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 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.


Kate said...

What a great read about your encounter with royalty! :-) I enjoy your style of writing; very refreshing and interesting. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Which one was royalty the black,the white guy, or the spainard?

patty said...

I always look forward to your updates. Thanks for giving me a good reason to take a break during a very hectic start to the work week.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your updates! Wish you would write more.

Tony Alva said...

Holy shit! I bet your wife asked if the fight was your fault somehow? Did the black guy get cleared from any wrong doing?

Bobby said...

What I failed to mention in this post, was that the train was packed solid with people. These two guys had quite an audience. There was an audible gasp from the crowd when the black guy punched the white guy. A cop rushed on and first grabbed the black guy and threw cuffs on him (much to the consternation of other African Americans passengers)They then threw cuffs on the white guy and arrested him. Once things settled down, they did let the black guy go. I was later told, that by rights, they should have arrested him too, but because so many people defended his actions,they decided to cut him a break.

Jamie said...

Too bad you didn't see a Dr. like House at the hospital to make your day complete. I also know that you must have used a full McDonough instead of a full Nelson.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Amazing story! Keep up with the updates, I really enjoy them. That is scary about the bodily fluids, tho. I've heard that it can sometimes take up to 6 months after the exposure for anything to show up in a blood test, too.

StationStops said...


The best part is when the white guy got the beat down he had been begging for.

You know, since 9/11, as a conductor you have the legal right to decide which passengers need their ass kicked and to direct other passengers to do the kicking.

Use liberally.

EMS said...

Wow - I guess I did not think about trouble on commuter trains being similar to the trouble we have on our light rail here in Portland, Oregon...

Good job! And very interesting blog; you are a good writer. Keep it up.

I keep a blog about my life as a light rail operator:

I'll be back to your blog again. :-)

missinsidegirl said...

And here people tell me being a journalist in today's world is dangerous ;)

Andrew said...

Wow its crazy stuff like this you would expect on the Waterbury Branch. LOL