Monday, September 18, 2006


The infection is gone but the quack says my crustacean tubes are still blocked with fluid. I think that's what he said. It's very hard to hear anything over the whistling of the Tinitus. This, and a hefty dose of laziness has precluded posting the tale of how the Long Island Rail Road almost got me to the doctors a week last Thursday but not quite. I'll do it at the end of this one.


I was invited to attend a wine-tasting with some friends this night and so I decided to make a day of it, took the afternoon off and went to my quack where I demanded an ear-syringing with menaces. I've been a rather good customer of Doc Rubberglove ever since he figured out what was trying to kill me in '94 and though he couldn't fix it he did get it sorted enough for me to return to what I laughingly call my life, so although he (correctly) said that he didn't think it would do any good he obliged me. It didn't do much good. He suggested a course of cortisone pills to open up the crustacean tubes that he believes connect my nose to my ear. I humoured him and accepted his scrip for yet more pills, even though his suggestion that my ear and nose are connected by some sort of tube smacks of 18th century Burke-and-Hare era quackery. If that was so I should be able to hear through my nose and detect frying bacon from the next room by hearing the smell. I mean, the idea simply does not stand up to rigorous scientific examination. Were the nose an organ of hearing, Dolby wouldn't have had to invent 5.1 surround sound from scratch because 3.1 of it would have been there for him to crib from. QED.

The wine tasting went very well, with me restricting myself to 1/3 of a glass of each vintage, washing my mouth with copious amounts of water between them and so forth. Everyone else was using the 'fill 'er up, no, use the same glass, it's quicker' method so the staff were a little surprised at first. The snacks were good too, but I waited until I had picked my favourite and grabbed a full glass of it (I went for the champagne-style fizzy plonk; very nice brut I reckon and bought a bottle to take home) before I dug in. The group I went with, about ten strong, was amazed when I turned up with champers and demanded to know how I got it. 'By asking nicely' I said. I gave a bottle of Merlot to the people who invited us and to Ralph'n'Mrs Ralph who are just nice folks we know well and see far less often than we'd like. Even though I drank pints of water from the time I left to the time I went to bed (I put a bottle of ice water in the car before I set out) I ended up with a headache most of Saturday morning, but it got better when Mrs Stevie went to NYC with her friend Bill to see some play about the Singing Nun. The Stevieling and I just hung out, had breakfst at noon, played Nintendo, went shopping for swimming pool bits and ignored each other for most of the late afternoon. It was judged by all except Mrs Stevie to be a great success as days went. Mrs Stevie was so enraged that we hadn't 'done anything useful' that she insisted on going out on Sunday to buy the corner vanity we need to start repairing the bathroom from hell, destroyed by Domestic Flood Xena (ibid). She phoned Lowes and was told the package was 16 inches on a side, not unreasonable if it was a flat-pack. She wanted to put it on the roof of the Mrs Steviemobile but I told her it should go in the cargo deck. She grabbed a Trippple Espresso Latté Sinus Cleaner Special, downed it in three gulps and stomped off to remove the boat-personlike collectione de crappe she routinely has filling her vehicle, and then we set out.

We located the  Lowes  after an exciting trip around the hucking fuge shopping complex and then located the sink. It was on a shelf eight feet up and was 34 inches on a side, being a fully assembled unit (weighing 65 pounds, around 30 kilos for my Eurometric-conditioned readers to blinded by the pounds to do the math). "See how fortunate it is that I insisted on cleaning out the car?" I said, but Mrs Stevie was brooking no conversation. We persuaded the one guy on the floor to help us. He declined to seek out a forklift in favout of my helping him get it down. I couldn't reach it and have a curent problem with my left elbow and permanent problems with my right (damaged in the  Home Despot  flat-pack gazebo loading of agony fiasco debacle) and so I declined that option. Two  Lowes  staff wrastled the thing down eventually but they were seconds from serious injury the whole time from where I was standing. Then came some faucet buying, wallpaper buying and curtain rod buying that left me with the distinct impression that Mrs Stevie was actually serious about me rebuilding the bathroom. I had been working to a slightly different plan that involved closing the door and not speaking of the place ever again, but came to see the logic in her choice after a frank exchange of views on the drive home.


The whistling in my ear got so bad that I couldn't sleep and I arrived at work (eventually, the Long Island Rail Road staged a minor event at Mineola by having the crossing gates short out. Mineola has about six to eight grade crossings around the Station so there was 'some congestion' while one guy with some jump-leads raised and lowered the gates by creative Igorism in the junction box) in no state to actually work. Being essentiually honest I elected to go back home rather than sleep at my desk and so Monday afternoon saw me tucked up in bed, finally, asleep. Then I slept through Tuesday until Mrs Stevie rang me around 5 pm to see if I was 'all right'. This is something she has been publically avowing is not the case, so what with the whistling and the sleepiness I was a tad confused until I remembered the dishwasher needed loading, so I got up and did that then went back to bed. Could she in fact be begining to suspect the truth about the periods when I am unsupervised at home (ibid)? A quick check of my collection of rare continental DVDs showed all was secure and undisturbed, the browser cache was totally clean as were the three other places in the computer I know that information gets caught so my occasional visits to certain instructional sites remain my own affair. Perhaps I wasn't thourough enough last time in the clean-up. I made a mental note to be more careful with the laundry hamper and the honey and went back to bed. I woke up on Wednesday fit for the world and so back to work. Not much to say there really so I'll skip back to a week ago.

