Friday, February 7, 2014

The 1 and Only

Like all epic quests of yore,
here is a map of the territory.
Normally, when I have business on the East Side, I park uptown around 116th and Lexington and take the 6 downtown.  Makes getting in and out quick and painless.  Yesterday, though, traffic across the GWB was slow and I felt like parking on the Upper West Side instead.  It's right around Columbia and I simply like the neighborhood better, and at the back of my mind was the possibility that we would grab dinner in the city and the area around 110th street and Broadway is packed to burstin' with great, diverse and not-too-pricey restaurants.

Of course, that complicates getting to the East Side, normally, with lots of transfers and adding a lot of time to your trip.  But we were meeting just east of Central Park (60th and Madison, to be exact), which is also right at the southern end of the park.  And there's a crosstown train right there, that you can conveniently pick up at Columbus Circle and 59th.  But I made great time coming in, and decided to simply walk from the Columbus Circle stop across town.  And it was lovely.

I met up with Yesenia, and on the way back, I asked if she wanted to walk back across town to get on the 1, or take the subway.  She opted for the walk.  And it was also lovely.

We got to the 1 at Columbus Circle around 4:30, so rush hour was just moving to full throng.  But we got on the train right away, and it was a partial express, up to 72nd.  Wonderful!  We'll be back at the car by 5:00, and home by 6:00 (if we don't eat in Manhattan, that is).

The train pulls in to 72nd street, and here's where the plan derails.  Not the train, of course - the train stays on the tracks.  It's just that it stops working and will not leave the station.  The doors close, the doors open.  They close, they open.


Close, open.

Close, open.

The conductor, with increasing agitation after each series of attempts, calls on the P.A. for some unknown persons at the back of the train to stand clear of the doors.

The train, already packed full when we pulled into the station, keeps getting somehow even tighter as the train sits in the station.  The minutes pass, five, six.  Then, the conductor, again:

"This train is out of service.  THIS TRAIN is OUT of SERVICE!  All riders must exit the train.  RIDERS EXIT THE TRAIN!"

We move as one out to the platform.  It's the only way we actually can move, we're all packed so tightly together.  Yesenia and I and thousands of other riders wait outside the now empty train.  Inside, a pissed MTA employee strides the entire length of the train, checking (I presume) for stragglers.

A couple of more minutes pass.  Then the automated station announcer:

"The. Next.  Uptown.  One train.  Will arrive in.  Twenty-five.  Minutes."

The entire crowd groans.  Yesenia has had enough, and starts up the stairs.  I follow, trying to discuss a plan with her.  "We're not getting a cab," I point out, "I don't mean that I'm opposed to taking a cab, it means that there's no way we're going to be able to flag one, now."

Yesenia: "How about the bus?"

"It's about the same speed as walking."

"We can walk."

"Fine with me."

We climb up to Broadway and proceed to walk the forty-three blocks to the garage.  Slushy lakes ring small mountains of dirty snow at every crosswalk.  Night has fallen.  And it's a forced march, rather than a lark.  I have not had anything to eat all day, except a cup of tea about ten hours earlier.  It is most definitely not lovely.

Every ten blocks, I call out the number of blocks remaining.  We hold hands.  Well, our gloves cling to each other with our hands inside.   We discuss dinner options.  Eat uptown?  Get pizza up in Rockland?  A few balloons are floated, but the pizza option is the mutually agreed upon conclusion.

About an hour later - after pausing at a favorite bakery to pick up some dessert carbs - we reach the garage.  It's another ten minutes there, while the lone employee deals with five customers and moves all the cars himself.

Surprisingly, after all that, at least the drive home is pretty quick.  And we discover that well-earned pizza is pizza that tastes good.



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