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October 22, 2007

Commuter Lightening Strike

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Mpj040046000001Don't mess with a woman of the railroad.  You'll be sorry. 

Last week was one of those full on drencher, rainy days.  By the time I left an appointment with my nutritionist to make my way to Penn Station and the commute home, it was pouring and though I had an umbrella, I was soaked, my knapsack was soaked and my sandals were shrinking to my feet.

When I got to Penn Station, I ran for my 5:50 train only to discover it sitting there with the doors closed.  It was 5:51.  I looked hopefully at the conductor.  The doors miraculously opened.  The commuter Gods had blessed me! 

I bolted inside only to hear the conductor over the PA:  "Ladies and Gentleman there was a lightening strike at Valley Stream and all train service in both directions has been suspended.  This train is going out of service."

Okay, the commuter Gods hadn't blessed me.

My sandals squished as I went back out to the platform with all the other thwarted passengers.

Directly across the platform was a train to Westbury.  It occurred to me if I could get to Westbury maybe Kay could pick me up.  Also, there were seats on the train to Westbury because the people from the 5:50 hadn't quite figured out what they were doing.  It hadn't occurred to them that anything going to anywhere on Long Island was better than nothing.  I got on the train and into a seat just before the doors closed.  I sat next to a very nice woman who was doing the same thing I was, and she and I commiserated.

We motored along very nicely for about fifteen minutes.  I called Kay and she happened to be in the Westbury vicinity so she would be able to pick me up.  Maybe the commuter Gods had blessed me after all.  I told her I'd call as we got closer. 

A minute later, the train stopped.  And sat.  And sat.  And sat some more.  After twenty minutes of sitting the conductor made an announcement:  our train was going out of service at the next station because there was flooding in Mineola.  The station in Mineola is at ground level, so if there's flooding in Mineola, there's nothing's going to Westbury. 


I called Kay and gave her the bad news and told her I'd let her know where I would be as soon as I knew where I would be.

The woman seated next to me was as frustrated as I was but there was nothing to do but wait for track space at the next station and play backgammon on my Blackberry.

It never fails in these situations that some big time corporate exec blow-hard has to start spouting off in a very "no one knows what they're doing, but me" manner.  He (and it's literally always a man doing this type of griping) can't take the lack of control and the fact that his fate is in the hands of people he considers his inferiors.

He starts grumbling about incompetent railroad personnel and how disgraceful it all is that no one knows what they're doing.  This shouldn't be happening and it especially shouldn't be happening to him.  The result of an interminable rant like this is to make everyone else sitting around him feel even worse.

Well, one such exec started up while we sat.  What he didn't realize was an off duty woman who worked for the railroad had just walked in from an adjacent car and was standing right behind him as he spewed insults about the railroad and their "incompetent personnel."

"This is outrageous.  There should be contingencies.  It's ridiculous, they never have a plan.  There's never a contingency."

As soon as he got the word "contingency" out of his mouth, the railroad woman piped up in her very best no-nonsense, loud, Long Island accent, "There are no contingencies.  If lightening strikes Valley Stream, I gotta wait for LIPA to come and turn on the power.  If there's flooding in Mineola, I gotta wait for the county to come pump out the water.  There are no contingencies.  It's lightening.  It's flooding.  There are no contingencies."

The guy whipped his head around to see who had spoken and when he saw the woman wearing her railroad ID proudly around her neck, whatever he'd been planning to say just stuck in his throat.  I nearly burst out laughing like a crazy person, I found it so funny.  Somehow I restrained myself but I couldn't resist smirking.  And as I glanced around at my fellow passengers, I wasn't the only one. 

That woman was my new hero.

Needless to say, I finally made it home, but I had learned a valuable lesson.

Don't ever mess with a woman of the railroad.  You'll be sorry.


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