Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Archer

Today marks the 12th anniversary of my mother's death. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her and miss her...especially during the holidays. I dedicate today's post to her memory. Merry Christmas!

Like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story," I begged my mother for a BB gun at Christmastime. But like Ralphie's mom...and every other mom for that matter, she'd always counter my pleas with the standard answer from the mother's handbook... "No, you'll shoot your eye out." I considered my mother's opinion to be knee jerk and reactionary and her argument weak. "No," I'd say, "I 'm not like other boys...I'm going to be extra careful."

"No," she'd say again, "you'll shoot your eye out."

Frankly, my mother's firmness surprised me, she was usually such a pushover. I mean, just that summer I'd called her up at work and asked if I could buy two rabbits from Mr. Chickla, a rabbit breeder who lived down the street.

"No," she said, "They'll mate and multiply and before you know it, we'll be up to our eyes in bunnies."

"But Ma," I said innocently, " I'll make sure I get brother and sister rabbits."

I could tell from the guffaws of laughter on the other end of the line that Rabbits must be incestuous critters. Who knew? My mother got such a chuckle from my naivete, that she let me get the rabbits and then told this story for the rest of her life .

Back to the BB gun...When I turned thirteen. I went on a scorched earth campaign to get that "holy grail of Kiddom," and when Christmas rolled around, I thought I'd finally received it. There, under our tree, was a slim, wrapped cardboard box...just the right size for a BB gun. Finally, I thought, my mother had come to her senses. I could take the suspense no longer, and ripped open the package and found...a bow and arrow set???

In the box was a green fiberglass bow, with three steel tipped arrows. It wasn't a professional grade set, but it wasn't exactly kid's stuff either. I didn't understand my mother's logic.."Oh yeah" I said sarcastically as I inspected the arrow's steel tips, "This is much safer than a BB gun." This sarcasm proved prophetic...here's what became of the three arrows:

Arrow 1: Went though the 2nd floor window of a house one block over-

I began my archery career by shooting arrows into our
wooden garage door. After putting a few dozen holes in door and breaking a square window or two, I began shooting for distance. When I reached 50 ft or so , I drew back the bow string as far as it would go. The bow bent from the strain and my hands began to shake. I released the string and watched as the arrow flew high in the air...it flew over the garage, over our backyard fence, over the treetops and then SMASH!!! It shattered the glass on a second story window of the house behind us. When I saw what I had done, I high tailed it back inside the house and ran straight into my brother Brian (8 years older than me). "You could have killed somebody," he said. "you better go over there and apologize and offer to pay for the window." But I was way too chicken to own up to my mistake and I never did retrieve the arrow.

Arrow 2: Narrowly missed impaling an old woman-

I don't know what my friends and I were thinking, but one day we took the bow and the two remaining arrows over to my friend David's backyard. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to shoot arrows straight up into the air, and then run for cover before anyone us got skewered in the head by a falling arrow. David,the youngest of our group, didn't want to be shown up by the older boys, so he really pulled back hard on the bow string, and his arrow took off like an Apollo rocket.

When we came out of hiding, we couldn't find the arrow, but after searching for five minutes or so, we spotted it sticking straight out of the tilled dirt of Mrs. Rinaldi's garden... and only about a foot away from the bent-over Mrs. Rinaldi. The old woman had been so intent on tending to her tomato plants, she didn't notice or hear the descending missile whizz by her ear. OOPS!!!

Arrow 3: Flooded my mother's basement-

After what we later called the "Rinaldi incident", I thought it best to retire my bow and the last remaining arrow. Then one winter day, I grew bored and found the hidden bow and arrow atop a rafter in our basement. I took a piece of abandoned wood paneling and drew a target on it, then propped it up against one of our radon-laden cellar walls. The very first arrow I shot went wide right and missed the target completely. Instead it pierced a copper pipe that lead out of our water meter... PSSSTTTT! It was a geyser. The water shot out of the pipe and spat across the length of the basement. Like the fabled dutch boy who put his finger in the dike, I grabbed a piece of duct tape and wrapped it around the pipe. The water pressure proved too great and the water sprang forward which in turn made the tape shoot across the basement. There was about an inch of water on the floor before I finally found the water main and shut the valve off. I vaguely remember hearing complaints about how expensive the plumbing bill was.

My mother was ticked off by the holes in her garage door and the flooded basement. I told her that a BB gun would have been a much safer gift. Cheaper too!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Lest I forget to be thankful that I have a good job...or any job for that matter (especially in this economy) here are a few reminders:

I took these photos a few weeks back, when Metro North was holding a "Career Fair" in Grand Central. The line of prospective employees ended here in Vanderbilt Hall:

But it was a long...


These resume bearing applicants were literally wrapped around the block and the building. The head of the line was in Vanderbilt Hall (42nd Stand Park Ave.), but its tail ended somewhere around 45th Street and Vanderbilt Ave.

I was once told, that at any given time, Metro North has 2500 applicants for each of their open conductor positions. After seeing this crowd...I believe it.
The next time I hear one of my ungrateful coworkers say "This job sucks," I'll show them these pictures and say... be thankful...be thankful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cute joke

I usually ignore jokes sent to my email box, but I must admit...this one is cute:)

Two Red Indians and an Irishman were walking through the woods.
All of a sudden one of the Red Indians ran up a hill to the mouth of a small cave. 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' he called into the cave and listened closely until he heard an answering, 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Woooooo!
He then tore off his clothes and ran into the cave.

The Irishman was puzzled and asked the remaining Indian what it was all about. 'Was the other Indian crazy or what?’ The Indian replied 'No, It is our custom during mating season when Indian men see cave, they holler 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' into the opening. If they get an answer back, it means there's a beautiful squaw in there waiting for us.

Just then they came upon another cave.
The second Indian ran up to the cave, stopped, and hollered, 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' Immediately, there was the answer. 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' from deep inside.

He also tore off his clothes and ran into the opening. The Irishman wandered around in the woods alone for a while, and then spied a third large cave. As he looked in amazement at the size of the huge opening, he was thinking, 'Hoo, man! Look at the size of this cave! It is bigger than those the Indians found.

There must be some really big, fine women in this cave!' He stood in front of the opening and hollered with all his might 'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' Like the others, he then heard an answering call, 'WOOOOOOOOO, WOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOO!' With a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face, he raced into the cave,tearing off his clothes as he ran.

The following day, the headline of the local newspaper read...............

You'll like this


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Love Train

If I had a dime for every time I've seen this happen on my late night trains...I'd be a rich man.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A gift from Hunter, age 8

Click to enlarge

It's against Metro North policy to accept gratuities or gifts from our passengers, but yesterday, while working a Stamford local train, a young artist named Hunter, age 8, presented me with this drawing. Of course I bent the rules a bit and accepted his wonderful gift.

Hunter is a 3rd grader and a big railroading fan. He said he recently visited The Danbury Railroad Museum, and a month ago went to Metro North's Open House at the diesel shops in Croton-Harmon, NY. There he inspectied all of our rolling stock and told me all about the inner workings of the Genesis engine (pictured above). He then went into great detail, explaining the engineer's stand, the train throttle and independent braking system.

Maybe he'll be my engineer someday.

