Sunday, September 28, 2008

A seedy week in review 9/21-9/28

09/21-Conductor's Lounge, Grand Central:

A group of us were sitting around a table in the conductor's lounge, drinking coffee and decompressing by telling war stories from the previous week. Somehow the conversation turned to women (as it always does) and how many sexy ladies have been riding the trains lately. That's when one of the conductors said that he'd recently been caught staring at a woman's cleavage.
"How long were you staring?"
"Too long."
"How long is too long?"
"My wife says that I can stare for three seconds... five seconds if I don't have my glasses on. Any longer than that ...I'm a pervert."
Another conductor said he recently was standing over a buxom woman while she rummaged though her purse, looking for her ticket. He said she had a low cut blouse on and he couldn't help but stare down at her cleavage. The woman looked up, caught him leering, and said..."Honey, you're not gonna find the ticket down there."
09/27/08, Train 6500
A drunken middle aged businessman boarded the train with a "Leg Show" porno magazine under his arm. He staggered down the aisle, stopping occasionally to show the centerfold to anyone who would look in his direction. Finally, he spied a cute college girl and he sat down next to her. He began flirting with her and started flipping through his magazine, showing her the pictures. I could see she was disgusted, and after several minutes, she screamed:
"I'm a lesbian...Leave me alone."
"That's okay," he said, "I'm a lesbian too."
He then went into graphic detail, saying what he and lesbians have in common. That's when I stepped in, saying that the lady obviously didn't want to be bothered and that he should move his seat. He reluctantly agreed and walked back to the rear of the car, where he found a whole new group of people to pester.
09/28 Train 6537

A Stepford wife was sitting in a four seater with an aluminum foil covered sheet cake lying on the seat across from her. The train was crowded, but there were still some seats available. I didn't say anything at first, but by Westport the train was packed and we had several passengers who were standing. I walked by the woman and saw that her cake was still on the seat; "Mam," I said,"please take the cake off the seat. We're very crowded," I then pointed to the five people who were standing in a nearby vestibule.

I moved on and continued to collect tickets, but when I returned (some five minutes later) I found seven people standing, and the woman's cake still on the seat.

"Mam, please remove your cake, others would like to sit here."
"No," she said as if annoyed, "I asked if anyone wanted to sit here and they said no."
"We still have five station stops to go," I said. I'm sure someone will want to sit here."
She still refused to move the cake.
"Listen," I said, "Either you take the cake off the seat, or I'll have you and the cake removed from the train."
It was starting to drizzle out, and I envisioned her standing on the platform, cake in hand, while the song MacArthur Park played in the background:
Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don't think that I can take it

'cause it

took so long to bake it

And I'll never have that recipe again

She finally picked up the cake and placed it in her lap.
"This is unbelievable," she huffed.
"You're unbelievably rude," I countered.
At Stamford, a young lady boarded the train and sat where the cake had been. She seemed happy to find a seat and I was happy that she found one. There's nothing worse than fighting with a customer about opening up a seat and then nobody sits there.

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.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The more things change...The more they stay the same

Some things have changed over my 22 year on the railroad. For example, when I began I was always given the unpleasant assignment of working the smoking cars (the 3rd and 5th car from the west/south end of train, or any bar car.) It was difficult to see tickets through the clouds of smoke and I frequently came home red eyed and smelling like a wet ash tray. I jumped for joy when they banned smoking.

It's hard now to believe, but back in the 80's, Grand Central was a glorified marble urinal for the homeless, and it seemed that beggars outnumbered commuters.

Other memories:

Remember buying monster sized pizza slices from Zaro's? Each slice weighed five pounds.

How about drinking at Lindy's, or buying a cup of coffee at Eclair?

What about the giant Kodak Colorama sign that towered over the east end of the GCT concourse? I used to get excited whenever they changed the photo.

Remember leaving your bags unattended and not having to say something when you saw something?

In more recent years there have also been changes.

Remember the Railfone? These phones were installed on our trains, but they charged users $2.00 a minute. A year after they were installed, everyone, and I mean everyone, had their own cell phone and the Railfone was obsolete.

With all these changes, it's comforting to know that some things stay the same:

Rocky is arguably the most well known, and notorious passenger on Metro North. He rides all three lines and all the conductors know him. I've known Rocky since he was a crazy, mixed up teenager. Back in the day, he used to dress as a male, but he slowly began to change. First came the Tina Turner wigs, then the platform shoes. He eventually graduated to hot pants with "boy toy" plastered across the back.

I remember him telling me of one memorable Thanksgiving, when he he "dressed up" for his grandmother. It nearly killed her.

He was on my train last week and I asked if I could take his picture (bottom) and post it on my blog. He agreed, but said that I was crazy to put a picture of a cross dresser on the Internet. He was dressed in a micro mini, a thong, and was wearing 12" stiletto heels when he said this...and I'm the crazy one!

Another old friend visited last week:

This is why my wife doesn't want me wearing my work boots in the house. You know, eggs, larvae, etc...

I was working a Stamford Local when a passenger spotted my friend here,"ROACH!!!" he screamed. I'm no Entomologist, but I was going to correct him and say that this is technically a water bug (at least this is what my New York co-workers call them), but then, after doing some research for this story, I found out that he was right, this is a roach- an American Cockroach to be exact. Not to be confused with the smaller, German Cockroaches, who also ride our trains. I think the passenger wanted me to kill it, but when the bug is big enough (two inches) to have its own zip code, I draw the line. Instead, I asked it to say "cheese" and I snapped its picture (above).

Here's something that hasn't changed in 35 years:

Hold on folks, the new M8's are coming in late 2009.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Sting

Yesterday, I was standing in my backyard, circular saw in one hand and a sledge hammer in the other. I had spent the better part of the morning ripping apart my old deck and throwing the remaining slices of pressure treated lumber into the weeds in the corner of the yard. I plan on leaving this pile here till I rent a dumpster and dispose of it properly.

Later in the morning, my friend "Pat" stopped by to discuss building a new deck for me. Pat's a macho guy who's an army veteran, Police Sergeant, and part time builder of decks. He came over to survey the job and inspect the work site. Sometime during our discussion, he pulled out a tape measure and started walking past my gas grill. Bees have recently nested beneath the grill's underside and they began to circle Pat. He quickly retreated six steps back.

"You're not gonna let a few bees scare you...are you?" I asked.

I grabbed the tape measure from his hand and stoically marched past the grill and began taking measurements. While doing this, I bragged, saying that I'd never been stung by a bee before.

That's when it happened.

Like a mob hit, the bees (who I believe belong to the Genovese family) surrounded me in all directions. If Scorsese filmed it, the scene would unfold in slow motion:

An unassuming man puts tape measure to garage, when several yellow and black striped missiles cross the screen in formation. The man cries out in pain, then reaches for his right leg. Just then, a Sicilian looking bee attacks from the left and jabs his other leg. The man's body convulses, as another bee (played by Joe Pesce) stabs him in the hip. The man does a little girly man dance and runs for his life. His friend, who is standing at a safe distance, doubles over in laughter.

"Owwww!!! That hurt!" I screamed. My puncture wounds began to burn.

Before leaving, Pat watched as I carried a few more pieces of lumber into the wood pile. "Be careful back there," he said, "those weeds look like poison ivy."

"Ah...don't worry." I said. "I've never gotten poison ivy before."

I better keep some calamine lotion on hand.