When Aunt Sophie died and I got the gold Cadillac, I decided that I was going drive rather than take public transportation when traveling from DC to New York or NY to Boston – sometimes even DC to Boston. I like the idea of just getting into my most comfortable old, but still plush vehicle, not waiting for a train or a bus – where I would have to deal with crowds (I can build one but I don’t like to be in one) -- and just going.
Books on tape have become a passion and I have had the pleasure of many hours of listening enjoyment, as well as many minutes of horrible readers. Even when the story is good if the reader is bad you just can’t make it through a tape.
So imagine my consternation when I learned that the power steering hose had a leak and I would not be able to make the trip from NY to DC in my own space. What to do? David loves the train and it is logistically easier than the plane, so I made reservations to go on the ground. I made my reservations for the 11:30 –which originates in NY. It is always better to take a train that starts in the city from which you depart than to have to battle passengers who have been established in a seat for 300 miles. But since we turned back the clocks and my body time was an hour ahead, I was ready to go at 8am. But I needed to complete some bank business (Kerry and I now have a joint account for when we are being jointly entertained –see blob 8/4 for more info). When I finished that business it was 8:45. If I’d had my car I would just have thrown stuff in the back seat and been on the road in no time, but because I was reserved for an 11:30, I had to change my departure time (on line, with an agent, or at the station.) By the time I had completed the banking and change task, it was 9:15 and I reserved on the 10:30. That’s the mediocre news.
The good news is that when you travel by train you get to go to the train station. In this case it was Penn Station. Let me share this confidence. The thing I like least about train travel is getting on, (especially if the train does not originate in NY or DC) so I usually ask a Red Cap for help. The last time Jordan and I boarded by ourselves I almost got in a fist fight with a Philistine, who thought he should be in front of us -- and everyone else in the station. I think it was an occasion when I asked him if he took his foul mouth to church with him on Sundays (a favorite comeback which works much better than screaming back obscenities). I no longer attempt to board without assistance.
Anyway, when you await assistance you do it from a designated area (they throw that in once you’ve indicated you may actually spend a couple of bucks.) This morning it was the waiting area –not for the Acela Express but for steerage passengers. It doesn’t really matter where you stand, you still get to observe the dynamic of the busy confusing station. First I located a Red Cap who would provide assistance and then I began my watching. An older couple stopped at the security gate and asked the woman at the desk if she would help them find a porter. “ I can help you find a Red Cap” she replied. “We don’t have porters anymore.” I looked at her and we both chuckled. “It’s an age thing”, I said. Or he has been watching too many movies on TCM.” She directed him to a place where he could stand until she found someone to help him. Then a young (20’s) couple approached a “porter”, who was waiting outside security.
“Can I use your carrier” she inquired.
“No, I need it for my work.” He said nicely.
Well, you would have thought he said something horrible because she began to throw herself around. She was incredibly angry about his refusal. I mean, she was violent with her bags and her attitude. It was certainly a scene. The people behind the desk remained calm and polite, and my new friend just shook her head and, once again chuckled. “You never know what people are thinking” she remarked.
There was additional live and very local color: like a Red Cap whose overloaded cart dumped and there was luggage all over the station. There were international tourists who asked for help in their native tongue which led to colorful charade-like performances, and there were mothers dragging kids who had “no bones”. “No bones” is not a physical condition. It occurs when the kid doesn’t want to go where you want them to go, and their bodies become totally limp, so you are forced to drag them along – often leaving skid marks from the sneakers. This is a condition that often appears in supermarkets, toy stores and restaurants. The cure can be a good kick in the ‘tuchas’ but I wouldn’t do it in front of a police officer or young busy body.
My own personal Redcap, Arthur, appeared about fifteen minutes before departure.
”We have a track, so let’s go” he instructed. And after a quick “I enjoyed this time we had together” with my new friend, I was happy to leave the whirlwind activities of Penn Station behind and proceed to gate #13. I found a nice seat and spread out in hopes that the train was not over crowded and I wouldn’t have to share space with any stranger. I got my book on tape ready, along with my computer, the inflatable pillow, my 6 minute hard boiled egg salad, and my NY Post, which is easier to read in a small space than the NY Times. It was, admittedly, quite comfortable. And given the circumstances an adequate alternative to the car. At least it is better than the bus.
I have a return trip to make and by the time I get back I am hopeful that the Caddy will be repaired and ready for travel. It’s funny the things we get attached too and the things we leave behind. I mean, I really miss my DC pals and my Mini, but I am over my house and the contents. Without Jordan and her friends around, it has become a storage facility for David’s crap and a place where, when I am there, I have to drive everywhere I go to get anything I need. The irony is that 500 mile East Coast drive, which happens frequently, is such a pleasurable task, but driving the mile and a half to the market is such a drain. Oh, and I guess I miss the local library where I get the books on tape for free. Somehow traveling like millions of people (like when we lived in Jersey and I took the bus to NY everyday) has never really worked for me. But such is the place I find myself in on, thank God, not too many numerous occasions. We’re just sayin...Iris