The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”
The McTrip from Hell
In late February of 2010 I had a 3 day trip down to Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill. Because of an approaching blizzard I canceled my meetings for the final day and I switched from a 4 p.m. train to the 9 a.m. Acela, so as to maybe beat the snow and get home ahead of the blizzard. So far so good. About halfway home, just outside of Philadelphia we came to an abrupt stop. Yes, we stopped. This was a first for me, after taking the Amtrak train back and forth over the last three years or so.
After 10 minutes we started moving … backwards. The conductor then announced that someone was hit, a “trespasser” was the term she used, on the tracks. Not by us but by a southbound train. So we had to go back to a junction and switch tracks. And then eventually we would go forward again. But first we sat a half hour or so … and it started to snow heavily … tick tock, tick tock.
The conductors on our train were not exactly forthcoming with information so I called Eve on my cell and asked her to find out what the hell was going on. Eve called Amtrak and found out not one but two dummies were hit by the southbound train. Two young girls, 10th graders or so, who decided to skip out of school and walk on the train tracks to get to wherever they were skipping to. He said to Eve “we can’t travel anywhere near the speed we’d like to because of stuff like this that happens.”
Hmm … one wonders how often “stuff like this” does happen? He told Eve there are now five or six trains, not sure if he meant all were northbounds, were sitting and waiting until the tracks are cleared by law enforcement. Because now it was a crime scene, thanks to the two young “Darwin Award” winners, though I wasn’t sure at that point if they had died or not. I know that sounds cruel, but why would anyone walk on train tracks for a very active, commuter train line?
After close to an hour we were finally on the move forward. We were on restricted speed for 3 miles then we finally made it to the Philadelphia station. I asked Eve if the two girls had died and she said “what do you think?”
Finally, a couple of hours late, I made it to Penn Station in NYC. I then hopped on a connecting train to the new facility at Secaucus Junction. But, thanks to the delays, I missed all of the early Metro North trains from Secaucus Junction to my stop in Harriman, New York. So I called my parents and told them I would be getting there late, probably close to 6:00pm. My parents agreed earlier to pick me up, because Eve had to stay home and watch the boys. My dad said to me when I called him to tell him when I thought I would get to Harriman, “it’s a blizzard, you know.” I replied, “I know, take my Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer, it’s got 4 wheel drive.”
When my train finally arrived in Harriman it was a full blown blizzard. The roads were heavily covered with snow. I had gotten on a 9:00 a.m. train and now it was 5:30 p.m. and snowing like crazy.
In normal conditions, at least a 30 minute drive from home. But, this wasn’t normal driving conditions. I’m not talking about the snow, I’m talking about my ride with my parents.
My parents were all set on eating at Wendy’s on the way home. White out conditions, a foot and a half of snow with more falling but we must stop. Well, when we pulled into the Wendy’s in Chester, it was closed. My mom said “how strange.” I replied, “what are you, Nanook of the North? It’s insane to expect them to be open.” My mom said in reply, “I suppose.” But then she stretches her neck and exclaims, “Hey McDonald’s down the road looks open.” And off to McDonald’s we went.
Did I mention it was a blizzard?
Yes, we must stop and eat at the McDonald’s in Chester. We are the only lunatics there and they are closing once we leave. As we stop at the napkin and condiment island my dad says, in his best conspiratorial voice, “you know these cups for ketchup are smaller here than at Wendy’s” “I did not know that” I replied We sit and eat as quickly as possible, though my dad isn’t eating quick enough for my mom’s liking. “Look at him” she snarls, “eating one French fry at a time. HURRY UP!” she demands. I thought she was going to throw one of her French fries at him. Then she said to me “wait till he starts picking his teeth with his straw.” My dad got the hint from mom and quickened the pace and soon we were crawling on the back roads to home. If I died on the way home at least I would have had one last dining McExperience.
This entire fiasco was chronicled, live, on Facebook. As I posted after we left McDonald’s:
“UPDATE: we are sitting stuck on the Florida-Chester road. I’m stuck with two lunatics. We have no idea why traffic isn’t moving but at least we ate our f*#+ing Happy Meal at McDonalds. You cannot make this sh#t up.”
I then looked at the dash and I saw we had less than a quarter tank of gas. The possibility now loomed we could run out of gas on the way home. I posted on Facebook: “I will be impaling myself with my straw if we don’t start moving soon.”
After about 20 minutes we were finally on the move. But the bad news, my parents started fighting. Or, my mom was fighting and my dad was taking a verbal walloping. I wish I could share it all but it was far too much material for me to chronicle. I literally couldn’t keep up. And it must have been 150 degrees in the truck. I wanted to bail out or be put out of my misery.
Once we were about two to three miles from home I texted Eve to have the bourbon ready.
At about 9:00 p.m. I finally arrived home, 12 hours after I had left Washington, DC. Truly a trip from Hell.