Friday, July 14, 2006

Dancing in New York - The Mumbai Knee-Jerk

On Wednesday, in a bizarre "ramping up" of "security", two State Troopers were standing outside the Wyandanch LIRR Station-house. They made no move to board the train, nor was there any visble police presence on the train during my ride to Brooklyn. Where I was bag-checked1, presumably because word is out that I have a less-than-stellar view of the LIRR sometimes. Wednesday evening we had terrific thunderstorms, and to celebrate the LIRR first rescheduled my train to another track2 then drove it into a dead section of track3 filled with other stranded trains at the Queens/Nassau County border, reinforcing my high opinion of the competence of the dispatchers. We backed out to Queens Village in surprisingly short order4 and were able to switch tracks, pick up speed and drive back into the thunderstorm (which was travelling East) in time for a good soaking as we walked to our cars.

Thursday, there was one State Trooper standing halfway down the platform. He also made no move to board the train and there were no badges or uniforms in evidence other than the usual LIRR ones. The LIRR was not hampered by bad weather all day, and was thus forced to deliver me relatively on-time both to work and to my home again afterwards. Well done LIRR. The bag-swipe station was still in action, but I was allowed to pass through the turnstile to the subway sans chemically wiped bag.

Today (Friday) there was a State Trooper sitting in a cruiser parked fifty feet from the eastermost end of the platform on the other side of the road. The LIRR performed flawlessly. The bag-check was there, but I was not asked to hand over my bag.

I have no idea whether terrorists are in actual fact targetting the LIRR. I expect they have all been frightened off by federal pokings into my bank accounts and phone call logs, but I have to say that were I in fact a desperate fellow, determined to blow up the LIRR with my luggage, one State Trooper seated so far away he/she couldn't possibly see me on the platform at the station-house end wouldn't be much of a deterrent.

For the record, I firmly believe that the only way to deal with a campaign of urban terrorism is enhanced vigillance from the urbanites themselves. If I were to level a complaint about the State and Federal responses to the terrorists it would be the lackluster attempts at public information dissemination. No prime-time TV ads telling people what to look for and what to do in the event of a suspicious package coming into their perception. As an ex-pat Englishman I know the power of such commercials. All the ex-pats here complain that drivers in NY don't dip/dim their headlights. What they often forget is that the only reason they have good habits in that area is the ads that ran from the 60's through the 80's with the "Dip, Don't Dazzle" slogan. Were proper informational/indoctrinational materials broadcast into the prime viewing of people in NY I am certain that it would be money well spent compared to the millions that are beinmg thrown around now trying for a technological quick-fix - something I am certain will never be practical.

1: A chemical wipe was swabbed around me zips. It was dead embarrasing.
2: It isn't the re-tracking that bothers everyone, It is the rather annoying fact that every time it happens the 6:04 Ronkonkoma train is not assigned a track until the 6:07 Babylon one is safely in dock. This pattern of passenger abuse is also de rigeur at Penn Station. All the important people (such as LIRR CEOs and so forth) live on the south shore apparently.
3: It happens. Lightning trips breakers or causes deadfalls that block the track. But why oh why do they continue to run trains into a blocked section? Do the dispatchers really believe that if they load the track enough the problem will suddenly self-correct? Are they, in fact, morons? I know which I'm betting on.
4: SOP is to sit for 10-20 minutes, then announce that we are in a dead section and that the railroad is deciding whether to have us wait or reverse out to the nearest switch and change tracks, wait ten more minutes, make the announcement again, wait ten minutes, announce and immediately pull forward and continue the journey. Two minutes into this progress, announce that we are now moving. This is know as the "Well, Duh" school of public information.

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