Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Road Less Travelled (Due To Traffic)

This morning I was up early, after a disturbed night due to Mr Brain "not feeling sleepy yet"1, in plenty of time to catch the 8:01 which goes directly to Brooklyn instead of taking a Penn Station train and changing a Jamaica (not the good one).

Or so I thought

The plan survived contact with the real world for about the time it took me to drive to the traffic lights at the end of Nicolls Road, at which time a complete ninny made sure that although there was plenty of time to negotiate the left hand turn, half the traffic queued up to do so would cool it's figurative heels at the lights for one more cycle (from 90 seconds to two minutes or more, depending on some arcane and as-yet unexplained formula known only to the Secret Order of the Traffic Light Timing Illuminati Of New York2). Well done that fbleeping schoolbus.

Of course, once we had the green light, a selfish wuckfit in an Osamamobile decided that although he could exit the gas station that lies next to the traffic light at the rear and get in line without any fuss, he would exit from the front entrance, pull across the traffic and stall the line so he could get across the light. I am a reasonable man, but this sort of behaviour has me hoping that the vehicle's driver has his cell phone battery explode the next time he makes a call (probably while exiting the car park or attempting to reverse: SUV drivers are people of very small brain in general). All this meant that no sooner had I made the left but I was stalled at another light.

Enough was enough. I pulled onto the shoulder and made the right into the supermarket carpark. Ignoring cries from inattentive shoppers, who really should pay more attention to their surroundings and not jibber-jabber on cell phones while pushing a cart full of groceries through the car park, I turned into the drive-thru for the pharmacy and thence onto the side street by the school. By this method I was able to rejoin my commute route sans jerks in armoured personnel carriers.

But the worst was yet to come

The road to the station was blocked by a slow-moving SUV, that was driving (it turned out) to one of the local, trackside businesses. I hate these people with a vengeance because they always drive at five miles per hour under the speed limit. They are in no hurry, since they are 15 minutes early for work. They can also be characterised by their turning technique, which is best described as "swing as fully left as you can, then make the right turn without the benefit of a turn signal of any sort". Often, after swinging out then turning, the vehicle will come to a dead stop while the driver assesses some almost-hazard in the driveway, such as parked cars or a landscaper's truck pulling out. Thus is the road blocked off completely. At times like this I fantasise about that rooftop turret-mounted disintegrator death-ray3.

Reaching the carpark at last I was dismayed to find that all the spaces were taken. The Rich Gits had returned.

When Wyandanch was served by diesel trains, the commute was cold and smelly but there were relatively few of us. On the day that electrification happened the ridership from Wyandanch trippled. Why? Rich Gits who normally commuted to their law forms and marketing companies out of Babylon or Huntington realised that they didn't need a parking permit (which costs money) to park in Wyandanch. The invasion was on.

During the summer, the Rich Gits mostly migrate to foreign countries or go east to The Hamptons, leaving space for the actual commuters who live in the area to park. Tuesdays through Thursdays the parking gets scarce even then, due to Lawyers travelling to court in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Lawyers, of course, are Rich Gits too gittish to contemplate taking time off, but even they baulk at working either side of a weekend.

I sighed and made to turn right onto Straight Path, heading directly towards the station and the Wyandanch grade crossing. It took me a good two minutes to get out of the car park, due to gits turning left across my path into it (a pointless exercise since they could see that their fellow gits had taken all the available spaces). Finally I managed to get onto Straight Path only to drive into a traffic jam. What I had been fearing had come to pass: the gits had dithered me into a direct confrontation with the 7:55 to Penn Station, which had arrived and caused the grade crossing gates to drop.

This was annoying on several fronts, but most irritating was the fact that I actually wanted to turn right before the grade crossing and so didn't actually need to be stuck on the traffic at all. Second most annoying was the sight of at least three schoolbusses ahead of me, which would ensure I would be delayed even further, possibly long enough to miss the 8:01 and force me onto the 8:16 and a change at Jamaica (still not the good one)4.

It turned out the schoolbusses were the least of my problems though.

For no readily discernable reason, the bloody train parked with its doors open and showed no signs of getting under way even when there were no more passengers on the platform. Clearly they were intent on making me wait in traffic until my own train had caught up, leaving me no time to get to the West car park and sprint to the station itself before it had left me cursing on the platform. This was not to be born

I had come to rest right next to a side street, so I turned right and drove quickly through the back streets, ignoring the playful screams of the children waiting for their schoolbus, who leapt athletically from my path as I made my way west towards what I hoped would be a parking space. As I drove I returned the friendly salutes of their parents, who waved and called out their greetings as I passed. I was cheered by their spontaneous demonstration of neighbourly regard, and when I finally reached the carpark, was doubly pleased to beat by a hair the enraged driver of an SUV who was too busy attempting to text message while he drove to see that I was going for the same parking space.

I steeled myself for a frank exchange of views with this individual, but saw the 7:55 had finally got itself rolling. There was no time to lose! The 8:01 ia always on time, as much as the 7:55 is almost always bloody late, and once the damn train was clear of the station section and the signals changed my own train would be in and out like a shot. I broke into a stiff walk and was rewarded by arriving on the platform to the sound of the gates coming down again.

The mission was still in jeopardy though. I wanted a newspaper and was damned if I was not going to have one, so I grabbed a dollar from my wallet and veered into the station to buy one.

And ran into that most insidious thing, a woman trying to pay with exact change for her bagel and coffee, while not actually having the basic smarts to have her money outside her voluminous handbag before she began the transaction.

I was in no mode to encourage such behaviour. I placed my dollar in the shoplady's hand, grabbed two quarters in change from the pile left there by commuters who understood how to speed buy stuff, politely elbowed the dithering woman out of my way and grabbed a Daily News from the newspaper stand5, then sprinted for the train.

Which I managed not to miss despite the best attempts of the entire western world to prevent me doing so.


  1. Mr Brain is not my friend
  2. An organisation as yet to reveal themselves to the general public, but that I have inferred to exist and to be the root cause of the various dubious and outright iniquitous traffic light configurations and timings on Long Island. I have contempt for them, and the public officials who have yet to acknowledge them or confess to the craven granting of absolute authority of all things traffic lighty to a hidden cabal of ultra-powerful old-money interests whose agenda has to be suspect, given their monomania for traffic flow control and anonymity
  3. The one I could have had if only scientists had spent some time doing science (instead of wasting time recalssifying planets and lakes as not-really-planets/lakes) and invented stuff people actually want and need. Let's face it: If my car flies this entire blog entry doesn't get written. What wastes of good breathing air today's so-called "brains" are. No doubt even as I type some "clever" young thing is busy on a breakthrough theory which will prove conclusively that the Atlantic isn't an ocean any more or that Asia really shouldn't be called a continent
  4. Due to a New York state law that decrees that schoolbusses stop at grade crossings while the driver checks that no trains are coming. This is for the safety of the children. Sometimes, when the bus stops, the doors fly open, granting the children easy access to the fast-moving traffic. I don't know what this is for
  5. Also used by such ditherers to hold their excess baggage while they look for thet ellusive nickle hiding amongst the dried-up chapsticks, bunches of obsolete keys that don't fit anything, collections of left-hand-only gloves and other handbag cruft, thus ensuring that fellow commuters with exact change cannot circumvent the ditherisation of their commute and actually catch a train

No comments: