Jersey Jim Spots the Rail Marshal

He was there again last night. He’s always there, in the seat with his head down, eyes glued to his Blackberry or some other handheld device.

I never see this fellow board the train at Penn Station for the ride west, even when I’m one of the first people to the platform.

How does he know which track our train is on…so often? Every time?

I’ve seen some commuters head down to tracks 2 or 4 early, and see if the train is already on the platform. This guy isn’t one of the track gamblers though.

He must be a U.S. Rail Marshal, and gets the inside scoop from HQ. He sits in the last car, near the back. Probably does a walkthrough before the track is announced upstairs, I’m thinking. He seems friendly enough – not a grim buzz-cut leather-gut like the obvious Air Marshals riding the friendly skies. He’s one of the short khaki-pack, and blends right into the Jersey crowd on the daily grind. Perfect cover.

I sat next to an Air Marshal once (I think) on a flight from Minneapolis last winter. My flight got cancelled, I got the last row on another flight. Asked for an upgrade, and shockingly got the front row in coach (extra leg-room!). The granite guy next to me was extremely bland and quiet. No carry-on, no reading material. Boots.

Seemed to be in a trance the entire time. I never felt safer and spooked at the same time.

But back on the rails of our Homeland, our ersatz Nick Brody always seems to be hunched over, intently reading his handheld device. Probably monitoring the chatter, masked by a coded App to mimic Words with Friends.

One day soon, I’ll ask him to share his secret.

–Jersey Jim

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