In my nightmare the conductor looked like this - but he was only doing his job
The first time I got really lost was on a train in Italy, on the way to Venice, city of water. How could I get lost on a train? Well, it stopped before it should have, and most people got off.
So I followed them with my two pieces of hand luggage. As I stepped off on to the crowded platform, I saw we were at the end of the line. Two large concrete blocks sat there, and the railway tracks just stopped.
There was the station beyond it, permanently immovable too. Where was Venice? By my calculations we were only halfway there, yet the line was a dead end.
My Italian was minimal, all I could remember was "amore" from the Dean Martin song. And I'm sure the equivalent of "love" would not get me out of this mess.
It got worse. The train driver was climbing up to the cab which had suddenly appeared at the back of the train!
In a mild panic I asked some of the passengers boarding where it was going, but they were all foreigners :) ... no-one told me anything intelligible.
The last time I couldn't understand a situation was earlier in the trip when we had stopped at a station.
Looking out from inside the carriage I saw a huge crowd gathered round two people. Camera flashes were going off, and there were several large tv cameras pointing at a man being interviewed under the glare of the lights.
Who was he? What was the reason for the attention?
Why was this happening on a railway station when he didn't appear to have got on or off? The event had no meaning.
When you play the lottery without direction or a map to know where you're going, it's like being lost in a foreign country. No-one can tell you what to do. The normal familiar signals of language and direction are gone.
The future is a big blank, and you're part of it. Most people play lotto without any idea of what they're doing
Then it's up to you to take the prepackaged advice and use them to get where you want - to the jackpot.
So my train trip drama continued. At the last second, while the whistle blew and the station was clear,
I still hadn't made a decision. I couldn't. I had no idea what was happening.
I climbed back on the train, just as it started to move back the way we'd come. Was I going all the way back to Paris? Would this be a wasted trip... half a day of travel when all I had to show for it was a few fields and villages and a bunch of railway station stops?
Maybe the altercation with the waiter in the dining car when I mistakenly left too little on the table for the meal would be my only memory of the trip. (How come, when you make a financial mistake, it's always your fault - against you? Nobody overpays, it's always the opposite. And then the argument begins).
There was a happy ending. Some hours later, after much fretting in my seat, I saw the sign as we stopped again: Venice!
We had arrived safe and correctly at the right destination. Life was kind to me that day.
The trip was like winning the lottery. You don't know when you'll get to your jackpot, but you will. There may be glitches along the way, but in the end you'll achieve your goal.
And I learned another Italian word as I got off the train: Grazie ... thank you!