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."
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!
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.
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?"