Sunday, February 17, 2008

David Groh

Last week it was reported that Rhoda's husband, actor David Groh, passed away at the age of 68. This was significant to me for two reasons:

a.) Groh was the first celebrity I ever met on the train, (I guess you could say that he started me on my 'Conductor to the Stars' career.)

b.) He was nasty to me.

About 21 years ago, I was collecting tickets on a New Haven bound train, when I came upon Mr. Groh. He had his head down, reading a book, when I asked him for his ticket. I referred to him by his 'Rhoda' character name...

"Hey Joe."

He didn't respond and I thought that maybe he didn't hear me, so I tried again.

"You're the guy who played Rhoda's husband...right?"

Mr. Groh now looked up from his book and gave me a very sarcastic smile and then, as if to dismiss me, went back to reading his book. I stood there embarrassed, not knowing exactly what to say. I think I finally mumbled an apology and said something like,"I guess you're sick of answering that question...huh? Again, he didn't respond and I walked away red-faced.

About a month later, Mr. Groh was on my train again. This time he couldn't have been kinder. He stopped me, shook my hand (while maintaining direct eye contact,) he even asked how my night was going. It was as if he had just taken a Dale Carnagie course or was returning from a Tony Robbins' seminar. It was obvious what he was doing though; He remembered how poorly he had treated me on our previous meeting, and now he was trying to make up for it. I grudgingly shook his hand, figuring that everyone's entitled to a bad night every once and a while.

A word of advice to St. Peter: When David Groh enters the Pearly Gates, don't say..."Hey, aren't you Joe from Rhoda?"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Derailed" turns two. Looks to the future.

Today is “Derailed’s” second anniversary or blog-iversary as my daughter calls it.

Lately, people (i.e. my sisters) have been telling me that I should write a book. They think I should take my best essays, bind them together and send them off to a publisher in New York. With this in mind, I spent the past few days looking over the “Derailed” archives trying to select my best pieces. While I agree that some of my stories are worthy of publishing, I don’t believe I have enough quality work to fill a book. Maybe Someday???
The second problem is the title. There already is a book called “Derailed.” In fact, it was a best seller a few years back, and it was even turned into a popular movie by the same name.

David, my niece Erin's husband, once told me that he loved my blog, but he wasn’t crazy about the title. “How about Off Track,” he suggested. I told him that I thought that this sounded more like a racing form (as in OTB) and besides, I kind of liked the name “Derailed.” But the more I think about it, maybe David's right. After all, he does own his own marketing firm which specializes in “branding” for major corporations.

Here's my idea for the book cover:

Now that the book’s front cover is settled, I started thinking about the back. Maybe there could be a glossy black in white picture of me sitting crossed legged before a giant field stone fireplace. I'm sitting in a big overstuffed leather armchair, dressed in a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows. The jacket is accesorized with an ascot (of course). I have a pipe in one hand and a martini in the other. At my feet sit two giant Irish Wolf Hounds.

Note to self: Contact Jake Gyllenhaal to star in “Off Track-The Movie.”

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Customer Service

“Gorgeous. Please don’t lift that big ramp. It’s too heavy… you’ll hurt your back.”

I ignored the advice of the intoxicated, disabled woman passenger and pulled the metal wheelchair ramp out of its sleeve.

Honey, really…I don’t need that ramp. I can wiggle my chair back and forth, and make my way off the train by myself.”

“No,” I said. “There’s a big gap between the train and the platform. You might hurt yourself.”

She spun her chair around and demonstrated her chair wiggling ability. It was then that I saw, for the first time, she was missing both of her legs.

“Sweetie, I see how hard you conductors work, walking up and down that aisle all day long. You have a hard job. You don’t need to be waiting on a girl like me.”

“Really, it’s no bother.” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Whenever I see somebody in a wheelchair, I can’t help but wonder how they got there. Was there an accident? Illness? Disease? Birth defect? I didn't dare ask my new friend what happpened, but I tried to figure it out. She appeared to be about 50 years old, but she may have been younger. Her brown hair was unkempt and her skin was pale white. She was missing several teeth, and the few left dangling were yellow and rotting. My guess is that she probably suffers from drug-induced diabetes, which most likely led to both of her legs being amputated.

“Darlin’, you do work hard, and believe me, I know somethin’ about hard work. You see, I have this friend…and he knows men who like to get with women like me. Anyway, when these men pay, I split the money with my friend... It’s usually something like $40 for me and $40 for him.”

She said this so casually, with no trace of shame or modesty. She could have just as easily been talking about her job at Stop & Shop or Walmart.

“These young girls today…they don’t know how to please a customer. They just go into a guy’s car, take his money, but they don’t (get the job done.)”

My friend was getting kind of loud now, and the passengers seated around the vestibule could hear her candid confessions.

She shook her head and said, “It’s just not right to leave a customer unsatisfied.”

I didn’t know quite how to respond to this last statement, so I finally said something stupid like, “Yeah, I guess every profession has its slackers.”

Thankfully, the woman’s station arrived, and against her protest, I laid the wheel chair ramp down over the gap and she rolled herself off the train and onto the platform.

“Gorgeous," She called out, "You forgot to take my ticket.”

“I’ll catch you next time,”
I said, and I stepped back on the train.

As the doors closed, I noticed that several of the passengers were shaking their heads and laughing.

“Hey!” I said. “At least she said I was gorgeous.”

I slid the ramp back into its sleeve, secure in the knowledge that my new friend and I, both know how to give good customer service.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Great Freeze

Remember when you were a kid and your mother told you not to make funny faces because "The Great Freeze" was coming and you'd be stuck that way forever. Well I guess mom was right. Look what happened at my home away from home...Grand Central: