Friday, December 08, 2017

Last Night I Had A Terrible Dream

No wait, it was real, but still a nightmare

For the first time in weeks I was able to get out of work in time to catch the 6:04 pm from Atlantic Terminal, albeit by racing to a subway, punching, kicking and biting my way onto a train, stampeding down the stairs at risk of life and limb, punching, kicking and biting my way onto an elevator, then doing the same to get off the elevator, vaulting the people-jam at the turnstiles out of the subway and into Atlantic Terminal, running to platform one and jumping on the waiting train. So far nothing out of the ordinary.

The train was one of those blessed with whatever condition causes them to surge from side-to-side presenting a considerable concussion risk to tired commuters in window seats, and before we’d reached Jamaica1 my shoulder was bruised from being smashed against the wall and I was nauseous from the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea re-enactment.

I should mention that we have been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures (again2) but that this day the temperature had plummeted to suitably wintry levels of killing cold3.

So imagine everyone’s dismay to be told at Farmingdale that the train was being taken out of service because someone had been struck by a train in - wait for it - Brentwood, three stops east of us.

With a resigned sigh I pressed the button on my wireless earbuds to stop the music I was listening to4 and disconnect the bluetooth connection to my phone so I could properly concentrate on the fiasco in progress, pulled the earbuds from my ears and hung them around my neck.

We asked why they couldn’t carry us as far as Deer Park, but the conductor just shrugged and said everyone had to get off the train, which was being sent back west to Bethpage, Hicksville etc.

And imagine the mass consternation when, having lightened the train by removing the only reason for having it in the first place, the bleeping thing raced off east towards Wyandanch, Deer Park etc. I’ve never before heard so many people in unison scream “What the Fbleep!”

At that moment, my phone rang. I answered it but there was no sound. A quick check of the screen was all it took to confirm that Mrs Stevie was calling to yell at me. Saved! I would be saved if I could overcome this idiotic new problem with the phone.

“Hello! Hello!” I screamed into the slab of uncooperative glass. “Are you receiving me, damn and blast it?” I howled, but got no response.

I hung up and called her back. No sooner was the phone answered than the sound went dead again.

“Can you hear me?” I yelled. “Why don’t you answer you incredibly annoying woman! I’ll bet you activated call forwarding again. I wonder where I’m calling this time? Lithuania? Your stone deaf mother? Answer this bloody phone at once or by thunder I won’t be responsible for my actions!”

I was really warming up to the subject of Mrs Stevie’s lack of acumen with respect to smartphone technology when I became aware of an outraged squeaking coming from just below my chin. I suddenly thought of a possible reason I couldn’t hear diddly through my phone, and deciding speed was of the essence killed the bluetooth transmitter in the phone.

“…get my hands on your scrawny neck!” blared from the phone. Mrs Stevie was obviously dealing with some difficult person at work and was unaware her phone was live.

“Never mind that” I said, “come and rescue me from death by freezing. The Bloody Long Island Railroad has collapsed into its own incompetence again. They are turning a squished person into a major production.”

“Oh I’ll come and get you all right” snarled my beloved, obviously put out of sorts by whatever had provoked the threat I had overheard, but the good news was I was no longer at the mercy of the Bloody Long Island Railroad and would not end up another frozen corpse for them to deal with.

And so I pushed and shoved my way off the crowded platform, exchanging epithets and the occasional kicks with my fellow victims of the Bloody Long Island Railroad, and sat on the freezing cold cast iron bench in front of the station to await Mrs Stevie’s rescue.

Periodically some idiot would come on the PA system and tell us that we should take the Montauk branch instead of the Ronkonkoma branch, on account of the Montauk branch trains actually moving people,but this advice was about as much use as a ham sandwich at a Jewish wedding as the Montauk branch is an extension of the Babylon branch which lies several miles from Farmingdale and Farmingdale is singularly unequipped with connecting busses. The cab situation can be summed up as a waste of time too.

None of this mattered because the Montauk branch stays that far from all destinations on the Ronkonkoma branch. Anyone following the absurd directions would be faced with a monumental problem wherever they got off the bloody Montauk train, miles from where their car would be parked.

I admit to being a little apprehensive about Mrs Stevie’s possible overreaction to our little phone misunderstanding, but luckily by the time she fought her way through the traffic caused by the brilliant Bloody Long Island Railroad situation and the rescuers, cabs and uber drivers arriving en masse on a road system designed to handle one horse-drawn cart per hour, Mrs Stevie’s rage was focussed on strangers and the drive back to my car was almost uneventful.

Deciding irony was called for, I bunged From The Earth To The Moon in the DVD player and watched the episode titled Spider, about how a Bethpage-based NY company, whose engineers worked with slide rules and log tables, designed and built a machine in which six men went to the Moon’s surface and came back alive and well. And in this age of a powerful computer in everyone’s pocket, we can’t even get the trains to take us anywhere with reliability.

It’s not the accident I blame them for. It’s the monumental idiocy of throwing off passengers two stops before they had to into killing cold weather. Had they done this at Deer Park everyone would have ben nearer home, which means lower cab fares, and a vast number of people would have been where they intended to be, meaning a reduction in enraged customers. It seems simple cost benefit analysis is beyond the MBAs now “running” the trains.

Today I missed my train, and discovered that my “safety train” isn’t any more, on account of it leaving five minutes later, thus arriving in Jamaica5 after the connecting train to Brooklyn has left, meaning I had a twenty minute timesuck to while away until the next train to Brooklyn arrived6.


With two minutes to go, the PA drone announced that the train was “being held7”, so I jumped in the next train to Manhattan. I could then take the subway “A” train to Brooklyn and only be an added forty five minutes late to work.


Having punched, kicked and bitten my way through ominously thick crowds of bewildered commuters the entire length of the "A" train platform, a message came over the PA system concerning the “A” train to Brooklyn. I heard very little of it because the uptown “E” decided to leave the station at the same time, generating the NYC Standard 2000 decibel racket as it did so8. Fortunately, the message was repeated so I was made aware that all Brooklyn bound express trains (an ironic synonym for the “A” trains) were being held because of a disabled train at 125th street - the entire length of Manhattan away.

Cursing a light railway infrastructure that does not permit working trains to go around broken ones, I sprinted down some stairs, through a tunnel and up some more stairs so I could catch the whistle-stop “C” local train, and add another 30 minutes to my never-ending commute.

I got to work at 11:45, an hour and a half late, where life proceeded to suck mightily in every direction I looked9 and nothing worked no matter how hard I tried.

At 7 pm I threw up my hands, slammed the lids of all uncooperative computers and made for the subway, where a “C” train vied with Christmas to see who would arrive in Manhattan first. An 8:15 train from Penn got me to Wyandanch at 9:20 pm.

And so to bed.

  1. Not the good one
  2. Nope, no climate change, nossir
  3. Stevie’s Scale of Temperatures You Care To Notice: Hot Enough To Kill, Too Hot For This Coat, OK, Too Cold For This Jacket, Cold Enough To Kill
  4. Glass Hammer, Perilous
  5. Still not the good one
  6. I normally just sit it out in the Manhattan-bound train, but the subway ride has to work just right or I arrive later than I would had I waited 20 minutes for the Bloody Long Island Railroad train
  7. No idea where, why or for how long of course
  8. While on a visit to Montreal I once almost missed a train that arrived while I was looking the other way because although I was not three feet from the tracks the train was almost silent in operation. American engineers haven’t twigged that you can have your train and hearing too
  9. Mathematicians claim that there are ten directions, but six of them are rolled up so we never see them and one is called time by everyone not a stupid mathematician. I have no doubt that those six directions only mathematicians can see were this day tightly rolled packages of suck