Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Trip In (Friday Oct. 26th)

Right now, I'm sitting on the 51st floor of my brother Peter's apartment in Manhattan, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to make her appearance.  It's Monday morning, Oct. 29th, and typically at 7:00am I am getting my girls ready for school, packing lunches, making breakfast, etc.  Instead of running around like I normally do, I am forced to just sit and wait, so I've decided to document this weekend's travel events in hopes that when I return to Dallas on Wednesday (Halloween), I will win a prize for the craziest trip ever.

I had a master plan of how Friday, Oct. 26th was going to turn out.  I bought a ticket through US Airways (first mistake!) that took me to PA where I was to meet the rest of my siblings and extended family for my cousin Aaron's wedding in Philly.  I arrived in Philly at 3pm, but my luggage did not.  It went to NY (another long story), and because I needed that luggage for the evening, I had to retrieve it myself.  Rather than getting off in Philly to hang out with everyone, I flew to NY.  I arrived there at about 6pm and got my luggage, breathing a sigh of relief.  Now the trick was how to get back to Philly in rush hour traffic!

I called my brother Peter who lives in Manhattan and he chose to have me take public transportation since I arrived at the worst possible time in NYC.  These were his exact instructions, "Take the Q33 Bus to the Jackson-Roosevelt train station then transfer to the E train (blue) going downtown to the World Trade Center, get off at 42nd street/Port Authority Bus stop.  Pick up the Greyhound there."

Really?  I live in Frisco, TX, which means that almost everything I need is located off of one main road- Preston.  And I can drive anywhere in one car, by myself, with my Google Maps if necessary.  This was going to be a huge challenge, and I started to panic a little more when I saw that my phone was dying and thought, "Hope it's just the phone and not me!!"

I headed out of the airport and followed a mass of people outside who all looked like they knew exactly what they were doing.  I watched several buses go by and had no idea which ones they were until I saw one that said "M60" with flashing lights on the front window.  Then I realized that I had to be looking for the flashing letters and numbers on the buses- hello!!  Q33 finally arrived and I got on.  I had asked a stranger right before how much the bus was, and he said "$2.25", so I had my bills and a quarter ready to go.  When I tried to put it into the box next to the bus driver, he said I had to have exact change in coins only.  I must have looked like I was going to cry because then he quickly said, “Don’t worry about it, just get on.”  Who said New Yorkers weren’t nice?

Once on the bus, I began to frantically write down Peter’s instructions on paper so that I would have them in case I completely lost power on my phone.  I called him briefly to say that I was on the bus, and he reminded me that the Greyhound left promptly at 8, so I needed to try to purchase my ticket online first and do my best to get there quickly.  It was about 6:45pm.

I used up the rest of my power on the phone to buy my bus ticket online, and then asked the lady next to me how to get to the subway.  She smiled and said, “The bus takes you right there at your next stop.  You’ll be fine.”  Again, a sweet New Yorker!

I arrived at Jackson-Roosevelt, walked down into the subway station, purchased my Metro ticket, and tried to find the E train (Blue) going downtown to the World Trade Center.  There were 2 E trains and lots of other letters in the subway station!!  As a train was approaching, I asked the guy next to me, “Is this the E train to the World Trade Center?” and he practically shouted, “No!!  This one goes to Queens!!  Run up the stairs, go across to the other side and get on the E train going to Manhattan!”  Thank you, random commuter, for saving me from going the wrong direction!

Hurried onto the correct train and arrived at 42nd street.  It was 7:20pm and I was starving.  I had hardly eaten breakfast since I was at school by 8am that morning for an assembly, and then had driven from there to the airport.  I hadn’t eaten lunch since I expected to hang out with my family and eat at the hotel in Philly.   There were a few places to pick up a bite to eat at the Port Authority stop, but I wanted to secure my bus ticket first.  I expected it would take about 10 minutes to get my ticket and then I could eat while I waited to leave at 8pm.

Instead, I waited in line for 30 minutes to pick up my bus ticket from will call, and then walked to the end of a massive line waiting for Gate 68 to Philly a little before 8pm.  I knew it would be a long night, but I was relieved to finally be at the bus stop, proud of the fact that I actually made it there in one piece and on time!  Philly was only a 2-hour ride away now.  I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally at 8:30pm I asked the people next to me if they knew why weren’t moving at all in the line or getting on the bus.  They had no idea either, so I asked someone to save my place in line so I could go to the front and ask what was going on.

Guess what?  The people at the front of the line were waiting for the 6:00pm bus and had been there for 3 hours!!  When I heard this news, my stomach fell.  I just couldn’t believe that there was now a 3-hour delay at the bus, which meant I’d be waiting another 5 hours to get to Philly.  I wanted to scream!

I came back to my place in line and explained to everyone around me what was going on.  Some people just left right away, some stayed, but one young guy suggested, “You know, we could probably take the Amtrak train and get there quicker than waiting for the Greyhound.”  So I went with option #3 and followed New York angel Mike to the Amtrak.

We took the Amtrak to Trenton, New Jersey, then transferred to another train going to Philly.  We arrived in Philly at 11:30pm and Mike made sure I got dropped off right to the Courtyard Marriott.  I thanked him for saving my weekend and he said he was glad to help; he was on his way 2 blocks down for a medical student reunion so it was no trouble.  These New Yorkers are amazing!

When I got to my hotel room, I took out all my ticket stubs from the day and marveled at the sheer number; I had literally taken almost every possible mode of transportation offered in NY: cab, city bus, train, Amtrak, and airplane.  The only thing I didn’t take was the ferry!  As I closed my eyes to sleep, I thought, “I’m sure the trip out will be much smoother.”  Little did I know what was in store.

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