Here are a few short weird commuting stories for your Blog-reading pleasure.
Once, while driving upstate to Albany, NY for a consulting assignment, I was on a completely clear highway… clear except for one potential obstacle up ahead – a RAIN CLOUD! Yes, a lone rain cloud – pouring rain, I might add – was directly up the road in my path, hanging low in the sky (just above the ground) and soaking the road ahead. I could see it from a distance, all by its lonesome. I drove through it, my car was drenched, and I came out the other side to see it in my rear view mirror. I’ve never seen the likes of that before or since. Nor, have I ever passed through a cloud (…not low-lying FOG, but an honest-to-high-pressure CLOUD, doing “cloud-ish things” like rain) and not been in an airplane.
How many of you have ever hit a DUCK IN FLIGHT while driving? On to another consulting assignment in Northern CT, I was traveling the Merritt Parkway on a fine fall afternoon when, up ahead, I saw a duck perched on the side of the road. As I drove nearer, I saw the duck rear up its wings. “AWWW, NOOO!”, I thought, knowing what was about to happen. Sure enough, the duck took off, from my right side – and out over the road… directly in my path. It was gaining altitude, but not enough to clear my windshield. BAM! It hit right in front of me, and left a slight bloody streak across the windshield. The windshield washer and wipers took care of the streak and, at highway speed on the narrow hilly Merritt, I was not about to look back to see what became of the duck. Hopefully, it suffered no more than a Hollywood Flesh Wound and continued on its way. If not, I will eternally attempt to “make it up” to ducks everywhere by trying to write Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic books to the very best of my ability.
The “E Train”, between Queens and Manhattan, is truly an experience to be savored. If you commute between Eastern Queens and Long Island City or Manhattan, as I did during 2003-2005, it can be very crowded and uncomfortable – and often made worse by things that just shouldn’t happen to civilized human beings. Often, I would unnecessarily lengthen my commute home by taking the “V Local Train” over the faster "E Express", just to avoid the discomfort… but this day I braved the E – and actually managed to squeeze into a seat (!)… when the panic started! From the far side of the car, passengers began screaming and jumping out of their seats. I could only guess that a RAT was loose in the car – as they are such a common sight on the track bed, and sometimes even on the platforms. BUT, NO… it was worse than even a rat (…that you could always shoo out of the car the next time the doors opened). It was a “rushing yellow river of pee” emanating from a sleeping, zombie-like guy, seemingly unconscious at the end of the car. As the train curved and pitched, the feared torrent of urine poured down the car from one end to another (…tilt a not-quite-empty bottle of liquid back and forth to simulate the effect!), causing great horror among us non-zombies as it went!
Once you get past the expense and parking issues, The Long Island Rail Road might actually be the best way to commute… as long as your destination is Manhattan, and maybe downtown Brooklyn. A far-western destination like Long Island City is not at all convenient, but the trip can be reasonably negotiated with the proper amount of diligence.
I USED to enjoy the LIRR far more than I do now for commuting. Time was that, unless you were in a “Three-Seater” next to two persons who know each other, you could travel in relative quiet – could read or sleep to your heart’s content. Now, no matter where you sit, and no matter who sits around you, you are bombarded with incessant cell phone conversations and assaulted by electronic noisemakers of every size, shape and volume level. Reading becomes difficult and sleep – unless completely exhausted – impossible.
In those good old days, I would sleep every morning into Penn Station, and read through the trip home. There was a particular seating configuration that would occur ONCE in every linked pair of the older (‘70s ‘80s vintage) rail cars… the LAST SEAT NEXT TO THE RIGHT SIDE WALL AT ONE END OF THE CAR where there was NO WINDOW, just a smooth wall. (LIRR commuters probably know what I mean!) There was a similar situation for the LEFT SIDE WALL but, as I preferred to lean my head to the right to sleep, I would – whenever possible – make a beeline for that singular seat. I would blissfully sleep my way into Penn Station, with my Monthly Commutation Ticket pinned to my tie by a tie clip for the conductor to see on his rounds.
One early-nineties morn, I woke up from my usual sleep to a pleasant surprise. I had been sleeping, with my head against the back right side wall as usual, and I woke to find an attractive young lady curled up snugly next to me sleeping quite comfortably. Never one to question a good “gift snuggle” – and STILL not entirely certain I wasn’t dreaming – I remained motionless and enjoyed the ride… until she woke up rather embarrassed.
Nothing like closing on a “Happy Ending”!