I took a plane; I took a train. Ah! Who cares? You always end up in the city.
The following event happened one week ago today. It provides insight to my everyday commute from Baltimore to the District for my profession with a public transportation firm. Oh the pits of irony are deep in this one.
The end of the workweek has arrived and I made plans with Liv to go to a baseball game at Camden Yards. I have no allegiance or reservations towards either of the participating teams, but being an avid fan of baseball, I look forward to seeing a stadium that is one of the better legacies of baseball in the nineties. The first pitch is at five after seven, which means I need to depart the office a bit earlier than usual. A worrisome, yet minor, probability of being discovered leaving early was averted when both the president and office administrator had noticed the beauty of a sunny day and split. Even so, I left no encounter to chance and slid down the stairwell instead of standing around in the lobby for the elevator. I open the back door and hit the concrete running hoping to catch the light rail at the station a few blocks away. Usually an addition of an aggressive walk here can mean minutes, or possible hours, of commute time saved. The light rail is not the lengthiest portion of my overall commute, even though it comprises about twenty minutes, but catching one at the right time can determine what MARC train I am able to catch at Union Station. This particular day I am hoping to make the four twenty-four train that makes fewer stops, leaving me with plenty of time to have a beverage with Liv and still view the lead-off hitter for the Twins.
All went smoothly on this small and crucial leg of the greater commute, which is to say, I was able to board the intended train. But here is where an average day’s events became hellish. I find a seat on the quiet car in the front of the train, which is called such because of the regulations against loud communication – cell phones, banter, etc. This provides me with a welcomed relief to the unpleasantries of any workday, and enables me to listen to some tunes and/or read one of those fictitious novels I enjoy. The engine of the train clicks over and the initial push sends the commuter into motion along the rails, but two minutes into the relaxing journey all power in the car turns off. The lights go out, the air-conditioning ceases, and the eerie silence of complete absence of sound fills the car holding sixty or so passengers. The train is to capacity and coasting along the tracks to an eventual complete halt two hundred feet from an overpass. It turns out this obstruction would have proven to be a blessing in the coming hour. Yes, I would spend the next hour on a broken down train, filled to capacity, on a day where the swamp air of the Eastern Seaboard has reached the high nineties. The commuters sit and sit, with no inclination to whether the train’s power will return in the immediate future. I am against a window on the western side of the train, making inquisitive glares to the gentleman seated next to me who is reading an installment of the Hannibal Lecter series. This is bizarre on a number of levels, but I must not digress. A woman who is seated five rows in front of me begins to cry after forty-five minutes pass without any announcement as to what caused the inconvenience or how any of these passengers can continue with their interrupted lives. In the midst of this stall a man across the aisle to my right receives all incoming calls on the quiet car, and is not alone in his action. The quiet car is now unbearably warm, as it has been baking in the sun for close to an hour, and people are opening their orifices to blow out more hot air. This one particular loud mouth is having an open-ended conversation with his partner during this stressful state of suspension, and stating the method in which he intends to get out of this cart – each time more vocal and angst-inspired. He expresses a scenario where he takes his shoe and kicks the mother-fucking window out. I am not completely in disagreement, but my man needs to pull it together, he is only compounding the car’s disgruntled mood.
My dress shirt and shoes have long been removed when we finally receive word from an insightful man who used his laptop to find out the status of the train. The outside world knows our condition, but we do not. It turns out we will be having our train pushed back to Union Station by another commuter and should remain on the train until it departs again at six forty. Meaning I will miss the majority of the baseball game and arrive in Baltimore after a commute surpassing three hours. After some mechanic wizardry, our train is pushed back to the station we departed from at five fifteen, which leaves me with a slim possibility of making either the five twenty or five thirty-four trains to Baltimore. I decided minutes earlier that if I were to meet Liv in time for the game, I would have to board that train in five minutes. We return to the platform and the automatic doors swing open, hoards of people are now trying to make the five thirty-four train, but I have ambitions to see the slumping Orioles lose another game. Once I step out there is a large cluster of wandering wonderers congregating, with the one exception of a black gentleman that hits the concrete running. This is just the carrot I needed. I weave through the beleaguered, following closely to this track star as we run from track twenty-five, up an elevator, through a turnstile of sorts, through hallways of congestion, through a loading lobby at five eighteen on a Friday, through the gate entrance, and finally down the platform of track eleven. I hadn’t run like this since high school, well before I betrayed my fitness and lungs in favor of an extracurricular social life. Myself, and presumably the gentleman, who I lost once my eyes noticed the five-twenty was still in port, were likely the only two to make it through its doors seconds before the initial push would send this train into motion along the rails.
With the train now gliding along the railway, I am winded and searching for a place to sit. I discover a vacant seat next to a gentleman, and throw my exasperated self next to him. Minutes pass before I fully recover my breath, by which time I have noticed my neighbor is wearing an Amtrak button-up shirt. I proceed to shoot him an unnoticed smirk, lean back and turn on my headset, which is cued to Apparat. Now succumbed by relief of the knowledge that I will be with Liv in time for the opening inning, and that all could be much worse. It hadn't been the greatest of commutes, but no commute ever is, I just sometimes sugarcoat the bad ones with those that fall in accordance to planned departures/arrivals.