Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anatomy of an Uckfup

Tax return deadline day dawned to the happy sound of my phone melting itself reporting a slew of incoming texts.

My boss has an important personal axe a-grinding, one that will mean a week of meetings, and he made it clear that I was to be at all of them and on time at all costs. Naturally he began by scheduling all these meetings far too early for me to get there, the realities of the Bloody Long Island Rail Road not being an area with which he has troubled his steel-trap mind (despite repeated explanations), and just as naturally I negotiated for a return to planet Earth, time-wise.

So, having made of myself a high-profile target when it came to prompt arrival at today's meeting, and having actually filed my taxes before today's deadline so as to clear the day of distractions, it was obvious what these text messages would be: the Bloody Long Island Rail Road crowing that service was badly disrupted on my line1 and it wasn't their fault2.

I greeted the day with some appropriate low-wattage Words of Power and leapt from my bed.

A sad mistake.

For the previous Wednesday evening I had injured my back quite severely by foolishly bending over the sink to expel the rinse water from my mouth after some ill-starred dental hygiene. I dunno what is wrong, and neither does Doc Rubberglove's partner3. I'm okay(ish) lying down, and I'm okay(ish) standing up, but the transition between the two states has broken glass in our house as I explain to the neighbours that my spine is doing unto me stuff that there are laws against even if you do pay for it and sign Mistress Alexa's release forms.

So once again the neighbours were woken by my manly falsetto shrieks, entreaties to anyone near to render aid and/or a merciful death etc. I imagine it was very inspiring if you didn't happen to possess the back in question.

Eventually I was up, showered, dressed (won't make that "save time by dressing in the car" mistake again) and on the road heading for Babylon, since the gist of the one hundred and twenty three messages I had received in the preceding half hour was "no trains at all on the Ronkonkoma branch line". Imagine my joy and that of my fellow Wyandanch-to-Babylon Grand Prix racers to be dueling for possession of the road with that most insidious of commute-ruiners, that most intolerable menace to the peace of mind of drivers anywhere, that cow-pat in the field of urban transit infrastructure: school busses.

Talk about lollygaggers. Every two seconds on went the red flashing lights and out pops the "STOP" sign that by state law has both directions of frothing, delay-maddened drivers screaming, biting the steering wheel and other stuff too horrible to mention, as dawdling kids got on the bus, sometimes got off again and therefore having to be forcibly enbussed, not to mention the impromptu parent-driver conferences, all the while the sure knowledge passing through everyone's mind that the three parking spaces at Babylon station not allocated to permit-only parking were singing their sluttish siren song to all passers-by.

Eventually the pack roared under the railway bridge in a crescendo of screaming internal combustive oomph, sped through the chicane between the pub and the florist and began The Hunt ForThe Last Parking Space.

It was long-gone.

And so began the ever-widening hunt for somewhere, anywhere, to dump the fabulous Steviemobile so I could try and arrive at work this side of September.

The problem, which may not be apparent to non-commuters, is that at Babylon the car parks are scattered around in a maze of small roads, packed in amongst residential housing. There are signs on many of them that explain that the reason this particular car-park has room in it is that each space belongs to someone who pays for a numbered permit, someone who it just so happens doesn't actually need their space right now, but they might so you can't have it and if you try you're car will be towed. The signs in question are small, often only readable after one has already begun entering the car park.

I drove in increasing spirals, occasionally encountering pedestrians who decided to liven up the process by walking into a crosswalk just as I was about to cross it, and then dawdling, pausing to admire the scenery and so forth. One guy decided he didn't like the way I had brought my vehicle to a stop and paused mid-crossing to explain the ascendancy order of traffic to me. Ha! When he caught sight of my livid visage through the windshield he almost fell over in his haste to finish crossing.

I eventually found a space in a small car park about half a mile away from the station which allowed non-permit-holding scum to park in certain spots provided they paid in a machine like the one I had so enjoyed using only last week. Not only that, I was in good time for a train to Jamaica with a connection to Atlantic Terminal. All was going to be well, it seemed.

Or not.

A sudden second sense warned me that the crowd of people milling about, shaking their fists and acting in a very disgruntled manner was a sign of possible further trouble, and it proved to be the case. None of the pay-for-parking machines was functional.

A "security guard" was paroling and we eventually managed to get him to stop and radio through the situation, after he had warned everyone several times of the $75 dollar fine for non-payment. It took forever to get this paragon of public service to understand that it wasn't that we were refusing to pay for parking, but that the car park authority was refusing to allow us to do so.

More people showed up and were warned about fines for non-payment. The mood was getting seriously ugly before a team of technicians arrived to fix the machines. I have rarely seen someone so intent on starting an unnecessary riot than the old guy in that securitymobile.

The technicians got to work, and one loud would-be parker told a gang of about half a dozen to "just go" and he would sort out the parking fees once the machines were fixed. Which turned out to be a foolish thing to do because they had all parked in illegal spaces and he only found out that was the case after everyone had left theater. Oh well.

Then the techs decided the machines would not get fixed in a timely manner and began taking parking space numbers on a pad, explaining that fines for these spaces would be waived4

As I write I have made my usual 9:08 am connection, so I can hope the commute horseshirt is over for the nonce.

Although there is still the subway portion to be experienced.

  1. Which is becoming a twice-weekly affair for some reason which in any other enterprise would demand a draconian program of firings, demotions and reprimands to fumigate from the schedule
  2. If it is their fault, you hear nothing other than the standard "The Train due to arrive at ridiculously-long-list-of-stations-with-now-pointless-times is being delayed"
  3. The Doc himself was AWOL on Thursday when I begged for an appointment with someone who could command a pharmacist to sell me prescription pain killers by the handful
  4. I fully expect to discover tonight that these men had no authority to do that and I have therefore paid $75 for parking

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