Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A New York commuter's worst nightmare

So this morning around 5:45am I was woken up by yet another thunderstorm. It wasn't as bad as Friday's, but it was pretty bad. I was feeling pretty badly for the bums, wondering where they went in times like this. I dozed in and out of sleep for the next hour or so (and dreamt I was a smoker....random?) and finally got up to get ready for work. I was all set, thinking I would try to look nice with a button down collared shirt, black pants, and straightened hair. I popped in my ipod and was jamming to some Toby Keith. As I stepped out of my building I waited for a second to see if it was still drizzling, nope. Yay! I thought to myself. The bad weather is done and the day will be okay. Little did I know what was coming.
I headed to the subway, nothing was out of the ordinary. As I approached I noticed a girl on her cell phone sobbing her eyes out and stomping her feet. Dang, I thought, she's seriously upset about something. As I headed toward my cute little newspaper boy I noticed more people standing by the subway entrance than usual. I didn't think too much of it, bought my Post, and was just about to head down the steps.
It was then I heard something mentioned about the subways not running. I took off my ipod and asked my paperboy what was up. He informed me no subways were running because the tracks were flooded due to the rain. Bummer.
I headed over to the bus stop wondering if it would be crowded. I was excited when I saw only four or five people waiting. I stood there for a minute and then noticed every bus that came by was packed like a sardine can. I realized this didn't look like it would be an option.
I called my boss to inform him I'd be a little late, figuring I'd just grab a cab. I ran to the atm and then began searching. The traffic was really bad so I figured I might as well start walking in the right direction while I tried to get a cab.
At 109th I wondered if I should turn around and go back to my apartment to get my running shoes. I didn't want to walk the three blocks back and figured I'd be fine. It was at 100th I realized the rain soaked pavement was starting to soak through my adorable yet cheap Old Navy flats. The option of getting a cab wasn't looking too good, and I thought I might be walking for a while, so around I turned. Luckily I was able to get a semi-broken down cab to drive me back to my place.
I was walking up my stoop just as my roommate Sarah was leaving. I informed her of what was happening and she came back up to the apartment with me to change clothes. It was hot and HUMID so I put on my running attire and ate a yogurt since the morning hunger was starting to set in. It was at this point I was feeling like this was such a "fun adventure" I decided to document it with the below photo. Sarah took this of me in our stairwell just before we took off.