A note to Hunter and other rail aficionados, tomorrow night (Tuesday November 11th, 10PM) The History Channel starts an eight-part series called "Extreme Trains." It's described as *"a series that tracks amazing locomotives that have helped shape America and continue to deliver today."

*Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Letters...I get letters...I get lots and lots of letters

I'm amazed by how many strangers read this blog and then email me. I'm honestly thrilled and touched that readers take the time to write comments and questions. Here's a sampling of one recent correspondence I received:


I love your blog, it's awesome to get the perspective of an insider on the MetroNorth trains. Next time I see someone puke on one of the late night weekend trains, I'll email you a picture.

You should start a feature on your blog called "ask the conductor". Here's the first questions to start you off:

When did the conductor announcing the stops start using the words 'platform' and 'express' as verbs. For example, instead of saying, "the train will run express to Stamford. The rear car will not reach the platform, please walk forward," the conductor will say, "the train will express to Stamford, the rear car will not platform, please walk forward."

In my book, the words express can be used as a noun or adjective, and the word platform can only be used as a noun. I guess using fewer words and insider lingo shortens the announcements and lets you get your job done faster, but as a nitpicky anal retentive rider, it drives me nuts.
thanks and a keep the war stories coming!
-Peter D.


I think you answered your own question in the last paragraph.
Yes, fewer words do shorten the announcements and let us get our jobs done faster. Though, it's true that some conductors like the sound of their own voice (I've been accused of this) and their announcements go on like Shakespeare soliloquies, most like to keep their speeches short and sweet and to the point. Hence the "rail speak."

I recently heard this announcement: "This is Grand Central Station. Our last and final stop." This really got under my skin, because it's both redundant (last and final) and incorrect. Grand Central is a "Terminal" not a station, a qualified conductor should know that.

I'm hesitant to start an "Ask the conductor" feature, mostly for fear that rail buffs will start asking technical questions. I'd rather they visit sites like railfan.net or railroad.net

P.S. Keep the late night train puke pictures. I've seen enough to last a life time.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Continental Drift

Train 6550:

Yesterday afternoon, I collected a ticket from an old woman who was on an outbound New Haven train. She had grey hair and was dressed all in black. She reminded me of my friend's old Italian grandmother.

"Conductor," she yelled as she flagged me down, "Why is New Haven so far today?"

"New Haven is no further than it usually is," I said, "and we're on schedule."

"Oh, but the rides so long."

"Maybe it's because this train makes all the stops between Stamford and New Haven. You must normally take an express train, and skip a lot of the stations that we're making today."

"No," she shook her head. "New Haven is definitely farther today."

"Do you normally ride the train with family or friends?" I countered. "Good conversation can make the ride go by faster, you know."

"No" she said." "I always ride alone."

"Hmm" I tried to look pensive. "As far as I know, New Haven is still 72 miles away from Grand Central. Nothing has changed"

"Then why is the ride so much longer today?"

I briefly thought of saying something sarcastic like:

This morning a giant fissure opened up in the Harlem River, and due to plate tectonics and continental drift, New Haven has moved 20 miles to the east. This makes the commute 25 minutes longer. We just haven't had time to change the schedule yet.

But she seemed like a sweet old woman, I didn't want to be mean.
I finally gave up and said,"I don't know."

Why didn't I think of this answer in the first place?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Station Stops for iPhone

Chris, the administrator over at "Station Stops" has recently released "Station Stops for iPhone"on the iTunes App Store.

Chris writes:

'Stationstops for iPhone’ allows you to tap on your Metro-North station and immediately find the next regularly scheduled trains departing to or from Grand Central Terminal on the Hudson, New Haven, or Harlem Lines.

As the entire timetable is on the iPhone in a database, internet access is not required – which was an important requirement since I so often need the information while on a subway.
Find the full story here:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aussie Radio Star

Jerry Lewis might be popular in Paris, and David Hasselhoff big in Germany, but I'm huge Down Under (get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about Australia.)

A year ago, I got an email from an Australian psychologist named Gina Perry. She was enrolled as a "mature student" at the University of Melbourne and doing her Master's thesis on Dr. Stanley Milgram's "Obedience to Authority"experiment. She also was in the process of producing a radio documentary for ABC (The Australian Broadcasting Company) about the experiment and the lasting ramifications on those who took part-volunteers, experimenters and their loved ones.

While doing research, Ms. Perry stumbled upon this blog and a post I had written in March of 2006 about my father's involvement with the Milgram experiment. "I thought your piece about you discovering your father had been involved was wonderful and very well written," she wrote. She then asked if I'd be willing to partake in an interview for her documentary. I reluctantly agreed, saying that I was only two years old when my father died and I didn't think I'd be much help. She responded, saying anything I could contribute would be a valued addition to her program
The experiment was performed in 1961 and finding volunteers wasn't an easy task. Most participants, like my father, had gone on to their "great reward". I think Ms. Perry was desperate, so I agreed to help her
Ms. Perry flew to the U.S. to do research and conduct interviews in California, Florida, Ohio and Connecticut. After exchanging several emails, we met at the Yale Club in New Haven on an unseasonably cold March evening.
The Yale Club is a basically a no frills bed and breakfast in the middle of New Haven, but it's just down the street from where Milgram conducted his experiments, so it was perfect for our meeting. We stole away to a dusty lounge where she placed a small digital recorder on an end table next to me and then proceeded to pepper me with questions.

This past Saturday, the documentary was broadcast on ABC in Australia:


I encourage you to click on the link above and listen to the documentary in it's entirety. If you just want to here my contribution, slide the play bar over to the 8-10 minute mark (depending on your media player). In fact, I command you to listen. BZZZZZZ!!!!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A seedy week in review 9/21-9/28

09/21-Conductor's Lounge, Grand Central:

A group of us were sitting around a table in the conductor's lounge, drinking coffee and decompressing by telling war stories from the previous week. Somehow the conversation turned to women (as it always does) and how many sexy ladies have been riding the trains lately. That's when one of the conductors said that he'd recently been caught staring at a woman's cleavage.
"How long were you staring?"
"Too long."
"How long is too long?"
"My wife says that I can stare for three seconds... five seconds if I don't have my glasses on. Any longer than that ...I'm a pervert."
Another conductor said he recently was standing over a buxom woman while she rummaged though her purse, looking for her ticket. He said she had a low cut blouse on and he couldn't help but stare down at her cleavage. The woman looked up, caught him leering, and said..."Honey, you're not gonna find the ticket down there."
09/27/08, Train 6500
A drunken middle aged businessman boarded the train with a "Leg Show" porno magazine under his arm. He staggered down the aisle, stopping occasionally to show the centerfold to anyone who would look in his direction. Finally, he spied a cute college girl and he sat down next to her. He began flirting with her and started flipping through his magazine, showing her the pictures. I could see she was disgusted, and after several minutes, she screamed:
"I'm a lesbian...Leave me alone."
"That's okay," he said, "I'm a lesbian too."
He then went into graphic detail, saying what he and lesbians have in common. That's when I stepped in, saying that the lady obviously didn't want to be bothered and that he should move his seat. He reluctantly agreed and walked back to the rear of the car, where he found a whole new group of people to pester.
09/28 Train 6537

A Stepford wife was sitting in a four seater with an aluminum foil covered sheet cake lying on the seat across from her. The train was crowded, but there were still some seats available. I didn't say anything at first, but by Westport the train was packed and we had several passengers who were standing. I walked by the woman and saw that her cake was still on the seat; "Mam," I said,"please take the cake off the seat. We're very crowded," I then pointed to the five people who were standing in a nearby vestibule.