A Week Last Thursday

I got a phone call from the Lawyer at about 3:45 to say that the poor git who I saw creamed outside my house by a landscapers truck had gotten them to settle and so I wouldn't be needed. This was good news because the problem with my ear was making me feel very ill. I quickly dialed my quack and begged to be put on his schedule that night. They told me he could fit me in if I could get there at 5:30. A quick look at the LIRR website showed a train back to Wyandanch, Pearl of the East in exactly 40 minutes so I slammed the phone down, and dashed for the train. All went well until we got to Bethpage, three stops from Wyandanch. Then an announcement was made that there was a stalled train at Pinelawn.

Pinelawn is a stop conveniently located next to a cemetery. It has off-peak service on about four trains. It is not a popular stop by any means. Its main claim to fame in this unfolding disaster is that it lies at the start of the single track section of the line that stretches from there to Deer Park, one stop after mine. Thus, the LIRR was for all intents and purposes crippled in both directions on the Ronkonkoma branch. The announcer jovially said that we were going to be dumped at the next stop, Farmingdale, and that busses would be arranged for our continued commute.

This sounds more helpful than it really is. Typically, it takes around two hours for these busses to start arriving and by then, usually, the problem is fixed. No-one with more than 6 months LIRR experience would believe this story was good news. I leapt over several less-savvy commuters and raced to the cab rank to discover two, count 'em, two cabs waiting. One a small Voyager-type 7 seater, the other a standard five seater sedan. Luckily I ran into a co-worker and we hurriedly negotiated two to Wyandanch with the driver and two others wanted to go to Central Islip, about 5 miles along the line further east. Job done? No. When I went to get in there was a woman sitting in 'my' seat, claiming she was one of the two to Wyandanch.

Normally I would cede the seat to a lady, but my ear was killing me and I had the driver and my co-worker on my side so I turfed her out and we got underway finally. As we passed Pinelawn we could see hundreds of people sitting on the grass killing time because no cab company had the brains to send out a car to dispatch for them there1. It was like Woodstock (the good one, not the stupid retro thing done a few years ago) but with less nudity on account of it being a cemetery.

I finally transferred my flag to the Steviemobile at around 5:30 and began the drive to Quackland (Bayshore). A drive that under normal circumstances should take no more than 25 minutes ended up taking 45 due to the above average quotient of dimwits in Osamamobiles. Once again the principle of Bigger Car = Smaller Brain was in prominent display as these behemoths of the road seemed to constantly be in the wrong lane, requiring them to jam themselves over two lanes and the odd solid line in an attempt to correct the situation sans signals. So much for the vaunted extra visibility these stupid things are supposed to convey to the driver.

Eventually I got to my quack and he very efficiently diagnosed a middle ear infection, prescribed antibiotics and away I drove with my right ear doing selections from the Steamboat and Union Pacific Locomotive Steam Whistle collection for company.

As for the Long Island Rail Road I have a couple of questions.

  1. When a train begins indicating a fault is occurring, why allow the crew to pull it into a single track section before declaring it unmoveable? I've actually been on trains that did this. The single-track section should be verbotten if the train is showing a fault of any kind. This should be a rule of operation.
  2. When a stalled train has taken the service out, by all means call these busses. But wouldn't it have been an idea to forewarn the cab operator at the station so he or she could have called out their reserves BEFORE the hordes descended on their two drivers? I know the LIRR is not affiliated with the cab companies but this would seem to be an elementary bit of customer service that would cost nothing to implement that a call from the local station manager's representative. That's what a station manager is needed for.
I also have a question for the overworked cab operator and his/her colleagues along the line.

You obviously (to judge by the radio traffic) were not prepared for the rush, nor willing to undertake journeys to the further stations. Why do you not have agreements with the other local station operatives to daisy-chain the fares from one to the other? If the Farmingdale company does not want to send all its cabs east because of a reasonable objection to starving their usual local customers of their means of transport, why not pass the load on and (and this is the clever bit) receive paying return fares for the journey west. After all, the west-bound trains were out of action too. If you wanted to really make the customer happy, you could do this for a very reasonable rate (rather than the entirely unreasonable 20 bux you charged me for a two mile trip because you feared you would be 'dead-heading' back again). 5 Dollars would have covered it nicely I should have thought.

Once again a fairly well-known and well-defined problem caused the LIRR to break down in a welter of information loss and dithering. It boggles the mind that a company that has been doing a simple job for over a hundred years still cannot get this stuff right. Every year the service is interrupted because trees get blown down on the tracks in the Fall. Of course, knowing this one might take the elementary step of inspecting the trackside and cutting the trees during the off-peak holiday seasons of July and August when ridership is down. Every year the tunnels get blocked because only one is signaled in both directions. If listened to this lame excuse for twenty five years. Yes, signaling a tunnel in an expensive and labor intensive operation, but when it is done the benefits will outweigh all that for Azathoth's sake! When blizzards cause problems they get exacerbated by the LIRR not having clear plans and staff to execute those plans. One time I watched chaos form at Jamaica during a bad nighttime blizzard because the LIRR staff were doing crowd control (not their strong suit) and the police were assigned to show people to the busses (not their strong suit). The situation would have been comical if not for the fistfights that were breaking out. There is never a 'lesson learning' phase after a LIRR disaster, or if there is, no-one is tasked with remembering what they did wrong and what they should and should not do next time.

1 : Most towns in Long Island have a policy about not allowing cabs to just pick up people from the street. They must be called for. But if a cab were to stop by the people and forward their requests for other cabs...If I can think of it, why can't the money-grubbing cab companies?

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