It wasn’t a bad holiday weekend, as such things go. I had plans to do yardwork, but nothing much could get accomplished on Saturday as it rained all day. Sunday was better, and I did some very much needed mowing. Next up: trimming some rather overgrown vegetation. Monday we had a rather impromptu backyard cookout. For something tossed together at the last minute, it went surprisingly well.
Staying close to home
I was at the same worksite for both days, a worksite that’s only about three miles away. While having a short drive is nice in any event, it was especially appreciated these days as I was still not fully recovered from Monday’s and Tuesday’s ghastly schedule. It bothered me a bit that I was still affected, as I had thought I would be more resilient. In any event, I was happy not to have to drive all over Creation. I also found out next week’s schedule, and it’s pretty good too. I’ll be in one location on Tuesday and Thursday and in a different location on Wednesday. Both of these worksites are about 15 miles away, although in different directions. Friday is yet to be scheduled.
Friday night we went out to dinner at one of our favorite Indian restaurants, the Curry Club in East Setauket. It was quite a feast. Not terribly inexpensive, $180 for the four of us, though we had a $50 gift certificate which helped some. I had a dosa, which is actually my favorite Indian item.
The shore route, again
Today marked a most appreciated return to normalcy after my two horrendously early mornings. My worksite for the day was in southeastern Queens, not far from Kennedy Airport, and best of all I didn’t have to report until the dignified hour of 8 am. I knew that the Long Island Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway would be horror shows, however based on my recent trip to Long Beach I figured that the shoreline route would be a far-less-trafficked alternative. Leaving the house at 6, I figured there would be ample time for me to get to the worksite by 8.
The route was Sunrise Highway –> Robert Moses Causeway –> Ocean Parkway –> Meadowbrook/Loop Parkway –> Lido Beach Boulevard/Park Avenue (the main east-west route through Long Beach) –> Atlantic Beach Bridge –> Nassau Expressway –> Rockaway Boulevard. As expected, there wasn’t much traffic most of the way, though low clouds and occasional rain made the trip along the shore on Ocean Parkway quite gloomy. I had been a bit concerned about all the traffic lights through Long Beach, but apparently the Traffic Light Gods had heard my prayer and made most of them green.
One thing I hadn’t realized was that the Atlantic Beach Bridge had a toll, though at just two dollars it was substantially less obscene than usual. It’s owned by Nassau County, rather than the MTA or Port Authority, which accounts for the lower degree of toll obscenity. It’s also different than the other bridges and tunnels in that EZ Pass is not accepted.
Oh, about the aforementioned Traffic Light Gods? Once I got onto the Nassau Expressway – its name notwithstanding, it has several traffic lights – the Gods strangely deserted me. Or maybe my earlier prayers had lost their effectiveness. Whatever the case, I got every single one of the lights red, I am convinced they are deliberately timed so that happens. While stopped at one of them I had quite a surprise. Upon hearing a lour roar I looked up to see a huge airplane (an Eva Air 747-400) materialize out of a cloud bank a very short distance overhead. I hadn’t realized just how close I was to JFK. Anyway, even with the traffic lights I made it to the worksite in well under 90 minutes.
As I was able to leave by 3 pm I figured I’d beat most of the rush hour traffic and therefore decided to take the Southern State Parkway. It’s a less roundabout route than the shoreline route, and I wouldn’t have to deal with the gruesome traffic lights on the Nassau “Expressway.” At first, traffic on the Southern State was moving along at a nice clip, but all of a sudden, around Exit 19 in Hempstead, it slowed to a crawl. I have no idea why. It took almost ten minutes to cover the two miles or so to the Meadowbrook Parkway exit. I took the Meadowbrook to Ocean Parkway, which was a bit roundabout but a far better alternative than the comedy on the Southern State. My trip home was about an hour and 45 minutes.
Within a few minutes of getting home I had to leave for my weekly hot yoga session. It didn’t go terribly well, unfortunately, as I was still coping with the effects of Monday’s and Tuesday’s insane hours. It was just a minor setback, I’m sure next week will go much better.