I moved on and continued to collect tickets, but when I returned (some five minutes later) I found seven people standing, and the woman's cake still on the seat.

"Mam, please remove your cake, others would like to sit here."
"No," she said as if annoyed, "I asked if anyone wanted to sit here and they said no."
"We still have five station stops to go," I said. I'm sure someone will want to sit here."
She still refused to move the cake.
"Listen," I said, "Either you take the cake off the seat, or I'll have you and the cake removed from the train."
It was starting to drizzle out, and I envisioned her standing on the platform, cake in hand, while the song MacArthur Park played in the background:
Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don't think that I can take it

'cause it

took so long to bake it

And I'll never have that recipe again

She finally picked up the cake and placed it in her lap.
"This is unbelievable," she huffed.
"You're unbelievably rude," I countered.
At Stamford, a young lady boarded the train and sat where the cake had been. She seemed happy to find a seat and I was happy that she found one. There's nothing worse than fighting with a customer about opening up a seat and then nobody sits there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A blood splattered week and 1/2 in review.

9/10-Train 1583

A slim, handsome businessman got on the train in Westport and began pacing up and down the aisle as if he were looking for something.

"This train is clean" he said. "Too clean. I can't find a newspaper."

I went to my cab and gave him my copy of the New York Post.
"Thank you," he said, flashing a toothy smile...a very familiar toothy smile.
After racking my brain for several minutes, I realized why... this guy looked a lot like Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
When I approached to collect his ticket and he accidentally handed me his business card. It read "Save the Children" across its top and the words Mark Shriver-Vice President were printed on the bottom. That's "Mark Kennedy Shriver" as in the son of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy. As in the brother of Maria Shriver and brother-in-law of Arnold Shwarzenegger. As in the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

"Shriver!" I said. "I thought you looked Kennedyesque."

He smiled that toothy Kennedy grin again.

I told him that my name is McDonough, and that I grew up the the youngest of nine children in an Irish-Catholic-Democratic household and growing up, the Kennedys were like royalty to us. I then told him that my great grandmother's name was Catherine Kennedy.

"Hmmm" He said."Did you inherit the crazy gene?"

"That would explain a lot." I said.

I told him how I see his cousin, Ted Kennedy Jr. on the train from time to time, and how I once met his brother Tim at a Joe Lieberman fundraiser, some 25 years ago.

"Was Timmy nice to you?" He asked.

"It was a quick handshake...that's all."

Mark picked up his cell phone and called his brother while I was standing there. He left him a voice mail message:

"Tim, I'm here with a Metro North conductor McDonough. He says that he met you at a Lieberman fundraiser 25 years ago. He says that you were a real S.O.B."


I wanted to ask if we could crank call Governor Schwarzenegger next, but then I thought better of it. You see, I was hoping to get an invitation to Hyannisport... maybe play a little touch football with the clan. I didn't want to ruin my chances.

I'd recently finished reading "Symptoms of Withdrawal" a memoir written by Mark's cousin, Christopher Lawford. In this book, Lawford airs a lot of the Kennedy family's dirty laundry. I asked Mark if he'd read the book. He said he hadn't. I don't know about you, but if someone wrote a memoir about my family, I'd be the first one in line at Barnes and Noble.
By the way...I never got an invitation to Hyannisport.

9/15-Train 1388

Tonight the moon is full, and I suspect we'll get a few crazy passengers on the train. I'm not surprised, when on my second train, my assistant conductor says that he has a passenger in the head car who is talking to Jesus.
"Talking to Jesus...as in praying?" I ask.
"No...he's talking as if he's sitting next to him."

"Did he give you two tickets?"

"No, but if JC shows, I'll be sure to get his ticket. Savior or not, no one rides for free on my train"

I suppose that Jesus riding mass transit is possible (like in the Joan Osbourne song). I've seen paintings of him playing soccer in the junior leagues, so why couldn't he ride a train.
09/18 Train 1500
"Mam, this is New Haven...our last stop...time to wake up." I tapped the back of the intoxicated woman's seat and she groggily looked at me.
"New Haven," I said again, "Rise and shine."
I waited another minute or two, but she didn't budge from her seat.
"Mam, this is the last stop...We'd really like to get home."
She wiped some drool from her chin, and said "Yeah, yeah...I'll leave as soon as I find my car keys."
"You don't look like your in any condition to drive," I said. "You better call a cab."
"Oh, I'm not driving," she said, now clutching her keys. She then stood up and walked woozily to the vestibule area, and stood before a pair of closed doors.
"Excuse me," she said in a snotty tone. "Do you plan on opening these doors anytime soon?"
"Turn around," I said.
"Oh," she said. She then made an unsteady 180 degree turn and stepped out onto the platform and disappeared into the night.
09/19 Train 1388
There are some incidents that have occurred over the span of my railroad career that I'll never forget. This is one such incident.

(Note: I mention the race of the players in the following story for descriptive purposes only. No racial prejudice is implied or intended.)

Bill, my assistant, came running toward me.

"Bob, some guy in the rear car just punched another guy in the face."
I went running back to the rear car and found a short, muscular, white guy exchanging insults with a linebacker sized black guy.

I was assessing the situation while Bill filled me in on the details:
It seems that the white guy, who was very intoxicated, got on the train and started making rude remarks to two girls who were seated across from him. These girls were from Spain, and were vacationing in the New York area. They had never seen this guy before, and they were understandably upset and frightened. The girls had a male friend with them, a fellow Spaniard who was in his 20's. He politely asked the white guy to stop saying such horrible things to his friends. The white guy took exception to this, and allegedly punched the Spanish guy in the face. The Spanish man was meek and frightened and didn't retaliate.

A large black man, who was standing nearby, came to the defense of the Spanish trio, and it was about this time that I came upon the scene.

"You want to punch somebody?"Asked the black man. "Try punching me.
He (pointing to the Spanish guy) won't hit you back...but I will."

"What? You think I'm afraid of you? Said the white guy. "I'll kick your ass."

With that, the white guy ripped off his shirt, and displayed his muscular arms and torso. Nobody was impressed.
Like a boxing referee, I got between the two parties and told them to calm down. I next asked the Spanish man if he wanted to press charges. He said he did, so I called for police assistance.

"What? You think you're a tough guy? " Asked the black guy, now pointing as his fellow combatant.

"You're a big f-----g f----t!" Screamed the white guy.
I stood between these two guys for five minutes (a very long five minutes), waiting for Fordham Station, and the MTA police to arrive. Occasionally the name calling intensified, and it really looked like these two were going to go at it. To prevent this, I held the poles on either side of the vestibule, which virtually trapped the white guy between me and the doors. He started pacing like a caged animal.
I then told the black guy that the police were on the way, and I asked him to cool down. "You don't want to get yourself into trouble too, do you?" To his credit, he backed down and retreated to the rear of the car. The white guy, saw this as a sign of weakness and started tossing more insults, mostly questioning the black guy's manhood.

