Monday, February 25 – Wednesday, February 27

A strange sensation

On Monday I began a month-long work assignment located about 15 to 20 minutes from home.  For most people, that would be wholly unremarkable, but for me, it’s wholly remarkable.  It comes as a really strange sensation after so long spent working long distances away.  There isn’t the sharp work/home distinction that long-distance commuting provides.  Lest this be interpreted as a complaint, trust me that I’m not complaining at all.  In fact it’s really nice.

Now, this state of affairs is not anything permanent.  Around the beginning of April I’ll be spending four to five weeks at a location near the Nassau-Suffolk line, to be followed by two assignments of equal length in central Nassau. And then, starting around the middle of summer, I’ll be going back to locations in the Bronx and Westchester.  But hey, I’m enjoying this state of affairs while it lasts.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 22 – Sunday, February 24

It was a generally quiet weekend, though as I had a bit of a cold I wasn’t able to accomplish much.  I did manage to get to the gym for a bit on Sunday, ellipting for 30 minutes.  Oh, and on Saturday evening we went to California Pizza Kitchen, which is always reliable.  I didn’t go for anything too exotic, choosing instead a ‘za with mushroom, sausage and pepperoni, though as always it was really good.  We sat at the bar, which afforded a view of the three pizza-makers at work.  It’s cool watching people who are good at their craft.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 20 -Thursday, February 21

Last days of driving

These were my last two days of driving to the Bronx or Westchester, before my new work assignments on Long Island start next week.  I’d have to say that neither day was particularly tough.  I was in the Bronx on Wednesday and in central Westchester on Thursday, and had no particular driving woes.  Neither morning was difficult at all, and because I was done with work by 2:30 on both days I was able to beat rush hour coming home.  As has happened before, I had the distinct impression that I was just beating the traffic on the way back.  At least starting next week I won’t have to worry so much about beating rush hour.  In fact, I’ll be more or less going in the opposite direction from the main traffic flows for the first work location.

Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 4:04 am  Comments (1)  

Monday, February 18 – Tuesday, February 19

Holidays = good.  Non-holidays = bad.

Presidents’ Day may be a lukewarm, sorta-somewhat holiday, but that didn’t mean it worked out just fine and dandy for me.  What that means, of course, is that traffic was significantly lighter than it would have been on a normal workday.  Which is always a good thing, but was especially good today because the day’s worksite was in the western part of the Bronx (the same place I went to by transit a week earlier) and driving there is a long haul.  In fact I probably would’ve gone by transit today, except I figured that driving would be easy.

Indeed, it was.  Traffic on the Long Island Expressway was reasonably light, with none of the usual slowdowns near Glen Cove Road, and the Grand Central Parkway in Queens was easy too.  My route took me over the Triboro Bridge and then the Major Deegan Expressway, and I ended up getting to the worksite so quickly that I stopped at a nearby McDonald’s to kill some time.  Getting home was very easy too, like in the morning around an hour and twenty minutes, though given that I left work around 2:30 in the afternoon it would have been reasonably decent even on a regular day.

Monday may have been nice, but Tuesday certainly wasn’t.  Oh, it started out okay, as Expressway traffic was somewhat lighter than usual, not as light as the previous day but still pretty good.  What I was figuring is that some people might have been taking the whole week off from work.  I got to the worksite, in downtown New Rochelle, in only about 1:15 and had high hopes that the afternoon would be just as pleasant.

It wasn’t.  I left New Rochelle about 4:45 and got home just before 7, over two hours to cover less than 60 miles.  All the people who were taking the week off apparently changed their minds during the day.  Or maybe it was the fact that it had started to rain.  Or maybe – ugh, what’s the point of wondering why?  All that matters is that it was a miserable trip that seemed to take forever.  At least I got one bit of good news soon after getting home – it is now official, as of next Monday I’ll be working in Suffolk County, no more long drives.

Published in: on February 22, 2013 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 15 – Sunday, February 17

It was a busy weekend, all things considered – food shopping, other forms of shopping, a nice lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, a dentist appointment (I said busy, not necessarily good) and so on.  Despite all this I made it to the gym on Sunday, I ellipted for 25 minutes and did some bench presses: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 3 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.