I survived it, barely
Let it be said: getting up at 3:00 am to drive into Manhattan for work assignments at 4:45 am is not pleasant by even the most extreme stretch of that adjective. Humans are not meant to get up at such a ghastly hour. Although my agricultural knowledge is rather limited, I do not believe that even dairy farmers have to get up so early to milk the cows. I have no doubt that it would be possible to get used to rising at 3 on a regular basis, we can adapt to most things, but it would take time and be an unpleasant process. Doing it just for two days is of course far too short for any adaptations to occur.
Lest I sound too negative, I must concede that there was one good aspect about traveling at this hour, namely the traffic situation. It would be an exaggeration to say that the roads were empty, in fact there was more traffic than I would have expected, but it was never heavy enough for there to be any sort of delays. On Monday, I took the Long Island Expressway to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the Williamsburgh Bridge, while on Tuesday I went to a location in Midtown using the Queensboro* Bridge. Each day the trip took barely 90 minutes. Had I made the same journey starting out a couple of hours later, I would imagine that each drive would have been at least an hour longer.
Actually, now that I think of it, there were two more good aspects about traveling at this horrendous hour. I was able to find on-street parking, which would have been impossible at a later hour. On Monday I parked on Elizabeth Street just south of Broome, and on Tuesday on West 66th about midway between Amsterdam and West End avenues. I also was done in the very early afternoon each day, which made for reasonably quick trips home (though a truck fire on the Expressway near my exit led to some delays on Tuesday). Even so, these two days were classic cases in which the negatives outweighed the positives. At least they’re not likely to recur very often.
* = mindful of the criticism it got for abandoning the old name when it renamed the Triboro Bridge the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the city now calls the Queensboro Bridge the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, in other words the old name is still retained.
Well those will be amusing hours
Thursday was not one of my better workdays. It was close to home, no more than a 15-minute drive away, so I suppose that was a good thing, but the rest of the day left much to be desired. It wasn’t due to anything on my part, instead it had to do with the particular workplace. Fortunately, it’s unlikely I’ll be returning there anytime soon, so I guess that’s another good thing.
Friday was a day off, which gave me the chance to do some much needed yardwork. Grass in the back yard had reached a height that was almost beyond the lawnmower’s capabilities and would oblige me to rent a herd of goats. Not being exactly sure where goat rentals are available, I doubt the Tool Rental department at Home Depot would have been much help, I was pleased to find out that yes, the mower was able to handle the task.
Also on Friday, I got my assignments for the upcoming week, and suffice to say they came as a surprise. The first two of them, at least. I’ll be working at two different worksites in Manhattan on Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s worksite is in lower Manhattan, Tuesday’s in Midtown toward the West Side. While the sites may be different, what is the same is that I’ll have to report to each one at the same time … 4:45 am. Ugh. Even with the light traffic I should encounter I’ll have to leave the house at 3:00 am. Double ugh. I suppose the best way to deal with these ghastly hours is to think of it as shift work. Which it really is, I suppose, and of course it’s just for two days. On Wednesday I won’t have to leave the house until the more civilized hour of 6:00 am, and Thursday and Friday will be even better as I won’t have to leave until 6:45. Yay.
I didn’t do much of anything on the weekend, rainy weather prevented me from finishing the yardwork. On Sunday I bought and cooked a large trout, enough for everyone, so I guess that counts as some sort of accomplishment.
Three days on the road
My work for these three days was different from what I usually do. While on occasion I go to two worksites in a single day, I really moved around these three days, covering a total of 17 worksites. I spent about 45 minutes to an hour at each site, though because I got paid for my time driving from site to site each day was a full eight-hour day. On Monday I went to sites in eastern Suffolk County, Tuesday was western Suffolk, and on Wednesday I stayed closer to home and worked in central Suffolk.
It’s funny. When I found out about this assignment a couple of weeks ago I was quite eager. Going around from site to site sounded more interesting than being in one location all day. The reality? Well, it wasn’t bad, not exactly, but it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. It’s hard to articulate why. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I hated each day, maybe it’s just that my expectations were too high. Whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter, as this was pretty much a one-time deal.
In another break from the usual, I went to hot yoga twice in this period, on Monday evening and again at my “regular” time on Wednesday. I seem to be making some progress, too. While my flexibility has improved only slightly, my balance seems to be getting a lot better. I can do poses on one foot without constantly feeling like I’m going to topple like a tree. This is actually the best sort of progression, as good balance is more important than flexibility, at least for a neophyte.
I was all excited about Saturday. The “Parade of Trains” was being held at Grand Central Terminal, with a number of classic trains from the “golden age” of passenger rail on display. It was going to be so cool to see these trains, I could barely wait!
With mounting eagerness I took the 9:40 from Ronkonkoma to Penn. It wasn’t too crowded at first but gradually filled at the various stops. I was riding in one of the rear cars, and while it never got SRO almost every seat was filled by Hicksville. Like most weekend trains it was on the noisy side, thanks to many people traveling in groups. Especially a group of four or five women at the opposite end of the car, who seemed to be trying to break some record for The Loudest Human Speech of All Time.
We got to Penn around 11, and as the earlier rain had stopped, I decided to walk around for a while before going to Grand Central. When I finally got there, I was puzzled by this huge line I saw wrapping its way through much of the station. Yep, you guessed it. The line was for the Parade of Trains, which was being held at the westernmost tracks on the upper level. At that point, around 12:15, the line was already more than two hours in length. I debated whether to wait or not, but finally decided “not,” mainly because the Metro North employee who had given the estimate seemed rather vague. Yes, it might have been two hours, but it just as easily could have been three. I guess my desire to see the old trains wasn’t quite as acute as it might have seemed.
All was not lost, however. Three subway cars from the 1950’s were running on the 42nd Street shuttle, and I rode back and forth three times so I got to ride in each one. I especially liked the vintage ads in each car, though it was worth noting that cigarette ads – once the staple of subway advertising – were nowhere to be seen. I ended up returning to Ronkonkoma on the 3:12 out of Penn, which, curiously, was much quieter than the morning train even though almost as crowded.
Sunday was a fairly laid-back day, though I did make mushroom lasagna. Although lasagna made with meat is more popular, I would say that it’s better with mushroom.
That was a creative route
Wednesday and Thursday were interesting days in work terms. “Interesting” is not necessarily being used in a good sense. My Wednesday worksite was in southeastern Queens, not far from JFK Airport. Getting there should have been relatively easy, but I had made a mistake about the start time. I thought I was supposed to be there at 8 am, but just before I left the house at 6 – which would have gotten me there with ample time to spare – but for some inexplicable reason I checked my e-mail and saw to my dismay that I was supposed to be there at 7. Keep in mind that I hate to be late for things.
I gave it my best effort, though heavy traffic on the Expressway at the usual spots was a bit of an obstacle. It also was difficult getting onto the southbound Cross Island Parkway because part of the ramp is shared with the absurdly crowded exit to the northbound Cross Island. It was about 7:15 when I got to the worksite, all ready to dive into the day’s work. As it turned out, the pool was empty (how’s that for a ludicrous metaphor?) Due to some various organizational issues the worksite wasn’t ready for what I had to do. I called my company to explain the situation, and finally got reassigned to a different site in eastern Nassau not far from the Suffolk line. It worked out okay, because being farther east meant that I had less traffic to deal with in the afternoon. As usual for Wednesdays, I had my hot yoga session in the evening, with continued improvement.
Thursday was yet another mid-day worksite change, though for different reasons than the day before. I started out in a town to the east, not as far east as Range Rover Territory though with some (real) name similarities, but after less than an hour had to go to another site several miles further west. It didn’t really matter so much.
Friday’s assignment was in Long Beach. Yes, that’s the real name, I’m willing to use it because (a) the location is relevant to my travels, and (b) it’s a large enough city that giving its real name won’t be revealing too much in terms of the worksite. Getting to Long Beach involved using some rather unusual roads: Sunrise Highway (okay, not so unusual) –> Robert Moses Causeway –> Ocean Parkway –> Loop Parkway. Ocean Parkway, which formed the main part of the route, runs right along the Atlantic, on a narrow barrier island with the Great South Bay on the other side. There are a couple of small communities and public beaches along the way, but for the most part there’s nothing but the water and the sand dunes, an end-of-the-Earth atmosphere not to be found anywhere else in the area. Even at rush hour traffic was very light, though on a summer weekend it would have been busy with traffic going to Jones Beach and, in the other direction, Robert Moses Beach. It was a huge time-saver over the Sunrise Highway or the Southern State Parkway. Interestingly, Ocean Parkway reopened just a couple weeks ago after hurricane damage.
