Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sharing The Misery

The Monday before last, I missed my train, and the next one, and as it turned out, the one after that too, despite a delay that should have had me safely on my way.

I was delayed departing from the fabulous Steviemanse by events too stupid to go into, involving me misplacing my keys, wallet, train ticket and finally my briefcase (this latter was facilitated by the tender care of The Stevieling who had dumped a pile of crap over it the night before). Such was the magnitude of this cascade of incompetence that I was late, even for the 9:33, my absolute last-ditch get-to-work-on-time train. I fired up the trusty Steviemobile and then showed the good people of Deer Park a thing or two in the line of driving. With my radio blasting I hardly heard any of the threats and insults hurled at me by those diving out of my path, although the crossing warden at the end of the street did catch my attention when she smashed her "STOP: Children" lollipop across my windshield. I had a moment of confusion during which I was convinced I was being attacked by some sort of protest movement forcefully arguing the case for family planning, then I regained control of my vehicle, raced along the sidewalk and through the supermarket car park, hung a hard right through the chicane formed by the pharmacy drive-through window, slewed a frantic left onto the street, scattering the school athletic club waiting to board a bus and I was back on my way with several seconds of time made up. Result!

My spirits soared when I saw a train obviously stopped just outside the station. I might make it yet if the railroad was undergoing one of its periodic "delays"! Then I saw the police and the yellow "Do Not Cross" tape strung all over the car park, and Mr Brain said "This not look good". There was tape everywhere. The whole carpark in front of the station (always full by the time the sun rises) was cordoned off and police were peering under cars and ducking under the platform. Not good at all.

I pulled into the large car park and halooed a fellow commuter obviously looking for his car and speaking on a cell phone. He told me there had been a fatality, as in, a train had hit someone. I thought for a moment. The incoming 9:33 would only have been doing about 30 mph when it came in. Why were the police shutting down the car park? It seemed excessive, but they sometimes make a meal out of fairly simple situations because they have had a quiet hour or two and get bored like anyone else. Action was called for.

I offered to take the commuter to Babylon with me, where I felt sure we could get a train if only I could find a parking space. It wasn't far, maybe a 10 minute drive, and I dropped off my fellow victim of the LIRR and went looking for a place to leave the Steviemobile. There were, in fact, many empty parking spaces, but all of them were "permit only". All the public parking was full.

This is, in fact, why Wyandanch is such a popular station. It has no parking restrictions at all, and people who actually live closer to Huntington and Babylon stations, where you have to pay for parking and where a permit costs one arm plus a significant portion of one leg too, drive to Wyandanch to park for free.

It's dead annoying.

I gave up and returned to Wyandanch, parked in one of the empty spaces in the west end cark park, and walked back the three miles or so to the station platform. Where I was "waved off" by a police officer.

Trains still not running then.

But a bus was about to depart for Farmingdale, where rail service was rumoured to be a fact. I boarded the bus just as it was about to leave, and we set off on a magical mystery tour.

Farmingdale station lies about a 15 minute drive from Wyandanch. It can be reached by driving along Long Island Avenue, parallel to the tracks, crossing Route 110 and continuing for a few block to the railroad station. The driver decided to discard this unworkable plan in favour of driving through a half mile traffic jam so he could fight his way onto the Long Island Expressway. This took 15 minutes, took us due north and got us actually slightly further away from Farmingdale station. Then we drove along the expressway for 5 minutes until we had passed west of Farmingdale by some distance, turned off and made our way back east to Farmingdale station itself. The bus stopped at a traffic light just before the station, and the train, which was waiting at the platform, took this opportunity to depart for New York City.

Upon walking into the station I noticed that although Farmingdale has double track working, and although service through the (single track) Wyandanch section was halted and therefore nothing would be coming from that direction, a track crew was working replacing the cross ties (UK: sleepers) on the track they were dispatching the New York bound trains on. This made a sort of twisted sense. Oh wait, no it didn't. It made no sense whatsoever. No sooner was I on the platform and wondering at the madness of putting yet more people at risk of being run over than the LIRR announced that service had been resumed.

I got into work at about 1:30 pm.

Which meant I left around 7 pm and caught an 8:15 originating in Penn Station by joining it at Jamaica. By some minor miracle there were seats available, so I got to sit down rather than the usual case in which the train is full from the get-go and anyone stupid enough to try and meet it at Jamaica (because, say, the last convenient straight-through train from Brooklyn was several hours ago) is doomed to stand until Hicksville (which is where the vast majority of these freeloading seat hogs are actually going). Today, however, I got a seat, albeit sandwiched in with a family of train noobs who had been to town for a show and weren't sure how the whole train thing worked. I wasn't worried though.

Until the train stopped and the crew announced that a train had hit someone else and all service was suspended.

The family panicked and were driving me nuts until I finally said "look, you can't get off until we move into a station. You can't smoke until you get off. We're all in the same boat and it will all be over in about an hour or so (I made that last bit up, but honestly, if these idiots didn't shut up with their "call the conductor and demand an explanation" and "I'm going to do something" one of them was going to be killed by one of my fellow commuters).

The crew kept us informed of The Plan, which started out as "We're going back to Jamaica" and wandered around for a bit around that theme for an hour until the train actually started moving east again, at which point they stopped pretending there was a plan.

I got home around 10 pm.

The next day I found out why the police had had to cordon off the entire station. About ten minutes before the 9:33 westbound train comes into Wyandanch, an express hurtles through at about 70 mph going east. Someone had taken a sprint along the platform and swan-dived in front of this train, burst like a ripe human being hit by a very fast train and scattered his internal bits all over the carpark. The police were helping the coroner to find bits of suicidee scattered and splattered all over the car park and the cars themselves. For once I was glad I never got a space next to the platform.

I dunno. Granted that the loon in question was not in his right mind. Granted he had lost all hope. Granted he didn't give a toss about the effect of his death on his family. It still sucks that he chose to go in such a way as to ruin the lives of the train driver (who by all accounts had bits of the suicidee come through the cab window onto him - he could have been killed for Azathoth's sake), the cops who had to scrape up anything remotely remains-like before the gulls and rats moved in and the commuters who were standing right there when the jumper jumped.

He leapt from the place I would have been standing had I not been delayed.

As for the evening casualty, he (or she, I don't know for sure) was apparently walking along the track bed. In the dark.

To the ghost of the gentleman from the morning episode: I'm sure that there was some point to doing the deed in the way it was done, but given that you can't be around to gleefully observe the results, why make it so nasty for everyone, you git?

To the ghost of the person from the evening. Stay off the tracks. Whoops, too late.

Maybe what we need is those places like the one in which Edward G Robinson opted out in the movie Soylent Green1.

And once again I find myself defending the LIRR, who were absolutely blameless in all of this nonsense (with the possible exceptions of hiring an incompetent bus driver and deploying the usual "keep flubbing until it all goes away" plan in the evening). In a blog concieved primarily as a way to vent at the LIRR too. It makes me ill just to think about it, though probably not as ill as my fellow commuters feel every time they think about what they saw that morning.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

  1. Which, if I heard right, is actually purple

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