We pulled into Fordham Station, and the MTA police were waiting outside on the platform. I had to let them aboard, meaning that I had to put my arms down and key the door open. This, in effect, set the white guy free from the cage that I'd formed. He took advantage of his new found freedom and immediately ran back to the rear of the car, charging the black guy. The black guy made short work of him, swinging with three successive blows to his face. Blood squirt from his nose and mouth and splattered everywhere. He really folded like a cheap suit, and crumpled to the ground.
An MTA police officer, having just seen the black guy punch out the white guy, grabbed his arms and started to cuff him. By this time the white guy was back on his feet and started swinging again, seeing this, I jumped on the white guy's back and held him in a full nelson till Bill (my assistant), and another officer were able to cuff him.
When I pulled away from the white guy, my shirt and arms were splattered with his blood (slightly visible in photo).
Seeing the blood on my shirt and arms, an MTA police sergeant recommended that I go to the hospital for an "exposure test." Apparently, whenever a police officer or an EMT come into contact with another person's bodily fluids (involuntarily, that is), they get tested to see if they came in contact with the HIV virus.
I didn't really think I needed the test, but a second officer told me I really should go and have a doctor check me out. I reluctantly agreed and then spent the next 20 minutes being transported by ambulance to The North Central Bronx Hospital, where a doctor briefly looked me over. He asked if any of the blood got in my eyes, nose or mouth, or if I had any open wounds that that may have been exposed. I said "no" to all of the above. He then handed me some scrubs and told me to throw my shirt away. Next, he advised me to go home and take a long, hot shower."
I heard that later that night, when the car cleaners mopped up the bloody floor, they found a tooth. I doubt is was a wisdom tooth.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The more things change...The more they stay the same

Some things have changed over my 22 year on the railroad. For example, when I began I was always given the unpleasant assignment of working the smoking cars (the 3rd and 5th car from the west/south end of train, or any bar car.) It was difficult to see tickets through the clouds of smoke and I frequently came home red eyed and smelling like a wet ash tray. I jumped for joy when they banned smoking.

It's hard now to believe, but back in the 80's, Grand Central was a glorified marble urinal for the homeless, and it seemed that beggars outnumbered commuters.

Other memories:

Remember buying monster sized pizza slices from Zaro's? Each slice weighed five pounds.

How about drinking at Lindy's, or buying a cup of coffee at Eclair?

What about the giant Kodak Colorama sign that towered over the east end of the GCT concourse? I used to get excited whenever they changed the photo.

Remember leaving your bags unattended and not having to say something when you saw something?

In more recent years there have also been changes.

Remember the Railfone? These phones were installed on our trains, but they charged users $2.00 a minute. A year after they were installed, everyone, and I mean everyone, had their own cell phone and the Railfone was obsolete.

With all these changes, it's comforting to know that some things stay the same:

Rocky is arguably the most well known, and notorious passenger on Metro North. He rides all three lines and all the conductors know him. I've known Rocky since he was a crazy, mixed up teenager. Back in the day, he used to dress as a male, but he slowly began to change. First came the Tina Turner wigs, then the platform shoes. He eventually graduated to hot pants with "boy toy" plastered across the back.

I remember him telling me of one memorable Thanksgiving, when he he "dressed up" for his grandmother. It nearly killed her.

He was on my train last week and I asked if I could take his picture (bottom) and post it on my blog. He agreed, but said that I was crazy to put a picture of a cross dresser on the Internet. He was dressed in a micro mini, a thong, and was wearing 12" stiletto heels when he said this...and I'm the crazy one!

Another old friend visited last week:

This is why my wife doesn't want me wearing my work boots in the house. You know, eggs, larvae, etc...

I was working a Stamford Local when a passenger spotted my friend here,"ROACH!!!" he screamed. I'm no Entomologist, but I was going to correct him and say that this is technically a water bug (at least this is what my New York co-workers call them), but then, after doing some research for this story, I found out that he was right, this is a roach- an American Cockroach to be exact. Not to be confused with the smaller, German Cockroaches, who also ride our trains. I think the passenger wanted me to kill it, but when the bug is big enough (two inches) to have its own zip code, I draw the line. Instead, I asked it to say "cheese" and I snapped its picture (above).

Here's something that hasn't changed in 35 years:

Hold on folks, the new M8's are coming in late 2009.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Sting

Yesterday, I was standing in my backyard, circular saw in one hand and a sledge hammer in the other. I had spent the better part of the morning ripping apart my old deck and throwing the remaining slices of pressure treated lumber into the weeds in the corner of the yard. I plan on leaving this pile here till I rent a dumpster and dispose of it properly.

Later in the morning, my friend "Pat" stopped by to discuss building a new deck for me. Pat's a macho guy who's an army veteran, Police Sergeant, and part time builder of decks. He came over to survey the job and inspect the work site. Sometime during our discussion, he pulled out a tape measure and started walking past my gas grill. Bees have recently nested beneath the grill's underside and they began to circle Pat. He quickly retreated six steps back.

"You're not gonna let a few bees scare you...are you?" I asked.

I grabbed the tape measure from his hand and stoically marched past the grill and began taking measurements. While doing this, I bragged, saying that I'd never been stung by a bee before.

That's when it happened.

Like a mob hit, the bees (who I believe belong to the Genovese family) surrounded me in all directions. If Scorsese filmed it, the scene would unfold in slow motion:

An unassuming man puts tape measure to garage, when several yellow and black striped missiles cross the screen in formation. The man cries out in pain, then reaches for his right leg. Just then, a Sicilian looking bee attacks from the left and jabs his other leg. The man's body convulses, as another bee (played by Joe Pesce) stabs him in the hip. The man does a little girly man dance and runs for his life. His friend, who is standing at a safe distance, doubles over in laughter.

"Owwww!!! That hurt!" I screamed. My puncture wounds began to burn.

Before leaving, Pat watched as I carried a few more pieces of lumber into the wood pile. "Be careful back there," he said, "those weeds look like poison ivy."

"Ah...don't worry." I said. "I've never gotten poison ivy before."

I better keep some calamine lotion on hand.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to the grind... and a near miss. The week in review

08/18 Train 1583:

It's my first day back from vacation and I'm feeling tan (in an Irish kind of way), rested, and ready to take on the Greater Metropolitan Region. I lose this feeling, when on my first train...at leaving time, a woman sticks her foot in the closing doors of the head car. Without a "door closed" light, my engineer cannot take power.


I try to close the doors, but the woman won't budge from her post. I get on the PA and announce that it's leaving time and she needs to either "get on or get off."


The woman ignores me and stands firmly in the doorway. It's now a minute past leaving time.


"M'am please...step on or step off the train," I announce. "There's another train in 30 minutes"


My engineer, who is sitting a few feet away from this woman, gets on the PA and tells me that she's waiting for her daughter and her infant grandchild. I'm not heartless, I'll wait (within reason) for parents with small children, the elderly or disabled, so I cool my heels, waiting for the door blocker's family to arrive.

It's now two minutes past leaving time and the Rail Traffic Controller is calling us and asking what our delay is. Just then a young woman runs through the platform doors...without a baby. The door blocker gives her a wave and they both step into the train. Obviously I've been duped.



There went that calm vacation feeling.

