by Penny Cook
I had a 12.00 appointment in Ozone Park to meet a principal. So I HOPSTOPPED the directions and set out very early because I would rather get there than be late. Well, on the platform at Cortelyou, waiting for the Q to get me to DeKalb where I was going to change to the A, some convoluted announcement comes over the loud speaker and of course, it couldn’t be understood. I worked out it was about the D train so I figured the Q was still coming. It wasn’t.
Above ground I found no A train. Nor did I find anyone who knew where one was. So I headed underground again and got on a train to where I knew there would be an A train – 42nd Street (totally wrong direction). When I got off there I walked for miles to the A but at least I was on it.
I had plenty of time, but I was a bit concerned when the train didn’t stop at 80th (where I was meant to get out). Of course an announcement had been made but I couldn’t understand a word of it. Turns out the platform was being repaired. I still had time but I got out at the next stop and the subway attendant gave me a card to call a taxi … on my phone with the rapidly depleting battery. I’m right in gangster type territory so I was pleased when the car turned up and drove me 2 blocks for a fee of $7 (ended up giving him $10 with the tip). When I found my way in to the building with10 minutes to spare, I’d been travelling for 2 hours 20 minutes I produced my photo ID and I was directed to the 4th floor, which turned out to be wrong and when I eventually arrived in what I thought was the right place with 5 minutes up my sleeve, I was told the person I was seeing wasn’t there.
A few phone calls and it turns out the principal thought we were meeting at another school. I didn’t have that information. The person attending to me kindly called me a car, which was going to cost $16 to get to the school. So the car turns up and the young Arabic driver (I’m mentioning race because he had music on and I asked what language it was in and he told me and we got chatting about his life and future) didn’t quite know where to go so we went the long way through Ozone Park to Jamaica – $20 later I arrive. So I finally meet with the principal I’m only 30 minutes late but had been ‘travelling’ for 3 hours.
A good meeting and now I needed to find my way home. I caught a bus to Jamaica Centre where there are a couple of subways, the Long Island Railway and the air train to JFK. A helpful lady next to me directed me to the E train and said stand right there and when the train comes you aks (yes, no typo there) the conductor and he gonna tell yooo. Yooo better off aksing him than looken at the mayap (map). Well … I took a look at the map (thank goodness) because she was going to get me to somewhere on Manhattan that was nowhere near a connection for me to get home.
So up above ground I go and head for the Long Island Railway where I eventually find the right track … but I don’t have a ticket and the train is coming. The lovely guard who was dressed just like the conductor in POLAR EXPRESS said ‘Yoo waait rut thar ma’am, I gunna git yooo awn dat traaiin.’ So when the train pulled in he had a word to the conductor and I was on the train!! I shook his hand and thanked him profusely and sat quietly and comfortably for the next 15 minutes to Atlantic Station Brooklyn. When I arrived I made my way to the Q (on familiar ground now). Hopped on the train and with the remainder of the phone’s low battery, proceeded to play WORDBRAIN. I am on penguin level with no hints left and I just can’t get one word. Next thing I know I’m at Newkirk station, not Cortelyou. Had I been so absorbed that I’d missed Cortelyou … I thought we just passed Church Avenue. Q…B…easy mistake to make….big yellow Q, big orange B. Oh well, it was better than ending up at Coney Island and it was a nice day for another walk!!
So what should have taken 3 hours and 4 trains took 6 hours, 5 trains, 2 cars about 2km of walking, a hundred odd stairs and $30!!!!
Penny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel – anywhere. She is currently consulting as an Early Childhood specialist in New York. She has always wanted to live in a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!! Other posts by Penny Cook include From Here to God-Help-Us: XS Baggage and Travel Tales.