Published in: on February 20, 2013 at 3:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, February 14

Valentine’s Day is no holiday from traffic

Today was a rotten day on the roads, plain and simple.  I was working in southern Westchester, just over the Bronx line, and thought that maybe it wouldn’t be too bad because the distance wasn’t that long.  Fat chance.  In the morning, the delays on the Long Island Expressway in Nassau County were worse than usual even though I was traveling at the usual time.  It just seemed like everyone was on the road.  When I approached Exit 31, the exit for the Cross Island Parkway, I decided to take the Clearview Expressway instead because the exit ramp was backed up.  That’s usually the best decision, but not today.  Traffic on the Expressway got extremely heavy just before the exit for the Clearview, to the point that covering the last one-quarter mile to the exit took me over five minutes.  When all was said and done, the 55-mile drive to work took me over an hour and a half.

If getting to work was bad, getting home was excruciating.  Traffic seemed heavy just about everywhere, to the point that the return journey was in excess of two hours.  What is odd is that there were no specific bad spots or obvious causes, just the same old story of too many cars, too few roads.  I really thought that I’d go stark raving insane from all the slowdowns.

Published in: on February 18, 2013 at 3:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, February 12 – Wednesday, February 13

So the roads are better.  Big deal.

While it would be an exaggeration to say that the roads were in perfect shape, okay a very big exaggeration, by and large they were much better on Tuesday than they had been on Monday, and Wednesday was better still.  All this means that getting to and from work was a breeze, right?  Not even close.

I had no particular trouble getting into work either day (New Rochelle on Tuesday, Port Chester on Wednesday).  Just the usual sluggish traffic in western Nassau.  Both days I stayed on the Long Island Expressway until reaching the Clearview, as traffic on the ramp to the Cross Island looked fierce.  Getting home?  Well that was quite another matter.  Due to a heavy workload I didn’t finish until about 5pm each day, which meant that my return trip was in the height of rush hour.

On Tuesday, I got on the Expressway from the Cross Island at about 5:20, and was immediately greeted by the electronic sign giving an estimate of 41 minutes travel time to Route 110.  That’s more than twice what it should be, and I knew that there’s be an excruciatingly slow crawl to Exit 38 and beyond.  As a result, for the first time in some weeks I got off at Exit 32 and followed the Panera Bread Strategy.  The ethnic stereotyping which I’ve noted in the past was back in full force, with a quartet of Jewish ladies playing Mah-Jongg and young Asians doing math and science homework.  I stayed at the Panera until about 6, which meant that the rest of the trip home was reasonably trouble-free.  There were some patches of heavy traffic, mostly in Suffolk County, but I’d clearly beaten the worst of rush hour.

Wednesday was a bit different.  Given the longer drive from Port Chester it was about 5:30 when I crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge and 5:40 when I got to the Long Island Expressway.  Although the electronic signs were showing brutally long estimated travel times, based on experience I knew that the worst of rush hour was rapidly passing and that things would steadily get better.  I was right.  After a rough start, once again as far as Exit 38, the traffic began to get a bit lighter.  I was home by 6:45, for a total return trip of about 1:45.

Published in: on February 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, February 11

A train day

What with the roads still being in wretched condition I decided to take the train into work today.  It helped that the day’s work location, in the Bronx, was close to the 238th Street station on the 1 subway line, which would make for a direct if lengthy trip from Penn Station.  As I was giving my wife a ride to work – her Mazda is a lot worse in the snow than my Subaru – I would have to get the LIRR from Stony Brook, that station being in fairly close proximity to her workplace.  As it looked like the 5:54 from Stony Brook to Penn would be the last train I could get and still get to the Bronx by 8, and I had no illusions about road conditions, we had to leave the house at (ugh!) 5 am.

Neighborhood streets were just as bad as they’ve been, though the Long Island Expressway was in good shape, at least for the two exits we were on it.  The eastbound lanes were still closed for snow removal.  On a much worse note, Nichols Road (County Road 97), which is a major four-lane thoroughfare,  was horrible.  Only one lane was passable in each direction and it was often snow-covered.  It didn’t help that I was stuck for much of the way behind a coach bus that was going less than 10mph.  Fortunately, I made it to the Stony Brook station with just a few minutes to spare.  The parking area had been plowed, but the walkways to the platform had not been cleared at all, forcing everyone to clump through the snow.

