So yesterday the commuters attempting to catch the 8:58 am connection at Jamaica for Atlantic Terminal were witness to a particularly egregious example of the Bloody Long Island Railroad letting their inner Buster Keaton out for a walk.
At Jamaica, tracks 3 and 4 are adjacent, but served by different platforms. To get from platform 3 to platform 4 one must run up a flight of stairs, cross a bridge and trot down a flight of stairs, all the time fighting past equally determined and rushed commuters trying to execute the exact mirror image maneuver.
While this is a normal commuting inconvenience for me, for the vast majority of people punching, kicking and biting their way up and down flights of stairs are new to the process, those who have followed the Bloody Long Island Railroad's advice to avoid Penn Station during the interminable Amtrak work needed to stop trains derailing when trying to park to let the passengers on or off. Who could have predicted that decades of infrastructure neglect could result in such chaos1?
The train to Hunterspoint Avenue, one of the suggested "alternatives" to Penn Station is a blocky, double-decker train pulled by a duplex drive2 locomotive. The Atlantic Avenue train is a single-decked EMU train, sometimes of surprising vintage3, like 99% of the trains on the Bloody Long Island Railroad.
The trains had been announced on the PA as arriving on their usual tracks, 3 for the Hunterspoint Avenue train, 4 for the one to Atlantic Terminal. All the nice new destination boards hanging from the platform awnings were saying the same in bright yellow LED writing.
One might have thought this was now a done deal, but as I stood waiting for my train to Atlantic Terminal a large double-decker pulled in and opened its doors. I checked the destination boards. Still showing this train as heading for Brooklyn. But a sneaking suspicion was forming in Mr Brain and instead of pushing, kicking and biting my way to the carriage doors as per usual I hung back and prepared to sprint.
Sure enough, the destination boards suddenly went blank as someone desperately pulled out the plug, killing the nice helpful yellow messages of a commute safely underway.
I sprinted for the stairs and hit the now-empty staircase running. In the dopplering sounds of the station behind me I heard the PA burst into life and announce the Brooklyn train on track 3, and the Hunterspoint Avenue train on track 4, along with a shamefaced “This is a track change for today only”4.
Yep. The Bloody Long Island Railroad had, in a burst of breathtaking incompetence, managed to steer the trains onto exactly the wrong tracks despite having destination boards and announcers saying what should be happening. I guess no-one told the idiots in the signal box.
Experience shows these people aren't the brightest bulbs in the bulb-holding thing at the best of times. Every day the train from Wyandanch pulls up to Jamaica and is blocked by a train that hasn't left for Penn Station yet - this despite the fact it happens every fbleeping day. I have the vision of a signal box staff clutching their heads in bewilderment and screaming "Look out! Here comes another one! It's just like yesterday! For pity's sake! Where are these trains all coming from?"
That vision was augmented yesterday by another in which the train drivers, leaning into the curve they expected to take, were suddenly swung the other way, banging their heads on the side windows of their cabs and screaming "WHAT THE Fbleep!" as they were hijacked by the incompetents tasked with setting the switches5.
I've said it before and will say it again: The Bloody Long Island Railroad couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery.