Wednesday, October 03, 2007
3:10 to Flatbush
I watched the Italian woman and her daughter approach the ticket window at the Long Beach train station.
The women had about five words of English between them, and the ticket clerk, a heavyset man in a state of permanent exasperation was trying to explain the concept of "off-peak" to them.
"When are you coming back?" he asked.
The mother struggled with the question. A woman standing behind her looked up at the clock and back to the ticket clerk, anxious to buy her ticket.
"Ah...tonight...maybe 8...or later."
I looked away from the scene to check on the status of my train, the 3:10, heading back to the Flatbush Avenue LIRR station. It was on-time and waiting for me out on Track 4A.
I had about 20 minutes to wait so I looked around at the faces that made up the waiting room's cast of characters.
In addition to the Italian women, there was the obese man two chairs away from me, whose bloated body spread over the seat as if he were a permanent part of the bench.
There was the Mexican lady struggling with her packages; a South Asian newsstand vendor, a middle-aged lady reading her newspaper. Two Hispanic men came in, one with the Lt.Uhuru cell phone earpiece, asked about getting a Metro card and were told to go someplace else.
I'm on vacation this week. I had no serious plans, since I'm going to Hawaii in December. I thought I'd just chill around the house this week, doing chores and basking in the joy of not being in the office.
Outside of hanging up new shower curtains, this week has not turned out to be the whirlwind of productivity I was hoping it would be. Didn't finish the novel or send out the short story, didn't pitch the book idea to any small publishers.
I was in Long Island on what I suppose was a blind date. My aunt had given me this woman's number and suggested I give her a call.
I know, I know, if your aunt's fixing you up, there's probably something seriously wrong with your social life. But I didn't see any reason to say no.
I called the woman, who is also on vacation this week, and we agreed I'd come out to her neck of the woods for lunch.
Now I am extremely uncomfortable on the Long Island Railroad. It's not like the subway: this train has tickets and conductors and timetables.
I don't know my way around the island, I don't know any of the towns and I'm always worried I'll step onto the wrong train and be whisked off to some cowtown in the middle of nowhere filled with mean-looking locals in overalls who say things like, "not from around here, are yuh, boy?
That hasn't actually happened to me yet, but I don't ride the train that often.
Anyway, I met this lady for lunch and it was pleasant enough. I didn't hear bells, or whistles come to think of it, but we had a nice conversation over a tasty lunch.
I had figured on spending most of the day with her--I don't think it looks right to eat and run. But after we left the restaurant, she started guiding me back to the train station.
"Thanks for coming out," she said.
Oh, think nothing of it. And I don't think she did. I got the sinking feeling that I was being given the bum's rush. I felt like a package being sent back to the post office.
Was it my appearance? I went for casual, t-shirt and a sports jacket. I had skipped shaving because I was running late, but I liked the stubble look.
I tried to watch my table manners. The only slip-up came with an unruly piece of broccoli rabe that was longer than I realized and put me in the position of chewing down the length of the thing like a race horse scarfing down a carrot.
"I'm sorry," I said between chews.
The only other possible faux pas--or faux pee--occurred when I arrived at Long Beach. I felt the call of nature as soon as the train pulled in, so I dashed into the gent's to do what a man's gotta do.
Dream On...and on...and on...
On my way out I looked down and saw a small but rapidly expanding stain south of the border, which has been happening more often lately. Is this a part of aging or am I just a bad judge of my own plumbing?
Outside of the pope's funeral, I didn't think this could have happened at a more inopportune time.
It makes me think of that little bit of bathroom wall wisdom that goes, "no matter how much you prance and dance, the last few drops go down your pants."
I looked up and saw my date coming toward me and I doubted she would be impressed by my men's room ditty, so I quickly buttoned up the sports coat and prayed it would provide adequate coverage.
Looking back, I sincerely doubt it. Plus it was a warm day, so I looked pretty foolish buttoning up my jacket.
But, hell, I'm human. If my urinary misfire was a deal-breaker, I'm sorry. I'll wear my Depends on our next date.
I really think part of the problem is that this woman and I are too much alike: both middle-aged, unmarried, no kids. We both have these tight, scheduled lives that don't allow much room for anyone else.
Yes, it's been a strange couple of days. The other night I had one of my patented bizarro nightmares. In this one, I'm working at office in Bay Ridge for one of the supervisors in my real world job.
We're working for a magazine that's losing circulation and he sends me out to do a man-on-the-street interview--I always hated those things--to find out why our numbers suck so bad.
One problem: I can't remember the name of the publication I'm working for. I stop people on the street and say, "excuse me, I work for..."
And I can't any further. I struggle for something to say, but when you don't know the name of your own magazine, your credibility takes a pretty serious hit.
Later I'm walking through some park in my neighborhood that I've never seen and I meet a colleague who looks like Rachel Dratch. She has just interviewed a ton of people, putting me to shame.
I try to tell her something...and I can't remember her name either.
Now the forgetting part may be rooted in the fact that my shrink forgot about our session on Monday. We had changed to an earlier time since I was on vacation and he forgot to note in his appointment book.
It honestly didn't bother me--these things happen. But my subconsious got hold of that little tidbit, made me the amnesiac, and ran for the end zone.
Then the dream took a full-throttle shift to the fiery pits of Hell. Suddenly I was in my house and our our evil tenants, who ran out on us in the dead of night shortly after my father died, have returned.
The Wife comes out first with a police escort--which she would sorely need if she ever showed her hideous mug around here--and the Husband, a worthless dope who constantly pretended he didn't know about anything--kind of like Sgt. Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes."
"I'm disappointed in you!" I shout at the husband, echoing that kid who confronted Shoeless Joe Jackson. "I'm disappointed in you!"
I don't where the hell that came from and really don't want to find out. Nitcheze had a quote about looking into the abyss and having the abyss look back. I think I know he meant.
It was time to get on board the train. I walked down the track and saw the two Italian women, the mother holding the ticket up to a rather puzzled-looking conductor.
I really wanted to help, but my Italian is so rusty it would creak like the hinges on Count Dracula's coffin lid.
So I slid into my seat and watched the scenery roll by. It wasn't the greatest date I've ever had, but at least I knew my way home. And my new shower curtains would be waiting for me.