08/19/08, Train 1974:

As a favor to the railroad, I'm covering a Waterbury branch job today. We leave from Bridgeport and an overweight, toothless, tank top wearing, creepy, hillbilly looking guy, gets on. I'm guessing he's in his mid 50's. When I collect his ticket, he looks at my company ID hanging from a lanyard around my neck. The plastic pocket on the lanyard has flipped and on the reverse side is a picture of my two, young, teenage daughters. Women passengers love to see this photo and find the fact that I carry it endearing. They tell me the girls are beautiful and that I'm sweet to carry their snapshot. This guy, however, is thinking something totally different. I can see it in his eyes. He leers at the photo and asks:

"Thems your daughters?"

"Yep!" I answer.

"Theys look perty good" he purrs. "P-e-r-t-y good!"

The hair stands up on the back of my neck, and I debate smacking him. Instead, I stuff the picture in my shirt pocket and walk away.

I wonder if he's registered here.

08/21/08, Train 1500:

Two rotund Puerto Rican Women are flirting with Dan, my assistant conductor. They say he's soooo cuuuute, and they want to take a few pictures with him. He happily obliges, posing as they take turns snapping pictures with their camera phones.

"Wow Dan", I say, "looks like you have a fan club."

One of the women gives me a toothless smile and says:

"Honey, Dan is cute... but you more my type."

"Me?" (I didn't know if I should be flattered or not.)

"Yeah," she said. "I goes for that mature type...Know what I'm sayin'?"

I don't know what she's sayin, but I nod my head in agreement.

"You older guys (she was 32) know what time it is...Know what I'm sayin'?"

I nod my head again.

"You do know what time it is...don't you baby?

I point to my watch and say "Of course I know what time it is...I'm a railroad conductor."

08/22/08, Train 1194:

We're deadheading to South Norwalk when I hear my engineer give a sudden blast on the train horn. This noise is followed by the loud burst of the emergency brake dumping.

"Sh*t" says the engineer..."I just hit someone."

The engineer calls the Rail Traffic Controller, and I get a familiar knot in my stomach. He tells the RTC that we just hit a guy on the bridge just west of the station. He says that the guy was laying in the gauge of the rail.

I walk back to retrieve my radio and flashlight (it was dark out) from my railroad bag. It's my job to find the body and I'm dreading it.

As Yogi Berra said..."It's Deja Vu all over again". Three years previous, I was working with this same engineer and we hit someone on a bridge about 15 miles west of here. That time, I spent several minutes walking the bridge and looking underneath the train for a body. I couldn't find one. I was about to tell my engineer that the guy must have jumped out of the way, when my flashlight beam shone upon a work boot resting on the curb of the street below the bridge. I followed the beam up, and to my horror, found a man lying spread eagle in the middle of the street. He was in a pool of blood. I was walking down the bridge embankment when the police arrived. I saw the cop crouching over the body and searching the man's neck for a pulse. He then stood up and walked over to the trunk of his car and pulled out a yellow tarp. He draped it over the body.

This scene plays in my mind as I grab my flashlight and radio. My assistant and I gingerly step off the train and begin searching under, around and behind the train. My adrenaline is pumping and my breathing is labored. Every muscle in my body is tense. It's kind of like the feeling you get when watching a horror movie...only ten times worse.

I'm searching for a body or a severed leg or maybe an arm, perhaps a head. I look for a blood trail or perhaps a length of intestines. The horror. The horror. The horror.

I begin to reconsider my choice of occupation.

We find nothing, but still we search. My engineer joins in and we look, under the train, around the train...and on the street below.

Still... no body.

I walk track side, looking through the brush, then under a billboard and down to the avenue below. There I interview three Hispanic men who have been standing and watching the whole scene unfold. I ask if they' ve seen anything or anybody around the tracks. They say they haven't, but I don't believe them. This is the bad neighborhood and I'm sure that they're silenced by the street's "no snitch" policy.

After 20 minutes, we give up the search We assume that the trespasser either jumped out of the way in time, or possibly we ran him over, and he crawled out from under the train.

We get back on the train and report the situation, and the rail traffic controller tells us to continue on to our next station stop. We begin our next train like nothing happened. I collect tickets and my body begins to relax. The adrenaline is subsiding and my muscles start to ache. It feels like I just ran a marathon.

I call my wife, and the conversation goes like this:

You're not gonna believe what just happened.


I just spent the last 20 minutes looking for a dead guy.

A what?

A dead guy. My engineer thought he hit someone, so we had to go out and look under and around the train for the body, but we never found it.

How do you know you didn't hit him?

We can't be certain...but we didn't find anything.

Why didn't you wait for the police to look?

There was no body....

Yeah, but....

My wife doesn't say it, but I know what she's thinking. She doesn't trust me to find a body. She knows me as the guy who spends 10 minutes searching the refrigerator for mayonnaise, when there's a jar of Helmann's staring me in the face. I'm the guy who regularly misplaces his keys and glasses. I'm the guy who recently lost his cell phone for like the 20th time.

"Listen," I say as if to calm her, "I wasn't the only one looking. My assistant conductor looked too, and so did the engineer...and he's very organized."



I think I need a vacation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Myrtle Beach or Bust!


I planned on taking I-95 all the way down to Myrtle Beach, but shortly after crossing the Connecticut/New York state line, an electric highway sign flashes, saying that the highway is shut down in New Rochelle. I take a detour onto Rte 287 to the Cross County Expressway, then down the Saw Mill River Parkway to the George Washington Bridge. I'm proud that I found my way around the accident, and I'm so busy patting myself on the back, that I miss the I-95 turn off and end up on The Garden State Parkway. I resist my wife's pleas to stop and ask for directions (after all, I am a man). I eventually stop at a gas station in Paterson N.J. where a Pakistani attendant tells me to turn around, drive eight miles back down Rts 46/3 and take a right at Giant's Stadium. On the way we pass a "Target"department store and my wife starts to salivate. She insists we buy a map and a few "necessities." Wrong turn ends up costing me $27 (after all, she's a woman.)

The ride is going smoothly, until we hit "The Woodrow Wilson Drawbridge" in Washington D.C. and the traffic begins a long crawl. I miss the sign for the high occupancy lanes, and stay in the truck/bus lanes. The missed sign costs me one hour of travel time.

I kill time by reading aloud the names painted on small white memorial crosses that dot the roadside. I tell my daughters that these signs were placed by the family and friends of those killed in car accidents along the highway. My wife asks me to "please keep my morbidity to myself." I try, at least till we pass several exit signs for Civil War battlefields, places like Manassas, Fredricksburg, Charlottesville, and Richmond. I begin telling my daughters of the thousands of soldiers that died on these fields, but then look in the rear view mirror and see blank faces. My history lesson has fallen on deaf ears.

After Virginia, we see miles and miles of trees and farmland, then some more farmland and trees. Occasionally a small house or trailer pop into view, sometimes cows, but then it's more farms and trees, trees and farms. The Northeast is densely populated, where the cities blend one into another. I can't believe there's so much open space down here. Where are the housing developments? Where are the malls? Where are the Starbucks?

We plan on stopping for the night in "The Royal Inn" in Selma, NC. A motel that a friend has recommended, saying it was only $40 a night and a "real bargain." I told him that a $40 motel scared me, but he assured me that the place was clean. "Not fancy...but clean." Boy, was he wrong.


