It was, quite simply, the least amount of time I’ve ever given myself to catch a train.
And I’ve pushed the limits quite a bit.
I had my eye on the 5:46. I’d like to say I had something absolutely crucial to do in Westchester at 6:30–put out a ticking bomb planted by the Russkies (Jack Bauer was, in fact, having a nap), or go over final wedding plans with Bill and Hill up in Clintonville.
In fact, I just wanted to get home to play with the kiddies and give The Missus a breather.
I’d had a 5:15 phone meeting scheduled and figured it wouldn’t go beyond 5:30, which is when I try to leave for the 5:46.
5:15, no call. 5:20, nothing.
Finally, the guy calls at 5:25. Maybe I can make it really short, I thought.
We did our business while I eyed the clock. It was 5:32 when we were winding down. I shut down my computer and loaded my backpack. We made small talk about Mad Men, and I thought of Don Draper rushing to catch the express to Ossining.
I huge up at 5:34; could I actually exit work and sprint to Grand Central, and track 108, in the next 12 minutes?
I hit the elevators, then the street at 28th. It was 5:37. No, I couldn’t sprint it, not even in my lean, mean prime. My only hope was the 6 train.
Just as I entered the station at 28th, I saw just what I hoped to see: a subway at the platform. I ran my card through and bolted for it–then watched the doors shut and the train take off just as I got there.
I’d be on the 6:10, I conceded. Mission failed. Russkies win. Again.
The new-ish electronic scoreboard in the station said the next train would arrive in three minutes. I clung to a distant hope.
Indeed, there it was, three minutes later. The on-train clock said 5:41. Could I go two stops, then bust through the rush-hour crush in Grand Central to make the 5:46?
I was sure as hell going to try.
We made it to 33rd in a flash, while the run to 42nd snaked slowly through the dark tunnel. I moved closer to the door for pole position and stretched my legs for the sprint.
I looked at my new Timex Iron Man: 5:44:20 as the doors opened. I had less than two minutes to navigate the GCT obstacle course.
I bolted out of the train, pushed through the human morass at the stairs, climbed the steps, bumped off an old man as I headed through the turnstiles, and headed up the stairs to Grand Central.
I prayed for the typical 40-seconds late Metro-North train as I galloped down the GCT corridor to the concourse. Then it was down the way-too-narrow escalator to track 108 (Going up the stairs, only to go down the escalator. Must it be that way?)
I committed the faux pas of actually passing people on the one-person-width escalator, earning me a few stink-eyes. Still, I soldiered on.
It was a straight sprint across the basement level to 108, cutting through a Hudson News to shave off a few seconds (“Crossing the Hudson,” in commuter parlance.). I hit the ramp at 5:45:40 and the lights of my train were flashing. The conductor’s head was out of the window like a Whack-A-Mole. He spied me and offered a faint mask of disgust.
I stepped onto the train just as the doors shut.
A new NYC commuter record. My fellow riders toasted me with a gold medal, a crown made of an olive branch, and a seat on the aisle.