I was hustling and bustling, huffing and puffing, to make the 5:27 last night. With a few seconds to spare, I walked along the platform, looking through the windows for an aisle seat–ideally one next to an empty middle seat to allow my overheated body to cool down in peace.
Suddenly there was a car with the vast majority of its seats unoccupied–though veteran commuters allow themselves to be fooled for no more than a few seconds. In the subways, it may be a malodorous guy sleeping across a seat. When the car is free on the commuter lines, it means the AC is dead.
It raises an interesting dilemma: Take a crappy seat–a middle seat, or something along the stenchbench–in a car where the AC is cranked, or enjoy your own three-seater in a car where the temps are closing in on three figures.
I took the hot car, figuring I’d move into an AC car when the 5:27 emptied out at White Plains.
And man, was it hot, and getting hotter still as the train wended through the Park Avenue Tunnel.
One by one, like Survivor contestants voted out in tribal council, my colleagues gathered their belongings and headed for the door.
The putrid smell of garlic, from the guy behind me, hung heavy in the still, sticky air of the car. The screen of my Blackberry actually fogged up from the heat.
We started to crawl through Bronkers, then jammed to a halt past Tuckahoe. Dripping at this point, I gave up–making my way for a cool car, and finding a spot to stand.
We were stone cold stopped somewhere past Tuckahoe but shy of Scarsdale.
There we sat, awaiting an announcement.
Well before the PA system crackled to life, we started going in reverse.
The man in front of me in the vestibule, an Indian fellow of about 50, had a knack for asking dopey, ridiculous questions.
“Are we going backwards?” he asked, though clearly the trees outside the train were not really going forward.
I nodded glumly.
“Why are we going backward?”
You’d think I was wearing blue on blue, with a blue cap to boot.
We reversed past Tuckahoe, past Crestwood and Bronxville.
Still no announcement.
Finally, as we continued to chug in reverse, the PA came on.
It spoke of a switch failure, and said we were heading back to where we could, well, switch switches, I guess.
People wondered aloud of that meant 125th Street or, worse, Grand Central. I mean, we had no idea.
We finally stopped at Mount Vernon West, and within seconds were going forward again. Bronxville. Crestwood. Tuckahoe. I saw a sign on a stark brick wall, which I never would’ve seen at normal train pace, for Growlers Beer Bistro, and remembered it was National IPA Day, and I had some IPA in the fridge at home.
The thought helped as we crawled through the ‘dales, and positively limped into White Plains a full hour after setting out from GCT.
We finally got to Hawthorne at 6:43–an hour and 16 minute ride that’s supposed to take 42.
No apology for the delay, for the busted AC, for nothing.
I stepped out into the 95 degree heat, which, unlike the hot car, had a hint of a breeze, and nary a whiff of stale garlic.