It's 12:30 a.m. and we're beyond exhausted. We find the motel which looks like it was built sometime in the 60's and hasn't been renovated, or cleaned since. When I check in, I find the front door locked and a skinny man walks from behind the counter, and meets me at the door. I think he's going to unlock the door, but instead, he points to a small mouse hole opening in the Plexiglas (this should have been my first clue). I hand him my credit card and confirm my reservation, he then hands me the key, points, and in a thick southern accent, tells me that the room is 14 doors down.

As we step into the room, we're hit with the powerful stench of cigarette smoke. It's supposed to be a "non smoking room", but there are ashtrays on the bureau and night stands. The room totally reeks of smoke. My daughters walk into the bathroom and I hear them yell, "Yuck!!!" I go to check out what they are yelling about, and find them pointing at the shower, which has mold and mildew climbing its walls and the bathroom faucet is caked in soap scum.

I say that we'll only be here for a couple of hours, and we can live with it till morning. I climb into bed, and find that the mattress is ripped open on the sides, exposing springs and padding. I'm sure if I had one of those ultra violet lights, I'd find blood splattered on the walls and bedspread.

"I'm sleeping in the car!" my wife says as she grabs everything she can carry and starts heading for the door, with my daughters in tow.
"Yeah," I agree. "We're out of here!" I grab everything else they haven't already grabbed. We drive another 20 minutes to Dunn, NC, and stay in a Hampton Inn. The hotel is shiny,new and clean, and serves free hot breakfast in the morning. The first thing we do is take showers, trying to wash the imagined bed bugs, lice, fleas, whatever off our skin. As we climb into bed, my daughters laugh and ask what kind of friend recommends the Royal Inn? "What did you ever do to that guy?"

After a good night's sleep we jump in the car, and head for South Carolina. We start seeing those familiar (and
politically incorrect) "South of the Border" signs, which feature an overweight, mustachioed Mexican bandito named "Pedro." Apparently, Pedro wants... no insists, that we visit "South of the Border," because he has placed his billboards every 100 feet or so.

When we get near the South Carolina border, I see a giant Sombrero tower in the distance. I get excited, but my wife, who has visited "South of the Border" in the past, is less than enthused. By the 80th Pedro sign, my daughters and I are brainwashed and I can't help but pull off the exit ramp.

"South of the Border" is everything I'd hoped it would be. It's a tacky, kitschy, white trashy Disney World and reminds me of something right out of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." It's gift shops sell South of the Border toilet paper, t-shirts, switch blade pocket combs, shot glasses, pink flamingos, sombreros, and every cheap little tchockes you can think of. I smile and proclaim Pedro "the man." Before we leave, my wife snapped a picture of my daughters and I posing before before his 30ft likeness.

We jump back in the car and drive, what is supposed to take two hours to Myrtle Beach. As soon as we leave I-95, we hit a wall of traffic on Rt 501, where roadside stands sell farm fresh Peaches and Watermelons and something called "boiled peanuts." We're definitely not in Connecticut anymore.

After four hours of bumper to bumper traffic, we finally reach our beach side condo in Myrtle Beach. It's owned by a coworker who proclaimed it, "not fancy...but clean" (where have I heard that before?) Thankfully he's right...it was perfect.

We spend the week shopping, sunbathing, body surfing, reading and eating everything in sight. It was a delightful week.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A little help from my friends

I don't like to steal other blogger's post, but since I'm on still on vacation, I'm going to make an exception. I found this video today on Sandi Kahn Shelton's blog. It's hysterical!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Walking the dog

"Girls, I'm late for work again. Can one of you PLEASE take Brenna (our cocker spaniel) out for a walk?"

My 16 year old daughter is lost in cyber space and too busy instant messaging to hear a word that I've said.

I then look to my 14 year old daughter, a girl soooo obsessed with the Jonas Brothers, that she can't pull herself away from the 15th rebroadcast of "Camp Rock."

When I get home at 3:30AM, I invariably find Brenna with her legs crossed and a few pounds heavier. "Did anyone let you out girl?" I ask.
She looks up at me with her big brown eyes, tilts her head and says... "What do you think?

This same scene is played out almost daily. The website or TV show might change, but in the end...the poor dog never gets walked.

Yesterday, my daughters had a surprise for me. I give you "Walking the Dog" starring Brenna (who loves me) and our cat Tara (who hates me).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"The Exclusive Details" or The Week in Review 07/28-08/02

07/28/08 Train 1388:

A middle aged man, stinking of booze, got on the train at Fordham. Jason, my assistant, asked him for his ticket. The guy said he didn't have one. Jason offered to sell him a ticket, but the man said he didn't have any money (he obviously spent it all at the package store.) The man was then told to get off the train in Mt. Vernon (the next stop). The guy laughed and said, "No, I'm going to New Rochelle, and that's where I'm gonna get off."

True to his word, when we reached Mt. Vernon, the man refused to leave the train. I called for police assistance but there were no MTA police in the area (as usual). This forced me to use plan B....acting. Faking a radio call, I stood before the guy and yelled..."We have a non-payment of fare in the second rear car." The man, now nervous, saw that I meant business and got off the train in Pelham.

I don't like to brag, but I hear there's some "Oscar" buzz.

Because railroad workers are so widely dispersed, gossip is critically important to getting the news out. For example, when something happens in New Haven, a conductor might tell an engineer in Stamford. That engineer might tell a car inspector in Grand Central. The car inspector might tell the half-truth to a Harlem Line conductor.....etc.....etc....etc. This continues until the rumor is spread over the greater metropolitan region. It's kind of like that old game "telephone," the final story given, usually bares no resemblance to what really happened, but that doesn't stop the rumor mill from grinding. Having said this...here is what I heard happened on Monday:

It seems a woman conductor asked a passengers to take his feet off the seats. The man ignored her. She asked again. Again, he ignored her. When she asked a third time, the guy stood up and punched her in the head. He then ran off the train and disappeared into the shadows. The bruised and battered conductor is now back to work.

July 23, Train 1500:

A handsome couple boarded the train in Grand Central and sat down in my car. I remembered them from the previous evening's commute, mostly because the guy was a Derek Jeter look-a-like and his girlfriend wore a low cut blouse.

The man showed me his monthly pass, but I was surprised when he asked to buy a ticket for his companion. I was sure they both had passes on the previous evening's commute.
"Excuse me, but didn't you both have passes last night?" I asked.

The woman frowned and said "Last night?...I wasn't on the train last night."

Derek Jeter look-a-like hid his face in his hands, and the woman began to interrogate him:

"Who were you with last night?...Who is she?"

I gave the guy a "sorry about that" shrug, and continued on to the next passenger.


July 23, 2008 Train 1583:

A family with several suitcases boarded the train in New Haven. I helped them lift their luggage into the overhead racks and they thanked me in what I thought was a heavy German accent.

"Are you from Germany?" I asked.

"No, ve're und holiday vrom Austria," they said.

Excited, I began singing "Edelweiss" half expecting them to join me in the chorus.

"Edelweiss-Edelweiss, blessed be my homeland forever."

The family looked at me like I had a third head. The oldest daughter, a Yale Student, stepped forward and explained that Austrians aren't familiar with "The Sound of Music." In fact," she said, "I didn't see the movie till I came to The States."

