Empire Service (Part II)

Transports of Delight

For long-time readers of this blog, you may remember a few weeks ago I told you a story from my travels in New York – the tale of the NYPD cop who helped me find my train when I was lost and deranged. You may also remember that I left a tantalising teaser at the end of that story, suggesting that it was not in fact the end. If you need a refresher, here’s the link to Empire Service (Part I). Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

… Doop dee doop …

Okay you’re back! Hello. You probably noticed that I ended that story with “Little did I know …” Classic cliffhanger. And I’m finally going to stop the dangling and drop you off the cliff. So to speak.

So we’re back in the year 2005, a magical year in history. It’s before Facebook but after Furbies. I have just boarded a train from Manhattan that will take me to Buffalo, New York. I am extremely frazzled and exhausted. But it was worth getting up early and all the dramas trying to find the train station – all of that was worth it because soon I will be reunited with my boyfriend. He’s staying with his relatives in Canada, and my plan is to catch the train to Buffalo, where I will then catch a bus to meet him in Niagara Falls.

As meeting places go, it’s hard to miss.

But, once I’m on the train, I discover something interesting. This train doesn’t terminate in Buffalo. In fact, the very next stop after Buffalo is Niagara Falls! (Why I didn’t figure this out when I was booking the ticket, I don’t know. I am nineteen and generally clueless.) So, I come up with a new plan, a cunning plan. I will simply stay on the train one extra stop, disembark at Niagara Falls, and step into the boyf’s waiting arms. Brilliant!

And it all would have gone perfectly, too, if it wasn’t for that damn fire.

I make it through the eight-hour journey from Manhattan – eight hours! – and when the train pulls into Buffalo I do not disembark. I stay in my seat, thinking about what a clever cookie I am. No messing around with buses in Buffalo – I’m cutting a whole leg out of my journey! As it turns out, I will come to regret this decision.

We pull out of Buffalo, and I get more and more excited. Next stop, boyfriend! But then, a considerable way outside Buffalo, the train suddenly grinds to a halt. Everybody on board is puzzled. From my window, there just seems to be a bunch of trees. I check with a service attendant; no, we haven’t reached Niagara Falls. This is not a scheduled stop. I wriggle in my seat, bitten with impatience. The train is supposed to be pulling into my destination in fifteen minutes!

I get a call from my boyfriend. He’s ringing from the payphone at the Niagara Falls train platform, where he’s waiting for me. I tell him that my train is mysteriously delayed, but I should be there soon. We don’t talk long, because we’ll be seeing each other in a few minutes anyway.

What a view.

Then comes the announcement from the train driver. As it turns out, there is an emergency up ahead. A lumberyard next to the tracks has caught fire, and firefighters are trying to put out the blaze. Everyone mutters with not a little anxiety. But it’s not the fire that stopped us – it’s the fire hoses. Because, apparently, the lumberyard is on one side of the tracks, and the fire hydrant is on the other. So the firefighters have to lay their hoses across the train tracks in order to fight the lumberyard inferno. The train will have to wait until the fire is put out before we can keep moving. I grit my teeth. Obviously we can’t run over the top of fire hoses, no matter how many boyfriends are waiting at the next stop. But I pray that this fire goes out quickly.

It does not.

I try to contact my boyfriend, to let him know what’s happening. But he called me from a payphone, so I can’t call him back. (I can’t remember why he didn’t have a cellphone, but he didn’t. I’ll just say it was because he was being purposefully difficult.) I imagine him waiting on that platform, expectantly looking for my train, becoming more and more concerned. The tension is killing me. Finally, he calls me from the payphone again, and I rush to answer my phone.

“Ohmygod I’msogladyoucalled ItriedcallingyoubutIcouldn’t mytrainisstuckanditmightbehours howareyou?!”

He is curt and obviously annoyed. “So am I meant to wait here for hours?”

“No noooo of course not, just go home and I’ll meet you there whenever I get off this train.”

He is not mollified. “Fine. Well I better go, this is costing me money.” (Spoiler Alert: he’s not ‘the One’.)

We hang up and I slump in my seat. This day is not turning out the way I’d hoped. I’m tired and gross from travelling all day, my boyfriend is irritated, and now my stomach is starting to ache. It’s been hours since I polished off my packed lunch, so I head up to the snack bar in search of food. They tell me that the dining cart is closed, but they can offer me a bag of chips. With a heavy heart, I pay for the exorbitant chips and head back to my seat. Meanwhile, the boyf is probably tucking into a hearty dinner at his aunty’s house. Jesus. Should’ve just gotten off at Buffalo.

