, , , , , , ,

The backdrop for Imran Qureshi’s piece

Occasionally, I get a slightly wild idea and actually act upon it. My son probably has the best sense of when this is about to happen, so I no longer tell him my wild ideas plans. Of course, if the MetroNorth train collision hadn’t happened just in front of my Amtrak train, I wouldn’t have had the extra eight-block walk and the two-and-a-half hour line wait for the bus…and then I wouldn’t have ended up leaving the MFA two hours earlier than I wanted to on Tuesday.


Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It began with the trip to New York: a slightly whimsical, spur-of-the-moment trip to see Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity before it closed, and everything else I could manage, including lunch on the roof. (It is weird to see children, babies, sitting, sobbing, on Imran Qureshi’s bloody chrysanthemum painting. The work itself is beautiful, though a reviewer asked if it is out of place. If you have ever walked past the site of a murder or bar fight and seen the stained pavement, this piece might creep you out. And once upon a time in Providence, I saw the blood-stained pavement near the bus stop whilst taking my dog to a vet…)

So, trip: all good, hop on the 6:42 Acela and get into Penn at 9:42, up to the Met by 10. That leaves all day for exploring, until about 4:15, when I had to beat it for the M1 back to Penn. One unfortunate act of vandalism of a Beaux-Arts railroad station later, we’re chugging along on the 5:43 Regional back up to Providence. We’re not even to New Rochelle when the train stops…and remains stopped. By 7:11 I’d figured out that there would be no trains up, and had purchased a bus ticket online thanks to my iPad with a rapidly depleting charge. By 8:00, we were back at Penn and I was fast-walking up to 40th Street where I got in line, got the ticket printed, and then trotted downstairs to get into another line: the line of no movement.

Eventually, a bus appeared. And then another bus appeared. The first bus left for a town in Pennsylvania that sounded like “West Coastville” but was probably Coatesville. A third bus appeared: rumor spread that this was the bus from Providence.

“Where have you been?” we interrogated the disembarked. “What took so long?”
“Bumper to bumper traffic,” someone said. And the line of no movement groaned.

No one dared move out of line if they did not have a blood relative to hold their place. Scouts from family groups were sent out to discover which gate had a bus, and intrepid men with girlfriends to hold their place went forth to count the line. I was in the low 40s, thank you, with about 60 people stretching behind my spot. Agitation behind me rose as line-cutting appeared to happen. Scenes from Lord of the Flies came to mind as I heard a mild wheeze from a fellow-stander. Cell phones began to die.

A typical Green Chariot, in Kennedy Plaza.

But, at last, 75 minutes after the alleged 9:30 PM departure, we were able to board the bus. I found a seat in nearly the last row, but it was a seat. At 10:56, I called home to report that we did in fact have forward movement, and were now leaving the PABT…for a short tour of Harlem. Eventually, we were on the highway (I love the quaintness of the sign for New England) and by 3:15 AM I was home, 22 and a half hours after I’d gotten up to start my day.

Now, just because I wrote the story in this tone doesn’t mean I don’t think that the people injured in MetroNorth accident, and inconvenienced in their commute since Friday, have had a far worse time than I did—I do. I’m both stunned and pleased with how quickly train service has been restored, and I have real sympathy for the anxiety of people who take the train to work every day, thanks to my husband’s daily 100-mile-roundtrip on the MBTA. Which, in a fitting moment of transit ironyy, found him delayed last night behind a broken-down Amtrak train, finally headed south…