"Really?" I said. "I thought Edelweiss was the Austrian Danny Boy. You know, one of those nationalistic songs that people sing when they're drunk (whether they know the words or not.)"

They said that one of Von Trapp family members visited Austria recently, and the media made a big deal about it. The excitement was lost on most people though. So few have seen "The Sound of Music."

I guess it's that whole "Nazi" history thing.

08/01/08 Train 1388:

While boarding the train in Grand Central, five mechanics in orange vests walk past me. One of the mechanics asks:

" Where's the lady trapped in the bathroom?"

"What lady trapped in the bathroom?" I answered.

"We got a call that there's a lady trapped in the bathroom."

This was the first I'd heard of it, but I followed the mechanics and we searched all the lavatories. We eventually found a small crowd gathered around the lavatory in the third head car. There we found a woman, dying of embarrassment, trapped in the bathroom. Panicked, she had called 911.

They, in turn, called the railroad.

After a few pushes of the pry bar, the woman was released from her odoriferous prison. If it weren't for cell phones, she might still be there.

08/02/08 Train 6554:

Celebrity Corner:

I was standing in the vestibule waiting for the train to stop in Stratford, when an attractive blond woman stood next to me. She looked familiar, but I figured I had just seen her on the train before. Then it dawned on me...

"You look a lot like that newswoman...Rita Cosby." I said.

"Maybe that's because I am her." She replied.

Rita couldn't have been nicer. I'm not Anna Nicole Smith's "Baby Daddy"(that I know of!) but she still seemed genuinely interested in me. She even asked my name and where I was from. She told me that she was originally from Greenwich, and that she rides the train on a fairly regular basis.

I asked if she was still on Fox,. "Not anymore," she said. "Now I'm on Inside Edition."

She said she has also been doing a lot of writing lately. I told her that I had a blog and asked if she minded that I mention her. She seemed excited and asked me for my blog address. I was happy to give it to her.

When I become famous, I'll be sure to give her the "Exclusive Details" of my life.

Heads...you lose

And I thought my passengers were crazy:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How I roll-The week in review

Monday, July 14:

Today is the day I start my relationship with TIM (not that there's anything wrong with that). TIM is not a person, but rather an acronym for the new "Ticket Issuing Machine" that the railroad is distributing to its conductors. It looks similar to a thick Blackberry, and allows us to electronically sell tickets on board our trains. I am also supplied a wireless printer, which attaches to my belt and spits out copious amounts of paper, whether I want it to or not. Along with this equipment, I'm given a two rechargers, two extra batteries and a power strip. Now if only they'd pay my electric bill.

I overhear a fellow conductor say: " Only a government agency would replace a $5 paper punch with a $3000 hand held computer... and then call it a cost saving measure."

Tuesday, July 15, 1:25am:

Four guys in their early 20's, board the train at 125th Street Station. They're returning from the "Home Run Derby" at Yankee Stadium, and they're a little loud and boisterous. I ask them for their tickets and they instead produce four yellow summonses that the NYPD had given them.

"Uh Oh!" I say, "What did you do?

"WE SPIT," they answer in unison.

"Oh come on," I say, "What did you REALLY do?"

One of the guys hands over his summons and lets me read it. Sure enough, they were ticketed for spitting outside Yankee Stadium.


It's funny that on the field, players have turned expectorating into an art form. Outside the stadium these poor boys got ticketed. I guess it's like they say in real estate...it's all about location. Location-Location-Location.

Tuesday, July 15, Train 1583:

I was going to work with TIM today, but the wireless printer was being fickle and it came between us. I called the Metro North tech support hotline, and they said that my battery must not have been charged sufficiently. I reluctantly put TIM away and go back to punching tickets the old fashioned way. Coworkers ask why I'm not using TIM, I say that I'm "Old Skool," and "that's just how I roll."

Train 1583:

A homeless man hands me a handful of nickels, dimes, and quarters, and tells me he wants to go to Old Greenwich. This surprises me for two reasons, 1) He has the fare. 2.) He wants to go to Old Greenwich (an old money enclave.) About 20 minutes later, this same man comes racing down the aisle toward me, and shouts that he wants to go to Fordham and that I better sell him a ticket to Fordham. "Okay," I say, "Calm down...I'll sell you an add-on ticket to Fordham." He isn't satisfied and leans in and starts screaming in my face...kind of like Lou Pinella yelling at a home plate umpire. He again changes his mind and demands to go to Port Chester. I finally realize that this guy is nuts, and I try to walk away from him. He follows me down the aisle. "Sell me a ticket to Mount Vernon." He then tells no one in particular that he's a member of the Democratic Party and says something about being divorced or getting divorced or wanting a divorce. He was hard to follow. I'm glad TIM wasn't there to see this.

I call for police assistance and four MTA policemen meet my train at Stamford Station. "Did he pay his fare? " One officer asks.

"Yes, he did," I say, " but... "

"Then why did you call us?"

Oh I don't know, maybe because I thought he was gonna kill me!

Train 1495, 10:55 pm:

My train is sitting in South Norwalk Station when a yuppie guy knocks on the train door. "Conductor," he says, "I dropped my cellphone on the tracks, and I want to know if I can climb down there and get it. He points into the gap between the train and the platform and I see his phone's green LED light blinking rhythmically against the ballast below. "Tell you what," I say. "My train doesn't leave for another 15 minutes. I'll jump down and get it for you." The yuppie's wife has now arrived, and he explains the whole situation to her. She tells me to be careful.

Before climbing down, I let my engineer know what I'm doing, and instruct him to "Stand hard" which means don't move the train. Once at track level, I crawl approximately 10 feet between the train and the platform. In the near distance I see the green LED light blinking. Along the way, I bang my head on a protruding, rusted metal bracket, and it hurts like the dickens. I rub my head and I discover I'm bleeding. Undeterred, I continue on and find the phone. I hand it up to the yuppie who is watching from the safety of the platform above.

While crawling back, I wonder how big of a tip I'll be offered (which I can't accept of course). I then think about how distressed his wife will be when she sees the gnarly 2" gash atop my bald head.

I finally climb back up on the platform and I'm surprised to find that the yuppie couple are no where in sight. Another passenger says that they grabbed the phone, hopped in their BMW and left.

No tip, no sympathy...not even A THANK YOU!

July 16:

TIM and I have worked out our differences and we're getting along swimmingly (not that there's anything wrong with that.) The printers still a little temperamental though.

July 18:

We're delayed because some guy is walking on the tracks in the Bridgeport area. Trains are backed up as the MTA police are dispatched up and down the rails looking for this guy. The situation is resolved when the trespasser climbs up into a dead head train (meaning it had no passengers) and sits down like he's been there all along. MTA police find this convenient. They easily locate train and arrest man.

July 19. 1:10 AM:

A Muslim woman is dressed from head to toe in a burqa and is boarding my train in Grand Central. I notice that underneath her clothing she is wearing Nike running shoes. This makes me laugh, but then I think of how she symbolizes West meeting Middle-East and I get a happy feeling. I start humming "Kumbaya."

