Dreaded Derecho Crashes Commute

It was my first appearance on the dusty urban crucible that is the corporate softball field in about a year. The game was 5:30, on that field along the FDR Drive, in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges–subways clattering overhead, the Dumbo merry go round visible across the river–and I was hoping to be on the 7:24 out of Gotham so I could say goodnight to Little G and Little Miss C before they fell asleep.

The game started late to accommodate the umpire fiddling with his smartphone for 20 minutes–perhaps checking reports on the pending tornado/snurricane/derecho. But the game finished early. There was some crazy rule instituted because we were, as usual, lacking the requisite number of female players, so we automatically had an out against us each time an inning started.

We played good D. The game flew by. We were shaking hands and celebrating our win by 6:45.

I slipped into my sneakers, bid my team farewell, and set out for the 4-5-6 train at City Hall. Of course, I could’ve flagged a cab, and hopped on that FDR Drive a hundred feet away, and been guaranteed a spot on the 7:24. But I didn’t see any cabs in that corner of Chinatown, and couldn’t really afford one anyway.

So I ran.

If there’s anything resembling a straight line from Murry Bergtraum Field to City Hall, I sure didn’t run it. I would venture to say that that little pocket of Manhattan is, in fact, the hardest to draw a straight line across, street-wise, in the entire city.

I got to City Hall by 6:55–out of breath, sweating, dirty. The uptown 5 train arrived a few minutes later, but the thing was jammed. Cheek to cheek. I wasn’t about to subject my slippery epidermis to riders butted up against me, and let it go.

Thankfully, an empty local pulled in at 6:57, and left two minutes later. Twenty five minutes to catch my Metro-North train. No problem…right?

Actually, right–no problem, no delays–though the train filled up by 33rd, and I–despite the nicely humming AC–was still sweating, and fairly well stuck to my seat.

I plotted my departure; I stood just before 42nd, wiped down my seat bottom and back with a pair of sweats from my bag, much the way you do the elliptical machine at the gym, and departed the train without making eye contact with my fellow passengers.

I actually had about 12 minutes to spare, so I cleaned up my torn up knee in the filthy GCT men’s room, bought a Bud tallboy, and made my way to Track 17.

When we pulled out of the Park Avenue Tunnel, we got our first glimpse of the dreaded derecho (cue the Spaghetti western music here). A gray sky was topped by a giant jet-black cloud; despite it being only 7:35, it was pitch black out. The cloud part looked as though the top of the train window was tinted. Rain beat on the sides of the train.

I flipped through my iPod until I found a good rain song: “Sometimes”, by James. There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder, crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in…

All was fine, and I was well on schedule to see Little G and Little Miss C, when the train ground to a halt at 8:01, somewhere between White Plains and North White Plains.

At 8:04, the PA crackled to life.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a red signal ahead of us. We should be moving shortly.”

8:06, same announcement.

8:07, it was a woman’s voice this time, and the news was not good.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thee are downed trees at Chappaqua. The train will be stopped in North White Plains.”

We were told to consider alternatives at North White, such as calling a loved one, or hopping a cab.

I called The Missus; not for a ride, but to say I would be late, and would probably miss seeing the kiddies awake.

Several people got off. Several others, with no discernible options, stayed on.

Five minutes after the announcement, we got some good news.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have permission to proceed.”

And we did.

We rolled into Hawthorne at 8:22–16 minutes late. It was pouring. I climbed on the bike. Branches were down. Lightning lit up the sky. Thunder boomed.

I was home 10 minutes later. Sweaty. Rainy. Soaked. GCT toilet paper scraps and ballpark dirt clinging to my battered knee.

Little G was awake. He wanted a bedtime horror story. I made one up about a kid who got stuck on a train in between North White Plains and Valhalla, and decided to walk along the tracks to Valhalla, but met the ghosts of every person killed by trains along that stretch. He wisely went back to the stalled train, which got going moments later.

Little Miss C, alas, was asleep. I would’ve loved to see her, but was relieved to not have to produce Chipmunks/Chipettes stories on the fly.

[image: Mike Ratliff/Gothamist.com]

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This entry was posted in 5 train, Grand Central, North White Plains and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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