Friday, September 17, 2010

"Lucky in Love" -- Not Lucky in Travel

Yesterday evening my old friend and 'Mazing Man co-creator Stephen DeStefano was having an art showing and book signing for his new masterpiece Lucky in Love at a gallery in New York City. Since the gallery was an easy walk from Penn Station and I have not seen Stephen in years, I thought it would be good to make the trip into the city.

Well, as they say, nothing’s ever easy.

I got on the 5:14 train out of Farmingdale, scheduled to arrive at Penn at 6:10. As I did in my years as a regular on the LIRR, I fell asleep shortly thereafter. Imagine my surprise when I woke up at 6:05 and discovered we were sitting in Jamaica station, where they were making announcements that due to “wild weather” there would be delays. (The US Weather Service has not yet determined whether it was a tornado. Whatever it was, it took out trees along a path through Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, dropping some across LIRR tracks along the way.)

Still not a major problem, however, since right downstairs at the Jamaica station is the subway and the E train would take me to within a four block walk to the gallery. And since the subways were honoring LIRR tickets, the ride would not cost anything more.

After a few station stops, we pulled into Roosevelt Avenue... and sat... and sat... and sat. Finally, there was an announcement that we should switch to another E train that was pulling in on the other track. Turned out there was a fight going on in one of the other cars of the train I was on, so it would not be going anywhere for awhile.

Not surprising, the train that pulled in was a lot more crowded. But we rolled along and at about 7:00, we finally made it to my stop. A quick stroll in a very light drizzle brought me to the gallery. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the gallery was not much larger than the subway car I'd just left... and almost as crowded.

There was a nice display of Stephen's work on both walls and I was able to squeeze my way to the back, where he was signing copies of the book. We spoke for about a minute and then he returned to what he was there to do. Since I did not want to jump the line, I worked my way back towards the door.

Unfortunately, air conditioning was sorely lacking and it grew quite warm. I decided I needed to step outside for awhile when my shirt started to look like I'd been playing Ultimate Frisbee for an hour. (My CTY compatriots would have looked at me and decided I was about to yell "Last point!") After cooling down, I tried my best to rejoin the line inside, but after once again starting to look like I was melting, I figured it was not meant to be. Stephen was being his affable self, talking and adding little drawings to the autographs for each of his guests, and the line was moving about as quickly as that LIRR train I'd abandoned.

So I headed towards Penn Station, figuring that train service would have been restored in the couple of hours since the "wild weather." Alas, that was far from the case. The station was packed with people and no trains were running. Police and LIRR officials were directing passengers to the E train so they could take the subway to Jamaica station, from which eastbound trains were operating. What I found remarkable was the number of people who weren't doing this; they seemed resigned to staying in Penn for however long was necessary.

Though you can normally access the subway from inside Penn, this was not the case. We had to go back outside and walk around the building to get to the subway entrance on the street. I was finally successful getting into the subway and when an E train pulled in, I even managed to get a seat. I was quite happy about that because the car got quite full and quite warm. (Not surprisingly, I started "melting" again.)

We crawled along, the PA system reminding us that there were delays ahead and that we would proceed when they had a green signal. About an hour later, we finally reached our destination... where there were many, many people waiting at street level for trains to carry them further east. (The first one, going on the Babylon branch, was announced just as I arrived and started a stampede towards the steps to the track. I suspect that many of those people had been there for quite awhile.)

There was no Ronkonkoma branch train on the horizon, but I'd dealt with LIRR delays many times during my twenty-five years commuting to DC Comics, so I knew some ways around a lot of the crowds. I walked to a staircase leading up to one of the tracks that was not being used and went all the way up to the crossover platform above the tracks. I wasn't the only person who knew this trick, but there were far fewer people up top than there were down below.

After about a forty-five minute wait, they announced a train to Ronkonkoma. From my lofty waiting area, I was able to quickly get down to the track and snag a seat before most of the passengers made it to the platform. We sat for another twenty minutes or so while the train filled and then finally started rolling east.

Though the train made every stop along the way, I was finally back in Farmingdale at 11:10 and home a few minutes after that. A six hour round-trip... probably the most travel fun I've had since the day in March when I came home from Becca's wedding. (Blogged here as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles.")

And people wonder why I'm so happy to now have a twelve-minute commute to work!

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