If I believed in omens I would say that we should not have gotten on the train that day. The signs were all against us.
As our cab approached the station we noticed orange cones blocking every cross street leading to it.
“We’d better get out right here,” my husband, Harvey, said. “We’ll walk to the station.” We passed a policeman at one of the cross streets and asked,
“Officer, why can’t we drive down the street? We have a train to catch.”
“Today is the Providence Marathon. These streets will be blocked for a few more hours.” We and our suitcases got out of the cab, and rushed to meet our train.
Breathless, we reached Track #1 just as the “whoo, whoo” announced the train pulling into the station.
“We made it! Now we can sit down, catch our breath and enjoy the ride home.” We passed Mystic, Connecticut, and savored the beautiful views of the water showing off its sailboats and small motor boats. Everything was still fine past New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University.
“I feel smarter just being near Yale!”
“Yes,” said Harvey. “Maybe you can become brilliant by osmosis.”
BUT the train came to an abrupt stop as it approached Stanford, Connecticut. “What happened?” “What’s wrong?” “Why are we stopping?”
“Attention, passengers. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the drawbridge ahead is open and the engineers can’t get it back down. We’ll wait a few minutes until they solve the problem.”
We waited. And waited. Nothing was moving, planning to move, or even waving in the breeze. Hour #1 had passed.
Then another announcement came over the PA system.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience, but we are going to back up the train to New Haven. There will be enough busses to drive you all back to New York from there.” And the train began to move backwards. Then it stopped abruptly again.
“We apologize for the inconvenience,” the conductor said once more. “We will keep you informed as soon as we know the plan.”
We were now into hour #2 of our delay.
A tour group from Australia broke out a bottle of white wine and shared it with everyone in their group. The Aussies began to be quite cheerful and happy. They were telling jokes, laughing and enjoying the adventure of their crazy American train ride.
We were not the same kind of happy. Someone was waiting for us back home at the at the station to drive us home. He would not wait indefinitely for us to roll in. Approaching hour #3 another announcement started. “We apologize” by now those in our car were getting giddy. and all said together, “for the inconvenience…..” Now the plan was unclear. The train stopped moving backwards to New Haven. I was no longer feeling brilliant at the thought of passing Yale again. The important announcement this time was “The Cafe Car is issuing a free emergency snack. Everyone is welcome to come and get one.”
Well, that made everything much better. A lump of gooey soft processed cheese filled with a gooier softer processed cheese was the proffered snack. Nobody was rushing to get one, free or not.
“I’m in a wedding at 6:00PM tonight,”, wailed one man. “I’ve got an important meeting I must be at” complained another.
But the drawbridge was still open, and nobody was going anywhere. Finally hour #4 rolled in and then came, “OK everyone, We apologize for the yada, yada, yada. The drawbridge is closed. The train can now move forward. We are going to New York!”
Cheers! Confetti! Champagne! Not really, but we felt that way. When we finally reached Penn Station in New York we rushed to catch the Midtown Direct train back home. Eight lines of passengers merged onto one escalator. Why was it taking so long? “The escalator is broken!” All eight lanes of humanity had to merge and walk down the escalator steps, pulling luggage behind.
Collapsing into a Midtown Direct seat, I happened to be sitting across from a rest room with a sign warning, “OUT OF ORDER.” That is how I became the train monitor to every one of about seventeen people who came to the rest room door and tried to wrestle it open. Reading signs is out of vogue on the midtown direct.
Friends from Morristown were on board, and we decided to have dinner together. Rod’s was right near the station. As we walked to the restaurant we passed their famous, lush, Orient Express kind of dining car. “Maybe we could get a seat in there!” Then I looked at my friends and we all started laughing.
After what we had just gone through, imagine choosing to sit in a train dining car that night!