Monday, April 16, 2007

The Gods of Transportation Hate Me

It's beginning to look like I'll need to sacrifice some kind of small animal to the spirits of motorized conveyance, so any suggestions as to what animals, rituals, and/or deities would be most efficacious will be greatly appreciated.

Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of My Day of Transportation Woe:

You may have heard that we got a little bit of rain in these parts yesterday, so, when I went out to wait for a bus this morning, I determined not to be my usual picky self -- no, I would take the first bus that came by, even if that was a local, since my usual express would be sure to be delayed if not missing entirely. I did get on a local, after only waiting at the stop for about ten minutes. The bus made its usual poky way, and I got to reading. Sometime later, a passenger paying better attention jumped up and asked the driver why he was traveling west on Route 46, when New York was to our east. The driver's answer: oops, he'd forgotten what route he was driving.

We made it into the city with only minor delays after we got ourselves correctly oriented. (That is: pointed east.) I narrowly missed another Transport Disaster when I dashed onto the NRQW platform at Times Square to find trains on both sides...but I took a second to realize that they were a N and a Q, both expresses. So I waited for an R, and arrived safely, and only about half-an-hour late, at my building.

Where the elevators weren't working. And the emergency back-up passenger elevator in the back of the building was also not working. I fought my way into the second freight-car load and got up to my floor, where a colleague muttered darkly about not being able to get out to the company's main offices on Long Island...and I remembered that I had meetings in that office that very afternoon!

Soon it was noon, and time to leave for the train to beautiful, bucolic Garden City. Strangely, we got a roomy and pleasant taxi almost immediately. Almost as if Someone was toying with me...

The train ride out was uneventful, and the meetings had events, but not any worth mentioning here.

Then it was three o'clock. The last meeting had just ended. We thought the train was at 3:06. We rushed through the rain to the platform! And then waited a few minutes before checking our train schedules and learning that, while there are quite commonly trains at six minutes past the hour, the next train at that time of day was at 3:41. Dejection set in.

But wait! I exclaimed. We can take the bus on Franklin Avenue to the Mineola station! The trains from that station are swift and true, and one need not change trains at Jamaica (of cursed name)! So we tramped back to the other side of the building, to wait for a bus.

And wait.

And wait.

And then tramp back to the train platform, just in time for the aforementioned 3:41, after the only bus to come into sight had the fateful words "NOT IN SERVICE" emblazoned in fiery orange on its forecastle.

We took the train. We changed at Jamaica. The train was just late enough that I had no chance to catch my usual bus at 4:45. (When I reached the Port Authority Bus Terminal, large signs informed me to expect 30-minute delays. But, through long and painful experience, I have learned that this means that all previous buses have left on time -- they will not be delayed -- but that your bus might well take quite some time to arrive.) As it was, I got on the next bus -- another local, a fateful local, leaving only a few minutes after its scheduled 5:10 departure.

We made good time...until we broke down at about 5:40 on the side of Route 46. (Remember Route 46? It's a song about Route 46.) The bus garage promised to send out a new bus and a tow truck. Other buses were instructed to stop and pick up we sad passengers.

Did those buses stop? No, they did not -- they went whizzing by for the next hour.

Did the tow truck arrive? Actually, it did, but it couldn't tow the bus with us on it, so that didn't help much.

Did the replacement bus arrive? Not for more than an hour. So we sad passengers dragged ourselves onto the replacement bus, and continued on our way. Nearly everyone got off in the town of Wayne, and the few of us left gathered at the front of the bus in anticipation of getting home.

Did I mention the rain before? It rained yesterday. It rained a lot. I live in a town called Pompton Lakes, which has three rivers flowing through it. Flowing with all sorts of bends and curves. Oh, and there's this big lake -- couldn't guess from the name, could you? -- which also tends to fill up when there's water about, which, as I said, was the case yesterday. So water levels were rising in all sorts of odd parts of my town...including up to a major bridge leading from Pompton Lake into the mighty Pequannock River. I usually get off my bus right after it passes over that bridge. Usually.

So I saw a huge line of traffic backed up, and I realized, being not completely stupid, that my bridge must be closed to vehicular traffic. This is fine, I said to the driver, I'll get off here.

So I did. I walked along the road -- much faster than the two lines of bumper-to-bumper cars, I'm happy to say, crossed the road, and tried to walk in through an alternate route. (This would be another, smaller bridge, which I could see had some water in front of it but was clear itself.) So I trudged through about four inches of water in the middle of a side road, got up onto the bridge, and saw...about two feet of water in the middle of the road, going up at least two streets. And I turned around again, walked back through the water, back up to the main road, and continued along (still well ahead of my bus, though).

I made it to the bridge, when a loudly amplified voice told me it was closed to pedestrian traffic. I tried to reason with the friendly policeman, making note of my slim build and light-hearted demeanor, and claiming I could flit across the bridge with barely a touch of my doe-like foot.

He did not agree, and made dark references to his handcuffs. He gestured towards a PSE&G truck, with airy references to gas lines under the bridge, and the amount of paperwork he would have to fill out if I managed to blow myself, and the bridge, up. I pleaded, pointing out that my home was only about three block -- three dry blocks, in that direction (I pointed). He stood firm.

We finally agreed that I would re-join the line of traffic (remember the line of traffic? imagine it oozing by, very slowly, during this whole section) by getting on a bus and seeing where the detour would take me.

That bus, just coming up to the intersection before the bridge, was, by an odd twist of fate, my bus -- not the one I had been on previously (which was still a quarter of a mile back, in the oozing traffic), but my usual bus, the one filled with the bosom companions of my youth (or, at least, a bunch of people I know well enough to nod at now and then). I quickly joined them, and we swapped tales of woe -- their bus had left on time at 4:45, but had been trapped by rising waters on Route 23, and had spent the last two and a half hours (it was now nearly 8) going little more than five miles.

Well, the detour wasn't all that bad -- I got onto the bus just as it got to the final merge, so it was much less oozy at that point -- and the detour followed pretty much the path I'd expected, into the middle of my town. At least a mile, maybe two, past my house. And the bus wasn't going backwards. So, those of us whose stops had been bypassed got off, and trudged backwards.

I finally got home -- the one who walked back the furthest -- at about 8:30, only three hours later than usual. (After leaving a meeting at 3:00, mind you.)

And that's why I think I need to slaughter a goat to appease ol' Poseidon (or whomever). How was your day?

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