July 19, 2:45 PM:

"Give me tickets!" Screams a four year old boy, as he spies the small seat checks I keep in hidden in my pouch. I'm busy with another transaction and I ignore his initial cries. "Give me tickets!" he screams again. "Okay, okay," I say. But before handing over my stash, I ask, "What's the magic word?" He thinks for a minute, then answers... "Abracadabra?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Miss July

Miss Late Night train, July 2008:

Favorite activities: Partying! Partying! and Partying!

Guilty Pleasures: Little black dresses. Stiletto heels.

Favorite Books: Um...You mean like reading and stuff?

Favorite TV show: Sex and The City.

Foods I crave: Jello shots.

Ambition: To not sleep past my station stop. Oh yeah...and end world hunger.

Turn ons: Bar Cars, Long Island Ice tea.

Turn offs: Mean conductors, gravity, sobriety.

Ideal man: Jim Beam, Johnny Walker and this guy:

Photo credits: Adam Welsh. Jamie V.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Week in Review

Monday, July 7:

Train 1388- I'm alarmed because my engineer dumped the train (put emergency brake on) just west of Larchmont Station. Two trespassers had set up a video camera on a tripod in the middle of track #4...our track. The idiots grabbed their tripod and jumped out of the way just before our train came sliding by. Police were called and dispatched. I'm sure this guy's video is now on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 8:

Train 1388: A Blonde haired, blue eyed, Greenwich business woman(with an evident sense of entitlement), lay across three seats on this standing room only train. I asked her to sit up, pointing out all the standing passengers in the vestibule area. She reluctantly sits up, but when I go to open the doors at 125th Street, she lie back down again. I returned, and again asked her to sit up. She does...kind of,(she was still leaning to one side.) Whenever this happens, I try to find the biggest, smelliest,meanest looking passenger I can find, and escort them over to the newly opened seat. This night, however, I couldn't find anyone smelly enough. I had to settle for big and mean looking.

(Side note: I've been trying to figure out the whole lay/lie/laying/lying thing. Forgive me if I used them incorrectly.)

Train 1495-Two guys were blasting rap music on their cellphone/mp3 players. I told them they needed to use their headphones or turn the music off. They called me a "hater" and said that no one was complaining,and I should "mind my business." I told them that it was my business and threatened to have them removed from the train. In a final act of defiance, they turned the music up before turning it off. When they exited the train at Fordham, they called my assistant conductor a few choice names. He returned the favor.

Train 1495: Guy gave me a $100 bill for a $2.25 fare. He was the third guy that day to give me $100, and I was unable to make change. I pawned him off on my assistance...he had plenty of change. I've never had a $100 bill in my wallet, and I wonder what I'm doing wrong.

Train 1500:-A Brooks Brothers clad guy from Fairfield (a wealthy town) stinks to high heaven and is smelling up his entire end of the car. I wished he'd been on train 1388. I would have seated him next to the Greenwich woman.

Wednesday, July 09:

Train 1388: -The train is packed to the gills. I climb over passengers doing my best Bugs Bunny impersonation: "s'cuse me, pardon me, s'cuse me, pardon me...pass the popcorn."

-My assistant conductor was missing. It seemed he'd been delayed on his previous train, filling out a police report in Westport. "Allegedly" he had a passenger who was high ("allegedly") on angel dust . He was "allegedly" crawling on the floor and grabbing at unsuspecting passengers. Westport police were called, but they had a tough time removing suspect from train (he had super human strength). They eventually wrestled him to ground and carried him away. "Allegedly".

Train 1495:-Old Mexican woman is playing Salsa music on her radio. I love Tito Puente, but I ask her to turn it off. She doesn't understand a word I'm saying and gives me a big,gold toothed smile. She must have eventually got the message, because just as I'd begun to mambo, she turned the music off.

Thursday, July 11:

Grand Central 1am : Standing in Grand Central, I watch as the MTA police strap a drunk guy, who was nearly comatose, to a gurney and wheel him away. Nearby, two drunk college guys lay flat on the floor and arm wrestle. People step right over them, not seeming to notice. It's like Cindy Adams says..."Only in New York kids...Only in New York."

July 12, Train 6557: There's a free Bon Jovi concert in Central Park and the train is PACKED. A middle aged guy with a bad toupee, pulls me aside and complains that the young woman sitting next to him is loudly yakking on her cell phone. I told him that I'd talk to her. I approach woman, but before I could say a word, she yelled "it's a free country and I can talk on the phone if I want... Nobody else is complaining," she says. She then asked the couple seated across from her if she was bothering them. They say,"Yes, you are a little loud."

I asked the woman to be courteous and move her conversation to the vestibule area. She refused, and went right on yakking. I went back to original complainant and told him there wasn't much I could do. "We're in kind of a gray area here," I said. "We suggest that people converse in the vestibule area. It's really not a removable offense." Complainant claims I'm intimidated by the offending passenger because she's black. He then stormed away. He later apologized.

-Just another week on the rails.-

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Conductor's Log: 07/06/08

0100 hrs: While boarding the train in Grand Central, conductor (me) observes a severely inebriated male passenger trot toward the train. He trips over his own feet, goes airborne and belly flops onto the hard concrete platform. Conductor bites lip to keep from laughing.

0115 hrs: Train departs Grand Central.

0120 hrs: Female with a "Jesus-Christ is the real thing" T-shirt, tries beating the fare by using her father's monthly commutation ticket (she had strategically placed her thumb over the gender marker.) Conductor decides girl's T-shirt is ironic.

0125 hrs: A group of drunken Yankee fans board train at Harlem-125th St. Station. They're all around 40 years-old and sporting Yankee caps and shirts. They loudly discuss their team, as if they're members of the Steinbrenner family. "We're bringing up two new pitchers from the farm team," one says, and the others nod their heads in agreement. One, a foul mouth woman, screams :"We just picked up a f---ing catcher!"

0130 hrs: Something loud (maybe a rock) hits the train as we travel through the South Bronx. I call my engineer on the radio and ask if he hit something. He says he didn't. I return to collecting tickets and a concerned passenger asks if we hit someone. I calm his fears by saying..."I hope not."

0134hrs: A woman passenger complains that she's hungry and asks where she can buy a pretzel with mustard. I tell her that she just left New York City, the pretzel with mustard capital of the world. "They're kinda hard to find in the suburbs" I say. She sticks out her lower lip and pouts.

0135hrs: Male passenger offers me his McDonalds' french fries in lieu of a ticket. I decline, but tell him he might be able to broker a deal with the pretzel lady.

0140hrs: Male passenger with a heavy Spanish accent, complains that while in the lavatory, "That sommaofabitch" (now pointing to a drunk guy a few seats away) took his seat and drank his beer!" I briefly contemplate chastising the beernapper, but think better of it, and walk away.

0213hrs: A disheveled African-American woman boards train and says she doesn't have a ticket or money to ride the train. She wants to get to the shelter and asks if I could let her ride. My Catholic guilt kicks in, and I tell her to take a seat. Minutes later, I smell a strange odor... similar to an electrical fire or burning plastic. I look out the window for signs of smoke but don't see anything. I then check the heating vents which sometimes flame up. I see nothing.

0220hrs: Train reaches Stamford and the homeless woman thanks me for the ride. As she steps off the train, I notice that the burning plastic smell follows her.

0221hrs: I ask my trainman if he knows what smoke from a crack pipe smells like. "Yeah," he says..." like burning plastic."

0222 hrs: I realize I have a crazy job.