Wednesday, November 28

Now that was a lucky break, railroad version

Another Brooklyn worksite today, this time in the southern part of the borough near the Sheepshead Bay station on the Brighton Line.   After yesterday’s miserable driving experience I was smart enough to take the train today.  I got the 5:29 from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station, changing at Jamaica for Flatbush Avenue Atlantic Terminal.  It was moderately crowded at departure but filled up at the various stops along the way.  I was sitting near the west (front) end of the consist, and while the car wasn’t SRO by Jamaica it was pretty close.  There had been quite a scare at Deer Park when a fat man tried to squish next to me, but the Railroad Gods had taken pity on me and after a few seconds’ of trying to squeeze his enormous bulk into the microscopic seat he saw the light and went elsewhere.  Seconds later a far smaller young man took the seat and everything was fine.  Once at Jamaica I had an immediate across-the-platform transfer to a Brooklyn train, this one most definitely SRO.  It was surprising to see that a Brooklyn-bound train was so crowded, especially given the fairly early hour. I’m not sure whether that’s because of some lingering train cancellations caused by the storm or simply because Brooklyn is a more popular commuting destination. I suspect the latter.

I had two choices for the subway to Sheepshead Bay: the local (Q) or the express (B).  Given that it is a long haul the express is usually the much more sensible choice.  After passing on a Q that arrived within a few minutes after I got to the platform, and another one a few minutes after that, I began second-guessing my choice when over ten minutes went by with no B express in sight.  This local-now or express-later Hobson’s Choice is a familiar one to generations of subway riders.  Finally a B came along and I had a delay-free ride to Sheepshead Bay.  It turns out that waiting for the B was the best choice, as we passed the first Q at Kings Highway and the second one somewhere around Avenue H.  It was only a few minutes’ walk from the Sheepshead Bay station to my worksite.  I noticed along the way that some of the businesses near the station had suffered flood damage and were still being repaired.  That was surprising, as the area is several blocks from the water.

I got a B after work, though I ended up switching to a Q at Newkirk Avenue after the B had spent several minutes at the platform “being held by Supervision.”  Yet another sort of choice that millions of riders have had to make.  Riding on the Brighton Line is interesting, as part of it runs in an open cut, as opposed to the more common tunnels or elevated structures.  At some points it literally goes through peoples’ backyards. I got to Atlantic Terminal about 20 minutes before the train I would be taking to Jamaica, the 3:56 Far Rockaway train, so I went outside the station for a quick look around – only to be taken aback by this huge black thing looming across the street.  I had known that the Barclays Center recently opened, of course, but for some reason I had thought it was to the east of Atlantic Terminal, out of sight behind the shopping mall.  Not right across the street.

The 3:56 wasn’t too crowded, but the same could not be said for the connecting Ronkonkoma train at Jamaica.  It was so crowded I was lucky to get a spot standing in the vestibule rather than in the aisle.  As it was making all the stops, I figured I’d get a seat soon enough as people disembarked.  Nothing to worry about.

As we approached the Hicksville stop, it looked as if I would have plenty to worry about.  The conductor announced over the intercom that there was a medical emergency in the ninth car, and asked anyone qualified to assist to come help.  Generally speaking, when there is a “sick passenger” on a train it means one of two things: (1) the passenger is a drama queen who feels just slightly ill but makes a big production out of it, or (2) the passenger is eating dandelions by the root, as the French would say.  Even if situation (1) applies there is likely to be a long delay as an ambulance meets the train and the paramedics attend to the passenger.  It looked as if my supposed 5:16 arrival at Ronkonkoma would be off by an hour or even more.

Along with many other people I got off the still-crowded train at Hicksville and milled around on the platform.  In the car behind where I had been I could see the conductor and a couple other people attending to a 60-something man who had a really weird look on his face.  It was more than a situation (1), he definitely did look sick, but had not (yet) progressed to situation (2).  Two MTA police officers arrived, and to my astonishment I saw them lead the sick passenger (wearing a portable oxygen mask) off the train into a waiting area.  This meant that the train could leave, instead of waiting God knows how long for an ambulance to show up.  I can only assume that the passenger had wanted to get off the train, surely the cops wouldn’t have led him off unless he had consented.  I must thank him for being so considerate.

The rest of the ride passed quickly enough, with a bit of entertainment as a loud drunk standing in the nearby vestibule was babbling nonsense to a man who identified himself as an off-duty NYPD officer.  The drunk boasted that even though he had been arrested 30 times, his longest stretch in jail had been only 120 days.  It was looking as if the drunk was aiming for arrest number 31, but when the train stopped at Farmingdale he staggered off.  I had a seat by then, and we got into Ronkonkoma only about 15 minutes late.  Hardly the hour-plus I had been fearing.

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Published in: on December 1, 2012 at 2:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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