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'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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A shocking coincidence!

Last night, after collecting our tickets, a coworker and I sat down and began chatting. Somehow the conversation veered toward Dr. Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi physician who performed human experiments on his concentration camp prisoners. I mentioned that my father was involved in the famous "Obedience to Authority" experiment by Dr. Stanley Milgram, some 46 years ago. The experiment tried to explain why normally decent people could commit attrocities against their fellow man. My coworker said he'd never heard of the experiment, but he'd be sure to check it out online. I wrote Milgram's name on a slip of paper and handed it to him. Before sitting down again, I reached for a copy of yesterday's New York Times which a passenger had abandoned on a nearby seat. There, on page 4, was a small photo of my father being shocked in the Milgram experiment. The paragraph below suggested that reader's check out more pictures from the experiment here:

What a coincidence!

P.S. After initially posting this story, I found that my niece Cara had emailed me a link to the full Times' story. Read it here:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A word from Dan

Hello everybody,
I would like to thank everyone who voted for my entry in Animation Magazine's 7th Annual Pitch Party Contest. Although I did not win the big prize Rocket did come in Second Place in the Online Voting section of the contest. Your vote made a big difference!
Thank you all so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to vote for me. It is very much appreciated!!!
Rocket and I will be working hard to get out there to a screen near you in the future!
If you would like to see who did win the contest the link is: