It usually goes off without a hitch.
My sister and I live in the same neighborhood so whenever we meet up to go to Manhattan I head over to the Bay Ridge Avenue R station, stand at the front end of the platform, and wait for the train to roll in.
When the R shows up at the appointed hour, my sister steps out of the train, waves to me, and I jump on board. It’s a simple plan and it never misses.
We were going on yet another theater adventure with our auntie to see a performance of John Patrick Shanley’s comedy “Outside Mullingar.”
While we prefer matinees, this time out we were taking in the evening performance and planned to have an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Trattoria Dopo Teatro on West 44th Street.
That was the plan. But a mix-up at the subway station injected some heavy drama into our day.
Okay, so I was on the platform when the train pulled in. I didn’t see my sister in either one of the first two cars, which was odd, since I was certain she’d be on board.
Then I looked way down the platform and in the distance I saw a woman in a red coat standing outside one of the car and looking in my direction.
That’s her, I told myself, and stepped on board. I figured she had to run to catch the train and had jumped on board the closest car. All we had to do was to dash down the platform at the next stop and meet in one of the middle cars. Child’s play, really.
So I got on the train, the doors closed, and off we went to 59th Street. And then, as the train picked up speed, a scary thought streaked through my mind.
Was that woman my sister?
She had to be. Who else would’ve stepped out of the train like that? But then my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and the woman in the red coat had neither waved nor called my name.
I poked my head out at 59th Street desperately hoping to see my sister do the same, but I saw no sign of her. At 53rd Street I bailed and watched the train go by, scanning each car for a familiar face.
Nothing. I was on the wrong train, my sister was God-knows-where and we had less than an hour to meet our auntie at the restaurant.
I had no idea what to do. Our train meet-up routine always works so well I never considered a contingency plan. And now I was paying the price for that lack of foresight.
Do the Locomotion
I ran upstairs and frantically called my sister. Naturally I got the voice mail, so I told her to go into the city and I’d meet her at the restaurant.
I called my auntie’s home and left a screechy message that would do Fay Wray proud. The world I knew suddenly disappeared and I was trapped in this maze of rumbling trains and evaporating time.
We live in this society of instant communication and zero privacy, but all of that technology doesn’t mean a rat’s ass underground. The MTA is gradually installing Wi-Fi service in all the stations, but for me the subway was nothing but a rolling dead zone with plenty of rats and lots of asses.
I got hold of my auntie on her mobile and gave her a live rendition of my breakdown. Somewhere amidst the hysteria, I could hear her saying “calm down” and although it was great advice, it only revved up my insanity.
Now it was really late and the only thing I could do was go to the restaurant and hope my sister was there.
The trains crawled through the tunnels, grinding their wheels in screaming slow motion and driving me so loony that I actually looked skyward at one point and said, “are you kidding me?”
I jumped on a D train at Pacific Street, grabbed a seat, and waited to see the light when we were going over the Manhattan bridge. I had a short window of opportunity to dial my relatives before we went back underground on the Manhattan side.
“This is a disaster,” I rabidly muttered. “A fiasco…a clusterfuck!”
It took forever to reach the bridge and we did, I was dropkicked into voice mail again. Vaffancul!
Once we were in the city I finally took my aunt’s advice and calmed down…a little. The train was going faster and I would only be about 20 minutes late. Plenty of time to drink and stuff my face with the people I love most.
I cannot tell you how relieved I was to finally lay eyes upon my sister and auntie at the restaurant. We were all together again, like the Three Musketeers—though we had started off looking more like the Three Stooges.
I felt like I had just gone through a dress rehearsal for Ragnorok, but the jangled nerves settled down and I was able to truly enjoy and appreciate my sister and auntie’s company. So in rather twisted way, all that stress was helpful.
We had a great time at the theater and agreed upon a Plan B. In the event we miss each other on the subway, we will proceed directly to the restaurant—do not pass Go, do not collect $200—and wait.
And we will stay the hell away from women in red coats.