seem to really respect me. My natural response seems to go full ‘Gollum mode’ every time he disagrees with one of my suggestions. It’s something I’m trying to work on, but it’s hard.

  10. I would have said, “Actually, I paid extra for the window seat and I was really excited about sitting there, so would you mind moving?” and totally made her move. In a nice way. Because. It helps prevent those uncharitable thoughts. 😉

  11. Ah, yes. This is true.

  12. Thanks so much for being open and sharing that inner joust with us! It was a big conviction/encouragement power package for me. 🙂 Also, I do hope you had the blessing of an enjoyable window-seat return trip. 😉

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