Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Round To The Bloody Long Island Rail Road

Stop me if you've heard this one

It seems there was this signalbox that had somehow, in the welter of moneyspending that had gone on in the last 25 years had not been modernized much. It still used some sort of comical pneumatic system installed during Warren Gamaliel Harding's administration1 to work the points and signals and other froofaraw that a railway needs to direct trains through complicated junctions, and they don't come much more complicated than Jamaica (not the good one) where eight lines enter, eight lines leave and in between they can all be cross connected in about 14 bajillion different configurations. Want to send that train that normally stops on track eight to track one? Pushpushpresstwiddle, hishisshissphut! Job done, 23 Skiddoo!2.

There was plenty of wiring in there too, connected in some arcane way to the Magnificent Air-Organ of Train Steerage, but I'm not sure what role it played other a demonstrably important one. Some of his wiring was of the hand-extruded, lizard-hide insulated kind fitted personally by Thomas Edison, but at least one was of the newer, "better" machine made plastic coated stuff all we Electrical Savants know and love.

Perplexingly, one Monday, it came to pass that it was this newer, "better" wire that caught fire.

The fire was extinguished in a matter of minutes, but by then the stalwart damage Crews of the Bloody Long Island Rail Road had gotten stuck in and declared a state of emergency, shutting down the entire network. Management than went into crisis mode as they had done so many times before and began sequestering information so that the commuters who were against all reason cramming into Penn Station trying to get home would be able to swelter shoulder to shoulder with like minded free-thinkers in an atmosphere of ignorance for hours.

Well, luck wasn't with the LIRR that day because those same commuters, who should have fallen on bended knee and thanked their various Gods, both benevolent and squamous, for this their gift of a chance to stew for hours in the damp air breathed before by about two thousand people, instead began speaking to the press, opining that in their view said railroad personnel could not for the life of them find their own rear ends with both hands, a map and a top of the line GPS navigation system.

So enraged were the LIRR at this lack of proper fawning that they sent in a spokesman of their own, who stood in front of a camera, "explained" the problem ("the railroad is broken" is a rough paraphrase of his statement) then dodged all questions about why there is no backup system, why the equipment was so easily damaged as to cripple the entire railroad3 and why no-one felt moved to instigate railroad-to-paying5-passengers lines of communication, that last a constant feature of all LIRR problems-in-progress. Why the idiots in charge of the LIRR can't get a bleeping clue on this one is beyond me. Any problem on the railroad is made infinitely worse by them not uttering a single sound as to what is wrong and, more importantly, how long it will take them to get one home.

Now your humble scribe dodged this particular bullet by virtue of the fact that he spent the weekend running role-playing games at a local Gaming Convention and had taken Monday off to recuperate, the old manly juices not running so wild as they once did and stuff like this taking a toll on the old constitution6.

On Tuesday I attempted a commute, but gave up when most of my morning trains failed to show up. It seemed that the LIRR wasn't done with this particular silliness. Luckily I was not needed at work, so I took the day off and went back to bed in disgust.

Today the LIRR is still in turmoil, and failed totally to move me from A to B successfully, which wouldn't have been so bad if someone hadn't boarded the train at Hicksville who sat opposite me, announced he was a member of the "tea party"7 and spent the trip between there and Merillon Avenue trying to get me to agree that everything he was yelling about was right.

Before this event I was tollerant of the (to me delusional) views of this mostly right wing conservative action group, but now I feel they must be stamped on out.

This man knew everything. Socialized medicine was bad and I was an idiot if I didn't see that (no point pointing out that as I had lived both with and without socialized medicine and he demonstrably had not he was in no position to be lecturing me as to it's utility or workability). Canadians were swarming over the border to use up all the healthcare in America. I asked him to explain to me how that worked, and before he could launch into his set speech (derived from Pa Bush's counter-Clinton election soundbites) I pointed out the obvious absurdity of a people who had perfectly good healthcare paid for out of their taxes crossing a border to use an overpriced healthcare system they'd have to pay for out of pocket. He responded by yowling that he'd never mentioned Canadians and called me a "Liberal".

Presumably he would have started in on Mexicans if I hadn't waved my hands and said firmly that I was done talking with him. He tried several times to re-engage but I repulsed all his advances. I don't mind being called "liberal", but when someone in this country calls anyone "a Liberal" all further discussion is futile as they have put their opponent in a box that contains everything that person personally believes is Wrong With America.

When I meet people like this I like to draw them into discussions of the economy (Obama's Fault for not fixing same, of course) and then point out that the last time my investments made any sort of real money was under Clinton, and that under G.W.B.'s stewardship my savings would have been safer if I had put them in a shoebox under my bed and then set fire to my house. The kicker is that the figures can't be argued with, and it drives conservatives, most of whom are Republican voters, up the wall.

To point out that it only takes a second to smash up a car but it takes hours to fix it again is lost on such people who refuse to accept that the country was mismanaged for years and badly mismanaged for the last six of the Bush administration.

I arrived at work to find a gajillion nagging e-mails from various people wondering why I wasn't answering their previous e-mail. Since I had had a particularly aggressive session with a physical therapist that morning I was in no mood to coddle whiners and dealt with them accordingly. Amongst those e-mails was a demand for a status report on a project it is almost impossible to work on owing to the pressures of other stuff.

Next I was summoned to a meeting that made toothache look interesting. This had the usual effect on my bowels so I ran to the gentlemen's rest room and public trash heap. Some days just entering this room is enough to persuade me never to shake hands again. I raced to a stall, grabbed a paper seat-cover and tugged it to release it from its cardboard dispensing box. It tore in half, the box shifted inside the in-wall metal box container and it dropped out of sight into the depths of the wall cavity with a hollow "bong!". I could see it was going to be a good day.

I didn't get lunch on account of whiners taking up all my time. I did manage to deliver a rush job to a developer, who thanked me by asking about two items I had been specifically told not to discuss with him by my ultraboss. This put me in a hard place since I had already engaged with this developer on the items in question before the ultraboss had decided to intervene, and was also doing other sanctioned stuff the ultraboss had demanded be given Top Priority for him. It was impossible to play dead on the other two issues so I simply replied to everyone in the world with a terse statement that the issues were under review.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this will please no-one and result in a shirtstorm from both sides aimed at my desk, so I have only one course of action tomorrow.

Take another day off.

  1. 1920 for those too bone-idle to look it up
  2. Which raises the question as to why simple train breakdowns bring the entire shooting match to a standstill time after time. No man knoweth the reason
  3. A lie of the most blatant stripe. the Port Washington line was unaffected. On account of it not going anywhere near Jamaica (NTGO4)
  4. Not The Good One
  5. Through the nose
  6. Though strength, wisdom, dexterity, intelligence and charisma were unaffected. Ahahahahaha
  7. A so-called "grass-roots" movement that sprang up in the aftermath of the Obama election win and which has a few good points to bring up hidden amongst a pile of trash-talk that obscures the real issues under anti-Obama rhetoric so virulent I have to wonder if this country has gone anywhere towards racial acceptance in the last fifty years

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