My Trip Home When the Harlem Line Was Out, Or, Putting the Tax in Taxi

I’d walked to Grand Central  Friday under a black cloud shaped like a Mohawk haircut; clear skies over the East River and the Hudson, angry thunderheads roofing the middle of Manhattan. I thought of potential dry spots to duck into along Park, but got to the station before the deluge.

I bought a Sam Adams to mark the end of the work week and got onto the 5:46. The doors shut and we started up the track, then stopped about 30 seconds later.

Two minutes passed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re being held momentarily,” said the conductor, with no further detail.

Two more minutes passed. I tried to concentrate on the Times but couldn’t.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” went the conductor a moment later, “we’re told a tree is down on the tracks and none of the trains are getting out. We’ll let you know when we have more information.”

Groans. Silent curses.

At around 5:55, the conductor came on again, told us they’d open one door in each car so we could stand on the platform, get out and use our phones, etc.

I sat and waited. Neither the phone nor the Blackberry was working. I silently seethed.

At 6:05, our conductor got back on. He said multiple trees were down, multiple trains were screwed, and the Harlem line was essentially jammed up for the foreseeable future.

I’d heard enough. I jumped out and made my way up the ramp, where another train’s worth of people were massed at the track entrance in Grand Central, hungry for bits of information. One man asked me what I knew. I told him what the conductor had said. He shook his head and thanked me.

I scanned the giant Hudson line board–I actually had to figure out where it was–and saw there was a 6:20 to Tarrytown, a doable cab ride from Hawthorne.

Walking to track 40 for the famed Hudson line and all its picturesque river glory, I wondered just how jammed the 6:20 would be–every poor Harlem line refugee jammed in there. I bought a Post at Hudson News and stepped onto the train.

In fact, it was half empty, and would stay half empty right up until departure. My cell and my Blackberry worked; I called The Missus and told her I was late, and retrieved my three CleverCommute emails (and, some time later, MTA Web Advisories) about storm damage on the Harlem line.

The train rolled out at 6:20, and we were mercifully headed to points north.

(It’s worth noting the MTA Web Advisory I got at 6:11:

Service has been suspended on the Hudson and Harlem lines due to storm impacts (high water, trees down across the tracks).


 Uh, the Hudson line is moving, folks.)

I’d been on the Hudson line one time in recent memory, while doing a little “research” for a magazine story about a pub crawl on each of the three Metro North lines. The part of the story taking place on the Hudson line had ended at Striped Bass in Tarrytown, where I’d taken a cab home and spent around $14 for it.

In fact, the cab remained as the lone iffy wild card on my trip. Even though the train was not full, surely there would be dozens of Harlem liners looking for a cab at Tarrytown, the first stop on this train.

I stepped off the train under the shadow of that wonderful erector set project known as the Tappan Zee and saw a cabbie from Tarrytown Taxi. I waved and he nodded me into his car. I told him where I was going and he nodded again. I shared the back seat with another Hawthorner, and just like that, we were off.

When we got to my house around 12 minutes later, the cabbie told me it was $20. I told him I’d spent around $14 for that same ride a few months before, but he confirmed it was $20. I shelled out $22 and was just thankful to be home–around 45 minutes later than I would’ve been on the usual 5:46.

I called Tarrytown Taxi the next day and asked how much it would cost to go Tarrytown to Hawthorne. I encountered a very strange man.

“Anywhere between $16 and $25,” he said. “Depends who drives ya. If it’s a white guy, maybe $16. If it’s a Hispanic guy, more.”

I said something along the lines of, shouldn’t it be a flat fee.

“Why should it be?” he said. “If they can get $20, they’ll get $20.”

I suggested it might be illegal to charge different fees for the same ride.

“This is the most crooked company in the world,” he told me. “I’ve been here 15 years, and it’s the most crooked company in the world.”

I asked his name and he said John Anderson. He then proceeded to blame the price range on the “local politicians,” and told me the true fare should be $16 to $18.

In truth, I was so happy to get the damn cab that I didn’t mind a little price-gouging.

This entry was posted in Harlem Line, Hudson Line, Tarrytown. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My Trip Home When the Harlem Line Was Out, Or, Putting the Tax in Taxi

  1. Peter says:

    I was onna 6:10 Harlem Div. Friday, and it departed about 20 minutes late, then paused at the interlocking to let 3 or 4 Harlem Line trains proceed ahead of it. I thought at first some of tose trains were completely empty, but they did have a v e r y few passengers. Then, due no doubt to congestion more than actual weather, we tiptoed north, and I noticed a couple of MN guys pulling downed trees or maybe just branches just below the New Haven Div. junction. The train didnt reach over 30MPH, tho’, ’til nearly White Plains.
    Didnt get to Peaville until about 7:35. But I didnt have to take a cab.

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