It was Friday.
Thursday had been the snowstorm. I’d worked from home–no way I was banking on Metro-North getting me to Gotham in a timely fashion when I could simply spark up the home computer and work from what we jokingly call the Westchester bureau.
The kids were home from school. Their friends came over. Everyone was basically trapped inside. It was noisy and a little claustrophobic.
I was pretty pumped to get to the city the next day, to my quiet office.
So I set out on foot Friday. The roads were icy when I left a little after 8, but the sun was making its first appearance in what felt like weeks.
Metro-North announced it was running a Saturday schedule on Friday, the railroad assuming most people would take the day off, work from home yet again, etc.
But working from home two days in a row can be tricky. Maybe you thought ahead on Wednesday and brought home a day’s worth of stuff to do on Thursday, but no so much for Friday. Maybe you had to get to the office because the following week is the school holiday week and you’re off to Disney.
Actually, saying Metro-North “announced” a Saturday schedule is not quite accurate. I learned of the reduced service from my local Daily Voice e-newsletter. Metro-North has my email, my address, likely my phone number somewhere. The railroad does not make such service announcements for its customers–at least for this one.
Trains out of Hawthorne were hourly on the :54, instead of what would be more like three trains per hour on a weekday. There was an 8:54. It arrived a little before 9.
As I went to step on, the vestibule was jammed. I stayed on the platform to let the riders get off, wondering what had suddenly made dinky lil Hawthorne such a popular destination (were the Globetrotters playing at the Holy Rosary gym or something?). Not a soul got off. About a hundred Hawthorners squeezed onto the jammed–I mean, cheek by jowl humanity in the vestibule, the aisles–train.
I thought quickly. It would be jammed further at Valhalla, at North White Plains. And who the f*** knows what happens at White Plains.
Factor in the train’s typical 20% extra travel time these past few months and, ya know, the foot of snow that landed in the last 24 hours, and, well, it was going to be one of those famous Tokyo subway rides, without the locals’ famed politesse. An hour-plus, squeezed in like clowns in a clown car.
I tried a second set of doors, and a third. Same story. The doors shut.
Working from home. Again.
Metro-North later admitted it grossly underestimated the number of riders, the first gaffe in new president Joseph Giulietti’s new tenure.
“Based on forecasts of up to a foot of snow falling overnight, we were conservative in planning schedules to help reduce the chances that trains could become stranded or would have to be canceled,” Giulietti said in a statement. “When the sun shone through this morning, we had more customers than anticipated, particularly on the New Haven Line. We apologize for this morning’s crowding and expect to do better this afternoon.”
It has not been a good year, year and a half, for the former gold standard of commuter railroads.
I popped into the Hawthorne Station Cafe That’s Really a Deli for a consolation bacon egg and cheese. Queen Latifah was on, japing with Hugh Jackman. I saw a young man from my usual 8:16 train. I asked if he’d missed the announcement about the Saturday schedule.
He said he’d known of it, left his home in plenty of time, and proceeded to skid down the street until his car struck another one.
I passed along my regrets as I ate my egg sandwich.
Then I headed the mile back for home. The sidewalks were a foot deep in snow. I walked in the street. The sun was shining and the ice started to melt.
Eighteen minutes later, I surprised my kids at the door.
It seemed like they were happy to see me. Again.