We walked for quite a while in the bike lane of the street towards oncoming traffic. I figured it'd be easier to spot cabs if we looked for ones headed in our direction verses looking over our shoulders the whole time. There were a million cabs, but none with vacancy. I actually saw one guy walk up to a cab and say to the driver, "Is there any way you can take another passenger? There's no available cabs." The cabbie wouldn't agree.
It wasn't long before I realized this wasn't so fun. I was so grateful, however, that it wasn't still raining, and that it wasn't winter. There's no way I could have shlepped to work in the snow. It was crazy to see the streets so packed with so many people not knowing what to do. It seems crazy to me that with all that happens in New York the city is not prepared for something like this. I mean, I don't know what they could do to prepare for it, but it really seemed like something more should have been done. All I could think was Why can't Bloomburg do something about this? I want his personal car to come take me to work. I was only semi-joking.
The scariest thing we saw on our walk down 8th Ave was a man unconscious on the ground, bleeding from his head. People were around him trying to help, and I was grateful I wasn't the first person to come upon the situation. Not that I wouldn't have done anything, but I'm just not good in emergencies. Sarah thought he'd been hit by a car, but my assumption was that he'd passed out from the heat and hit his head on the pavement. It really unnerved me to see that. I can't imagine how it would have been to be here during 9/11 and see so many people hurt or worse.
We did get one cab to pull over and for no apparent reason I asked if he'd take us downtown. Why wouldn't he take us downtown? He was a cab. I think I was delirious because when he asked where to I couldn't get 40th and 5th Ave out of my mouth. After about the fifth try, and an unsuccessful attempt at opening a locked door, I finally got the words out. He shook his head no and pulled back into his lane. I was so angry!! In true New Yorker form I smacked my hand against the trunk and then threw my arms up in the air and exlaimed Come on! I showed I'm becoming a New Yorker another time when we were whistled at by some girl biking toward us in attempts to get us to move. It wasn't the first time we'd annoyed a biker by walking in the bike lane. Obviously we were in the wrong, and any other normal day I wouldn't embark upon their territory, however walking along the sidewalk would have hindered our cab hailing ability and on a day like this I really didn't care if I was using the bike lane when not on a bike. So yeah, this chick coming toward us starts whistling, implying we needed to move. I didn't like the whistle, so I whistled right back at her. It gave Sarah a good laugh.
When we reached 50th we made a pit stop at Duane Reed to pick up some deodorant. We'd both forgotten to pack it and boy did we feel nasty. It was at that point I parted from her to head towards 5th Ave (she works on Broadway at 32nd and I really didn't want to get into touristy Times Square.)
I called my Dad to fill him in on what was going on because I knew he'd be on his way to work. (It was 10am my time at this point.) We chatted for about ten minutes and then hung up. I was about half a mile from my office. Right after we hung up I passed a thermometer that read 80 degrees. I texted my dad to inform him and his response? Are you ready for this? That's hot. Paris. Hahaha, my dad is hilarious.
So I finally reached my office absolutely exhausted, sticky, sweaty, and probably stinky. Awesome. I headed to the bathroom to change and just felt nasty. My nicely straightened hair ended up in a messy bun because the humidity destroyed it.
When I checked in with my boss he told me he'd figured I'd ended up walking and thought he should have told me not to even come in. Wow, thanks for telling me that after I got to the office.
The first half of the day was totally unproductive. I was so exhausted I couldn't get motivated to do any work. The second half was much better and I got all my work done. Everyone was talking about how they got into the city. A lot of people weren't affected because they live outside of Manhattan and took commuter trains to Penn Station, which are above ground. Some people didn't make it in at all, however, because there was no way. I won the award for farthest commute by foot (at least with the people with whom I spoke.) When two of my bosses found out where I lived they were half shocked I walked that far, and half shocked I lived in what has a reputation of being ghetto by middle-aged people standards. At first I was embarrassed, but then decided to milk it, hoping when it came time for bonuses they'd take pity on me. It really wasn't that far of a walk, just four miles (plus the half mile I walked before I got started.) It felt really long though, since I wasn't prepared for it, and it was so dang hot out.
I guess there was a tornado that touched down in Brooklyn. When I heard it I figured it was a rumor but then saw something about it online. So crazy.
After work the subways were running but I couldn't decide if I wanted to take them because I really wasn't in the mood to get stuck underground if that became the case. I also didn't feel like walking over to the bus because I figured they'd be pretty full. As the end of the day neared I decided I would chance it with the subways, however when I got outside I quickly decided I would treat myself to a cab home; I deserved it. Boy was that a mistake.
There was so much traffic it took me 30 minutes and $15 to go 19 blocks (one mile.) Usually it should have taken me about $15 to get home (72 blocks.) It was so dang stop and go and the AC totally sucked I was feeling sick and decided to get out at 6th and 59th. I decided to walk the two avenues to Columbus Circle and check out the bus situation. There was a line for the bus and I decided I really didn't want to stand in the heat and wait, and then cram onto a bus that would be stopping every 2-3 blocks. My only other option (besides walking which I was NOT doing) was to attempt the subway. Finally, something worked out in my favor.
As I headed underground the heat was almost disabling. It was so intense. But as luck would have it, just as I was going down to the uptown B train, it was rolling up. Hallelujah!!! The best news it, I guess most people had their concerns like me, and decided against the subways because there was hardly anyone in the cars. I got a seat no problem. The AC felt amazing, and I couldn't wait to get home.
So I finally made it home 30 minutes later than I should have, and completely (almost) stripped down and sat in front of the AC unit. No one had gotten home yet so the apartment was a sauna. I think my favorite moment of the day was when I was sitting on my couch next to the AC, wearing next to nothing, eating some chocolate Haagen-Dazs straight from the carton, watching today's Regis and Kelly on the DVR.
What a day. (I ended up not feeling so badly for the bums because they didn't have to go to work all day after that nightmare.)


Cathi said...

Wow, that sounds like quite a day!

Rachel, it's so awesome that you're doing that! I'm kind of jealous! What an adventure you're having.

I'm in Florida for the month, but still working at Vanguard University. I LOVE my job and I start grad school in a couple months, so that's kind of exciting. I would love to come visit you! You sound like a native New Yorker already!

Lynette said...

I am just exhausted reading your entry.... Hope tomorrow is a better day~~~~

Heidi said...

Sorry this has nothing to do with your post, but I had to comment back after reading your comment. Jhordan was my best bud in high school. That is so funny that you have met her- very small world.