All over the place
Monday was an interesting day in driving terms, to say the least. My worksite for the day was (supposed to be) in the eastern Suffolk community that I had dubbed Range Rover Territory back in my old, unlamented life insurance days. As I drove there on the Sunrise Highway I mused about how the whole nature of my worklife has changed since those days. The previous times I had driven to Range Rover Territory for work-related purposes I had no idea whether I’d actually be making any money for my efforts. Such are the vicissitudes of working on straight commission. Today, I knew that no matter what, I’d be getting paid for my time. It is difficult to understand the magnitude of this difference unless you have worked on straight commission.
The drive was easy enough, except for some traffic when Sunrise Highway turns into a ordinary, traffic-lighted road after the Shinnecock Canal. Shortly after I got to the worksite, however, I found out that due to circumstances beyond my control I’d have to leave and go to a different site, this one being quite some distance away in central Nassau. In fact it was at least a 50-mile drive, fortunately the peak of rush hour had passed and I made the drive in less than an hour. My work at the new site went well, and I was able to leave just early enough to beat rush hour on my way home.
Tuesday I worked in central Brooklyn. One thing about that part of the borough is that it’s a long way from the nearest actual highway. Geographers describe a huge square of land centered on the Oklahoma Panhandle as the largest swath of the continental United States that is not served by any Interstate Highways. While that may be true if “largest” is defined in terms of square mileage, in population terms the central part of Brooklyn is likely the biggest un-highway’ed area.
Getting to the worksite was not easy, with heavy traffic on the Long Island Expressway, culminating in an awkward route to get onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Also known as the road whose neighbors will never complain about traffic noise, as most of them are dead (the Parkway runs past several cemeteries). I then had a lengthy drive on surface streets to get to the worksite, and of course it seemed as if all of the ten thousand traffic lights were red. Getting home was somewhat easier, if no piece of cake, as I was just ahead of the worst of rush hour traffic.
Thursday should have been a close copy of the previous day when it came to driving. I went to the same worksite just north of the Bronx line and left the house at the same time. So it should have taken 90 minutes like it did on Wednesday, right? Wrong! The drive took nearly a half-hour more, for a total of just under two hours. And what’s perplexing is that there was no obvious reason why that should have been so. Traffic on the Expressway was heavy in the same, usual spots (Exit 42, exits 39 – 37), but for some reason it was notably more sluggish. And the exit from the Expressway to the Cross Island Parkway? Let’s just say that some things are too gruesome to be related. Fifteen minutes to negotiate an exit ramp?? Again, there’s nothing I can imagine that would have accounted for such a difference from one day to the next.
I had Friday off, doing some chores around the house but really not too much, while over the weekend I did some fairly heavy-duty yard cleanup. The amount of work that needed to be done looked daunting, but once I got into it things went reasonably well. I also did quite a bit of TV-watching. One thing I’ve figured out is that the Smithsonian Channel is just about the best cable channel out there. Unlike so many others it’s blessedly free of inane reality shows and similar fluff. I also watched Raging Bull on Saturday, the first time I’ve seen that movie. It’s funny, although the movie is on all sorts of Top Ten lists, and even though I have a lot of interest in the subject matter, I found it okay, at best. Dunno why. It could be that the boxing scenes were unrealistic, in a way that didn’t sit well with me because I’m a boxing fan, but then again they weren’t meant to be the main focus of the movie.
Next week I’ll be in four different locations for work. Monday I’ll be in the affluent East End community that I dubbed Range Rover Territory during my insurance days, Tuesday in Brooklyn, Wednesday in Queens, and Thursday in a relatively nearby community. Don’t know about Friday yet.