The 5:54 may be an early train, but it’s a very nice one.  Not only does it have the nice seats found on diesel coaches, seats built for actual human beings rather than for midget anorectic quadruple amputees as with the seats on the electric trains, but it also uses a dual-mode locomotive that can run on both diesel and third-rail power.  That allows the train to go into Penn Station, which is off-limits to diesels, so there’s no need to change trains at Huntington or Jamaica.  It makes a nice express run from Greenlawn to Jamaica.  I don’t know what ridership normally is like, as if I’ve ever ridden it before it’s only been once or twice, but it was quite crowded this morning.

Once at Penn I got a 3 express to 96th Street, and then switched to a 1 for the interminable trip to 238th.   Okay, it was less than 30 minutes long, but there were so many stops along the way the ride seemed endless.  It was raining quite heavily by the time I got to 238th, a detail that usually wouldn’t matter except that I had a very wet walk of several blocks to the worksite.

I finished up quite early, early enough that I figured I had a chance of getting the 3:52 out of Penn.  In a bit of a change from the morning I transferred from the 1 to the A at 168th Street, an interesting transfer that involves an elevator ride given the difference in depth between the platforms.  I’m not sure that I saved any time over the morning’s routing, but I did get to experience one of the subway’s best express runs, between 125th and 59th streets on the A.

The 3:52 from Penn to Huntington, which makes a Stony Brook connection, was quite the surprise because it was a cattle train.  Continuing with the zoological motif, I actually had to do the External Baby Elephant Walk for a couple of carlengths before I saw some empty seats.  It was an electric train, fortunately the man who sat next to me wasn’t too corpulent and I actually was able to breathe, more or less.  What came as an additional surprise was that hardly anyone was getting off at the various stops on the way to Huntington.

As I waited on the Huntington platform for the connection, the reason for the crowding became apparent: a high percentage of the people who had been on the train from Penn also were waiting for the connection, and most of them were young people with backpacks and other luggage.  They obviously were students at Stony Brook who had gone home to the city for the (stormy) weekend.  Sure enough, there was a mass exodus from the train at Stony Brook.  I noted with some amusement that the walkways still hadn’t been cleared.  Though the students who were clumping through the snow with heavy backpacks and luggage undoubtedly saw nothing amusing about the situation.  On a better note, most of Nichols Road was in decent shape, though heavy fog kept speeds low.

Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 8 – Sunday, February 10

To say this weekend was “apocalyptic” would be a major understatement.   Starting about 4pm on Friday, when rain and sleet turned to snow, and sometime before dawn on Saturday, we got an officially measured 33.5 inches of snow.  As far as I know it’s the heaviest snowfall I’ve ever experienced.  Roads went from “fine” to “impassible” in the space of a couple hours, resulting in hundreds of people being stranded on the roads.  Many of them weren’t rescued for over 12 hours.  I was safely ensconced at home by the time things got fierce, though I had ventured out earlier on Friday for some food shopping.  As I figured that the mega-supermarket would be a madhouse, I instead (caution: stereotyping ahead) went to a nearby bargain supermarket that serves a heavily Latin American customer base.   Somehow I believed that the customers would be less prone to panic than those at the mega-mart, and I was right.  No, I can’t explain why I thought that way.

I ventured out on Saturday afternoon for a beer run to a 7-11 about a half-mile away.  The streets were just barely passable, and in that short distance I passed at least five or six abandoned cars.  By Sunday, when I made a longer trip, some of the main roads (by no means all) were slightly better, but the condition of the neighborhood streets was still dreadful.

Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 6 – Thursday, February 7

I’m glad I was working locally

Wednesday was an exhausting day with a capital “E.”  There was a massive amount of work, so much that I worked for ten hours with one break of five minutes and another of about ten minutes.  I didn’t dare take any longer because that would just mean a longer and longer day.  By the time I was finished, about 5:15, I was really worn down.  Thankfully I was at a worksite only about 30 minutes from home.  I can’t imagine how I would have faced a two-hour slog through rush hour traffic.

Thursday’s worksite was even closer, about 15 to 20 minutes away.  What made the day interesting is that the actual tasks to be accomplished were identical to Wednesday’s tasks, but instead of a ten hours it took only six.  The reason is that each day I was part of a 3-person team, and the other two members on Thursday had much more experience than the people on Wednesday.

Published in: on February 9, 2013 at 3:18 am  Leave a Comment