Sunday, March 8, 2009

An eventful trip 1

This happened a few weeks ago. This blog has become a semi-diary by now, it is perhaps appropriate that I record that night..even though the ensuing time period has diminished my recollection. Perhaps one day my grand kids would read the chronicles of the good-ol' granpa. Hmm...wishful thinking.

6:00 PM
So, I was all excited that evening as I drove to the airport. I had successfully landed yet another interview with a finance company (an options market maker to be precise). The job if I landed it, would be my first 100k+ job. So the excitement was justified. I reached the airport well on time , parked my car and had a quick check in. I was hoping to spend my estimated half hour wait till boarding at a bookstore leeching on some new release. But bad news awaited me at the gate.

7:15 PM
The flight was delayed due to some weather issues. The airline carrier which is big on its cost cutting measures told me that I would have to wait till next morning. Which meant I would have to miss the interview I had so carefully engineered. My mind starts racing and I quickly check for possible re routing. The customer service person tells me that there is no way I can be at Philly by next morning. I normally never ever show any expression of disappointment on my face. But this time my face fell. Customer service was saying a lot of things.... one thing caught my attention - "You could get to New York by mid night but there is no connecting flight till morning" - "Wait , wait" , I say instinctively. I have no clue how my mind pulls these things off. I continue "If you get me to New York by mid night, I can probably catch a train to Philly". I have never caught a train or traveled by Amtrak ever before. But I know that trains are big on the east coast. God Bless!

Thus started my adventurous night.

7:30 PM
I am confused when I saw my boarding pass. Ok, it was Newark not New York. To my desi ear both sound the same. Well, this certainly looked like one of those times where everything that could go wrong actually goes wrong. But Newark is still very much each coast and I was betting that the train service would say my day - err, my night.

I tried my best to get information about the train service at Newark airport. The helpful customer service told me that there was some "air train". Cool. I asked her, "Is there a internet booth anywhere in my terminal?". She gave some vague clues. To my bad luck that place had discontinued operations. I tried to phish off the wireless by staying close to the President's club area. But all to no avail. With 15 minutes to take off I still had no way of knowing if there was any train service at night at the Newark airport. Cool! SNAFU. I suddenly felt relaxed. There was nothing more to be done, except having good food. The night certainly promised to be long and I would need every ounce of strength I got. Fatigue was already setting in. I had woken by at 6 AM that morning.

8.40 PM
Just as I was about to board, I had this idea of talking to the Newark airport operations .
"Is it the Newark airport. Is there any air train facility"
"We are the ground transportation" - some chinku voice tells me. My heart sinks yet again.
"Do you know of any air train at your airport" (You work at the airport afterall and you gotta have seen the train at somepoint you moron!)
"We the ground transpo taation" the voice insists again in broken english.
It is pointless trying to carry out a conversation with chinkus in english. They jus dont getit.

"Trying to catch the airtrain and save some money!" - A pleasant female voice inquires. Where did that come from?! There was the good looking blonde woman in professional attire standing a few places in front of me. She quickly tells me how I can save 100 bucks by using airtrain to get to downtown Manhattan by catching the airtrain instead of a cab. Good Lord. Somebody had some common sense finally. So, there is the airtrain after all and it runs at night.

12:55 AM
Newark airport was freezing cold. I ask my way around to the shuttle station. The shuttle would take me to the airtrain terminal. After a few more hiccups, I reach the airtrain terminal. I am 150 miles from Philadelphia. My interview is at 9 AM. I haven't slept for 18 hours.

1:15 AM
I finally reach the airtrain station. I try getting tickets to Philly. No luck. The automated ticket vending machine did not recognize that destination. I ask the attendant (who happens to be a Black guy) how to get to Philly. He says that I can't get to Philly. Thankfully a Hispanic guy there overhears me. And he quickly rattles off:
"Take the 2:05 airtrain to NewYork Penn Station.
Catch the 3.20 AM Amtrak train to Philly.
You will get there by 4.30 AM"
Someone did know their stuff! More importantly somehow coincidentally that someone was around to help me at 1.15 AM on a cold freezing night.

I walk down the stairs to the waiting area. I see the list of stations - Newark Airport, Newark Penn Station, NewYork Penn Station,...." . Again the Newark - NewYork confusion. I know I cannot afford yet another snafu. I walk back up the stairs in the freezing cold one more time.

Thankfully the Hispanic guy is still there. I am like - dude are u a Cuban illegal immigrant working ur butt off to send money to ur family back home. I say aloud - "Is it Newark Penn or Neuwwww Yorrkkkk Penn ?" As best as I could. He clarifies quickly - The next station, Newark Penn, you will get there in 5 minutes. Awesome, God Bless.

I go back to the waiting area. I dont want to bore anyone by saying I walked in the cold for the third freaking time. Agony of a twice told tale is punishment enough.

I struggle to stay awake. There was some company. A white woman, a black man and soon a desi uncle joins us. We certainly did take care of the diversity quota that night.

2.05 AM.
The train hadn't arrived. After a few nerve racking minutes the electronic sign which said, Newark Penn Station 2:05 mysteriously disappeared. It was replaced by Trenton 4:20 AM. Great!
But fortunately the train arrives a few minutes late. I was surprised by how many people were actually inside the train!
I was unusually alert, despite every muscle fiber in my body clamouring for sleep.
Exhaustion was setting in.