Monday, December 29:
It's a frigid morning as I back the 6:47 AM train out of the yard and onto the platform on track #8 in New Haven Station. The platform is usually packed with commuters, but this morning everyone is standing over on track # 14 platform...that's three tracks away. I toot the horn and glance over at the trembling, huddled masses, yearning to commute. They stare back at me, throw their hands up, mouth four letter words and begin racing for the stairwell. A minute later they file onto my train, most give me dirty looks, others grumble, a few ask:"What happened to the 6:40 train?" I try to look concerned, pull a schedule out of my jacket pocket and read:
I get on the PA and announce: "Folks, this is the 6:47 local train to Grand Central...those of you looking for the 6:40 express... search no more. According to the schedule...the 6:40 will not run today or tomorrow."
"UGGHHH!!!" The huddled masses let out a collective groan.
After leaving New Haven, Kathy, my assistant conductor, walks back to me and says:
"Bob, I need you to talk to a passenger in the head car. He insists that we're really the 6:40 train, and that we're lying about being the 6:47. He says we're running late and we're just trying to cover our tracks...I need you to talk to him."
I hand Kathy a schedule and say: "Give this to him and tell him to read the small print....the devil's in the details."
Tuesday, December 30:
We pull into Riverside Station and "The Greenwich Country Club Member", stumbles onto the train. He's wearing a stained pair of sweat pants, Top Siders (no laces) and no socks. He's grossly overweight, disheveled and looks not unlike the homeless people who wander through the halls of Grand Central.
The New Haven Line has a regular cast of ne'er do well passengers, and one of them is this guy. I call him "The Greenwich Country Club Member," (hereafter called the TGCCM.) He is a tall, heavy, white haired man in his 60's. He regularly rides the Stamford local trains where he drunkenly pesters and verbally assaults other passengers. He rarely has the fare, and when a conductor challenges him, he'll say: "My good man...I'll have you know that I'm a proud member of The Greenwich Country Club." I guess he thinks we'll be impressed and let him ride for free. We don't.
About two years ago, the TGCCM took the cure (got sober) or possibly started taking anti-psychotic medication. Suddenly he was a model citizen. He began appearing on my trains in tweed jackets with ascots. He was polite, unassuming and quiet as a church mouse. He'd meekly board the train, sit in a corner and read the newspaper for the duration of the trip. It was a refreshing change.
But that was then, this is now. I don't know what happened, maybe he invested with Madoff, at any rate TGCCM has fallen off the wagon. After boarding the train today, he immediately starts fighting with Kathy, the assistant conductor. He has a canceled Senior Citizen ticket and he insists that it has never been punched. Kathy wants me to throw him off, but I don't want to delay a rush hour train and offer to bill him instead. He reluctantly fills out the form, then dismisses me with a wave of a bloated hand.
Everyone files off the train in Grand Central, and I notice TGCCM milling through the cars and picking up newspapers. I momentarily think of asking him to get off the train. A relief crew will soon be here to yard the train and I want to close the doors. But then I figure that this will start a fight and I decide to let him be....big mistake.... (to be continued.)
Wednesday, December 30:
When my train reaches Grand Central, a group of passengers run up to me. "Conductor," one says, "A guy in the rear car just fainted. He stood up, then dropped like a ton of bricks." I run to the last car and find a seated 47 year- old man whose skin is pale white and he's staring out into space. His pupils are dilated and he's sweating profusely. "Sir," I pull on his arm, "Are you alright?" No response. I begin to panic and run to the radio to call for medical assistance. The only problem is....I suddenly can't remember my train number or who I'm supposed to be calling:
Me: Train 1529 to District U...uh, I mean train 1571 to District L...I'm here on track 109 and I have a medical emergency."
District L dispatcher: Track 109? You must be train 1531.
Me: Uh, yeah. Train 1531 has a medical emergency. I have a guy here and I think he's having a seizure or something.
District L: We'll send somebody right over.
I run back and find that the stricken man has gotten off the train and is staggering down the platform. I chase after him..."Sir...Sir...are you alright?"
"I think so," he says.
"I have medical personnel on the way. Why don't you take a seat?"
The man takes my advice and sits back down on the train. The paramedics arrive a few minutes later. The paramedics ask if he has eaten breakfast and he says that he only ate a banana. He says he was feeling weak and when he stood up he must have fallen back down and hit his back on his chair's armrest. He says it knocked the wind out of him.
I give the paramedics all the train's pertinent information and I'm released. While walking down the platform I run into Paul, a fellow conductor who yards my equipment. Paul seems annoyed with me. He is from Queens and he peppers his language with colorful expletives.
Paul: Did you leave that fat gray haired F--K on the train yesterday?
Me: You mean "The Greenwich Country Club Member?"
Paul: You know what that F--K did? Huh?
Me: No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me.
Paul: That fat F--K put newspapers on one of the seats and took a big sh-t.
Paul: That's right. The fat F--k took newspapers, put them on the seat, took a dump, and left a big pile of steaming sh-t right there...he stunk up the whole car. I gagged...I actually gagged.
Me: I guess those Greenwich people are wrong. Their sh-t does stink.
Paul: That disgusting fat F--k-piece-a-sh-t. I shoulda had him arrested.
Me: Well....sorry about that..... Um...Happy New Year?
Paul: The disgutin' fat F--k-piece-a-sh-t.
Susan, one of our regular passengers, meets the train in Stratford and hands David (my assistant) two small wrapped packages. One is marked "David" the other is marked "Bob." I open the package and find a beautiful hand painted egg ornament. This is the first time I've been given a Christmas gift by a passenger and I'm genuinely touched. I'm reminded that there are still nice people in the world and I forget all about the TGCCM.
Happy New Year!