Thursday, July 26, 2007

Travel Turmoil

I really should just called this entry "Liz's Stupidity 101," because seriously, everything about this situation was my fault, rather than the fault of someone/thing else. So ok, we were going to Jones Beach this past weekend, and I had to get there by train to meet Em and Zana coming from Manhattan. Fortunately the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) runs from Brooklyn, a mere 2 stops from me on the 2,3 line. I get up with plenty of time, buy my Harry Potter 7, buy a nice comfy beach chair, get myself ready, go to the farmer's market to get some baked goods for our picnic, and have officially started my day well. Excellent.

I look at my watch as I go to get on the subway and see that it's 11:30. The train is at 11:48, plenty of time to get two stops, right? Oh but not when you don't know that trains aren't running in the direction you want them to go from that station. Panic alert. Anxiety rising. Calm down, calm down, it's not the end of the world, let's figure out a way to get there, and hey, the worst case scenario is that I miss the train. There are worse things in life (though I have trouble believing that right in this moment).

So I take a train going in the opposite direction to Franklin Ave (2 stops away), where I can transfer BACK in the right direction to get to Atlantic Ave. I get there at 11:43. Ok, no big deal, I've done shorter transfers in countries where I can't speak the language, I can certainly do it in Brooklyn. Right? Only, Atlantic Ave is the most pathetic excuse for organization that I've ever seen. Construction everywhere. No clear signs, it's a late-person's nightmare.

The ticket machines all have at least 6 people at them, so I politely ask the people in front of me if they're in a hurry and if not, could I pretty pretty please butt in front of them? Amazingly, I am suddenly at the front of the line. Masterfully navigating through the touch screens, I get my tickets printed, of course while gracefully dropping the entirety of the contents of my change purse all over the ground. I do not even bother picking it up, grab the tickets, run for the train.
On the train, I look down at my two tickets- "Getaways/Packages... Jones Beach..." check, check. But the funny thing is that each of them says Bus Pass One Way. Unsettling. But, given that I have never done one of the little "beach packages" I'm not sure how this works, but why do I feel like I'm missing something? Saaaay, a train ticket? But nothing else came out of the machine... right? Panic rises. Anxiety alert.

I sit calmly in a seat, knowing I really have no option to meander back to the ticket booth and see if maybe I left something behind, given my exceedingly close boarding of the train. I just hope, cross my fingers, pray, maaaybe it's ok. Maybe I didn't just waste $15 and maybe I won't have to rebuy my tickets. Because I HAVE the bus tickets, so CLEARLY I bought the package, right Mr. Train Conductor?

Said Train Conductor comes to take my ticket and looks at my One Way Bus Pass, then looks at me, judgment oozing from his eyes (she really doesn't know the difference between a bus and train ticket?!). I smile in the cutest way possible and explain to him that "these are the only things that came out of the machine, I don't know what happened, maybe I missed them in my rush..." I think I was lucky because he was young (and pretty good looking, too), so he smiled and said, "Alright, but just try to get a new ticket when you change trains at Jamaica, if you have time. They might not let you go on the next train."

Arrival at Jamaica. Problem #2. I don't know which train line I'm connecting to. REALLY well thought out, I know. I guess I thought that somehow in this major transfer hub there would be a big self-evident sign pointing people to TRAINS FOR JONES BEACH. Even though I know I'm going to Freeport, I don't know if the train ends there, so I don't really have a clue what train to go on. And given that there is a train across the platform (the most likely place to transfer, right?) leaving RIGHT NOW for Long Beach... with lots of young people... in my anxious state I decide it's a better idea to get on this train (sans ticket, mind you) and risk it being the wrong one rather than wait and actually figure out where I need to go. Long Island is small, right? All the trains go kind of to the same beachy places. Right?

So upon calling Em and Zana to see if they're on the same train and thereby confirming 100% that I am on the wrong train, I realize I now have an even bigger problem. Mr. Train Conductor Part 2 shows up (not so young this time) and I say, "Sir, I have two problems. I'm on the wrong train, aaaand I don't have the proper ticket" and explain my situation. "But I swear I'm not the complete ditz that makes me seem like, and I'm really an educated smart individual who backpacked europe for 5 weeks and never once missed a train." (That part was in my head).

He informs me I can get off at Oceanside and take a cab. And that I'll have to get a new train ticket for my return trip.
Ahh yes, more money that I am going to have to spend because of my stupidity.
Oceanside comes along, I get off. I am essentially clueless as to where I am, just somewhere on LI, maybe near where I should be, but not... really. A dude drives by in a cab, already with someone in it, and stops to see where I need to go. I tell him Jones Beach and (at least) have the sense to ask him how much it will be. He radios into his people and asks them, as I'm getting in.

I reach for the handle to get back OUT of the car. No thank you. I'll just call Kate (who lives on LI) and get her to stop reading Harry Potter and come find me and take me to the beach. Hell no am I paying $35.

He then says, "Well, I can take you to FREEPORT so you can get the bus."
Ding ding ding ding! The one thing I do have is a bus pass from Freeport! So I ask him how much that will cost and he says $15.

We take the other woman home (first of all, it's just a little bit sketchy that he picked up both of us, but I'm so beyond reason right now that I don't even really question it), and then head off for Freeport. I get there (HOORAY!), the N88 bus is right there, I hop on and at long last I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Jones Beach is just over the horizon, so to speak. I meet a lovely gay couple who inform me about which part of the beach (east, central, or west) is best, and we chat about... well, whatever strangers chat about on buses. I love gay men.

I arrive, I rejoice, I hug my friends, I immediately strip down to my bathing suit and soak up the sun. I have arrived.

Flash forward to our return trip from the concert, all 6 of us leaving together. Smooth as butter. We get on the first bus out of the concert, get to the train station with 12 minutes to spare. I get another ticket (another $6.75). All is well.
At Jamaica I get off to transfer to Brooklyn while they continue to Manhattan.
30 seconds later I receive a call from Alexandria.
Zana: Did you take your ticket with you to transfer?
Me: *pause* &%^$#%^!!
Zana and everyone else in the background: *Hysterical laughter*

Just another day in the life.

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