Yesterday, I went to New York for a reader lunch, part of the sweepstakes package won by the lovely Ashley and Becky. We met in SoHo and felt very cool indeed, had a great time swapping celebrity gossip and talking about books. Afterward, my friend Margo (who’s
an editor at Harlequin) and I wandered around, looking at shoes and diamonds and window shopping, having a great time, despite the heat.
Okay, it was very, very hot yesterday, and New York is a heat-sponge…all that concrete, all those shiny buildings reflecting the sun. So we were sweaty, but hey! How often do we get to hang out like that?
Afterward, I found a cool café and worked a little, then joined two friends for a wonderful dinner. Before I knew it, it was time to go, and I realized if I grabbed a cab lickety split, I could make the 8:34 express and be home in time to snuggle with McIrish. So I used my awesome whistling skills (one of three life skills), jumped in a cab, told the driver NOT to drive through Times Square (he disobeyed), glanced at my watch, thought “Crap, I’m gonna have to run, and my shoes, and my dress, and oh, well.” Got out at the light, ran a block to Grand Central (but snapped this picture just the same because I’ll always be a dorky teenage girl in love with NYC in my heart of hearts), ran through the crowd, dodging, dodging, panting, bag flapping, there was my track, and boo-yah! I made it and the train started moving, but dang it, I had to go to the bathroom, and there was no toilet paper, but I had tissues, and hand sanitizer and recognized that life could be worse. Phew!
Alas, there were no seats in the first two cars, except next to an apparent gang of very scary-looking thugs who did not answer when I gave my trademark “Hello!” I waited for the train to stop at 125th Street to go to the next car. The sign says “Do not use this door if the train is moving,” and I’m the obedient middle child.
I got into the next car. There were two seats available. I took the one where the guy wasn’t manspreading and sat down. “Hello!” I said. He mumbled hello. I sat down. Noticed had some homemade tattoos on his arm. Hey. I watched Oz. I got it. He opened up his water jug and took a swig. The jug’s fumes were not those of water. Okay, so he was blotto drunk. He also didn’t smell that good. No one did; the train was full of overheated, disappointed, beer-infused Yankee fans.
When my seatmate began to snore and drool, I slid over to the other seat. “Hello!” said I. “Hello!” said my new seatmate. He had one tooth. He too was nowhere in the neighborhood of sober. He also wore a Yankees t-shirt.
Then…the train stopped about 20 minutes out of the city. This happens; I wasn’t worried. Not until the conductor came on the PA and said, “Folks, there’s police activity on the tracks up ahead. It’s gonna be awhile.”
My seatmate leaped up. “I need to investigate!” he said. I hastily got out of his way. A few rows ahead, one man (also in a Yankees t-shirt) could not believe the injustice of us being stuck. He began yelling and dropping the F-bomb, even though there were kids around. “Shut up!” his friend began to yell. I began to see why people hate Yankees fans. I opened my laptop and started playing solitaire.
Then the conductor accidentally came on the PA as he was talking to dispatch. “I got 550 people on board! You gotta be kidding me!” The entire car groaned. There was more yelling, more cries of the unfairness of life, of how this would make people late. Me, I was playing solitaire on the computer, and it was air conditioned, so I didn’t care.
“Folks, you’re gonna have to get off the train,” the conductor said. “Stand on the platform, and we’ll send another train for you as soon as we can.”
Like lemmings, we all filed off. And my God, the smell. Rotting trash? Sewage? Decaying corpses? Whatever it was, it was horrible. One woman immediately threw up. I stopped to help her; oddly, she was retching while talking on the phone. (Teachable moment: don’t puke and talk on the phone at the same time.) I took a note from the Princess’s coping skills and thought of Harry Potter.
We waited for the other train, as the local train that I didn’t take flew past. There was more cussing, more yelling, more fury at the suffering.
I’m not gonna lie. I was thinking of Munich, and Dallas and Baton Rouge, of Charles Kinsey and Alton Sterling and Kabul. Things could’ve been a lot worse than the Yankees losing, it being hot and our train being delayed. As a firefighter’s wife, I know that when there’s police activity on the train tracks, it’s probably because someone is suicidal or dead. I wished I had a bullhorn to do a little speechifying.
Our substitute next train came. It was a local, and already full of people—more heat-stroked Yankees fans who’d had too much beer. They weren’t happy to see us (or smell us). One 20-something woman started to cry because there were no seats. I said, “Sweetheart, do you want to sit here? “No,” she said, continuing to cry. Sigh.
We stopped at every possible station from New Rochelle all the way to the end of the line in New Haven, where I had parked. I drove home, eyes sticky with fatigue, to my quiet house in the woods. Everyone was asleep except the doggies, who were very happy to see me.
I took a long, long shower. It felt so good to be clean and smelling of grapefruit once again! And despite my long ride home, I had the best time in the city! Also, I’m getting really good at solitaire. : )