After nearly three hours stuck at the lumberyard, the fire is finally put out and the firefighters remove the offending hoses. The train lurches down the tracks; I feel palpable relief in the carriage. We finally pull into the Niagara Falls station, and I yank my bags down from the overhead rack. I can’t get off that train fast enough.

At the station, I hail a taxi and head over the border into Canada. I don’t know where my boyfriend is staying or how to contact him, but after getting lost in Manhattan and spending 11 hours stuck on a train, this is the easy part! Okay so the reunion is going to be later than we thought, and we’re both going to be a lot grumpier than we thought, but this is going to happen. It is.

As the taxi winds through the darkened streets of somewhere in Canada, I’m glad to see the back of bloody Amtrak. Little do I know that it won’t be long before I’m back in the States, having more wacky train adventures. OH WHAT – I did it again! You thought the story was over but it isn’t! My New York train adventure still has another part to it. Guess you’ll just have to keep reading my blog, ‘wink’.

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Emergency Transport

Transports of Delight

Oh no! My dear readers, I have neglected you!

I feel terrible for not posting a story last Sunday, but the reason was that, well, I felt terrible. I’ve been having a heinous bout of illness – poor me, et cetera, et cetera. So here’s what happened last Sunday, when I should have been writing a post for ToD:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s gotten worse. I feel like I’m about to drop. I need to get to a hospital, but it’s gonna be a mission. I don’t have a car, and taxis are hideously expensive. My housemate’s away, and she’s pretty much the only person I know in this town, so no one can drive me. You might be thinking, hey, why not just call for an ambulance? Um, have you ever been in an ambulance? They scare me more than the actual hospital. Anyway, whatever method of transport I use to get there, it’ll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I google the closest hospital. It’s actually not far. Shouldn’t be hard to catch a bus there. But wait, there’s something I haven’t factored in.

The Brisbane Roar.

Yes, Brisbane’s A-league soccer team. They are playing Perth Glory in one hour, in the grand final. This worries me for two reasons. Firstly, Glory are the underdogs this year and I really want them to win so I can look these Brisbane bastards in the eye. (Still a Perth girl, through and through. If I have internal damage, I assure you it is bleeding purple.) Secondly, the stadium is right near the hospital. The roads are chaos, and buses are diverting to carry the orange army of Roar supporters to the match. I’m not likely to get a bus anytime soon.

I can’t face walking to the hospital. So, I dial the number for a taxi. The taxi arrives, and takes me to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. I limp inside the building, relieved to have made it. But something doesn’t look right.

The waiting area is … empty. The decor is … pleasant. Then the receptionist tells me that they don’t bulk bill, and I go an extra shade of pale. I’ve walked into a private hospital! Run, run for your life! Save your wallet! The lady assures me that, after a Medicare rebate, consultation would only cost a minimum of $200, but I’m already backing away. I find a sympathetic nurse and blurt out my troubles.

“Where is the hospital where the poor people go?”

The nurse directs me to a nearby hospital which does bulk bill. And, she says brightly, it’s only a ten-minute walk … uphill. I groan, and dial for another taxi. I stagger out to the street, feeling demoralised. Each short taxi ride is costing me a day’s worth of meals, and since I’m too sick to work, my income is severely limited. At least I can get to this hospital and get my health sorted out.

I’m on my last legs. I wait outside the hospital entrance, sitting on the concrete steps. A taxi suddenly zooms past. I wave at the driver, scared he might drive off without me. He slows, and crawls up the road at a snail’s pace. Now I’m confused. Is this my taxi? Or is he just sight-seeing? He creeps a bit further up the road, then stops. I pull myself onto my feet and head for the car. It’s an effort to walk, but I walk quickly to show him that I’m his intended passenger. As I get closer, the car suddenly jerks to a start and rolls further up the road. I wave, and try to close the gap between us. He jumps forward again and moves further up the road. It feels like that trick that you play when someone’s about to get in your car. Just when their hand’s almost on the door handle, you drive forward a few metres so they have to run to catch up. “Ha ha ha, so funny! You shoulda seen yo’ face!”

But I’m not amused. I have no idea what this guy is doing. Three times I nearly approach the car, and he creeps forward again. At last, I reach the car and fling the passenger door open.

“Finally caught you!” I wheeze, sliding into the backseat. The taxi driver just nods and says “Where would you like to go?” As if I hadn’t just chased him up the road. Okay.

I tell him which hospital, and we jump away from the kerb. As we pull out into traffic, it dawns on me. He wasn’t trying to play tricks. He’s simply a terrible driver.

This taxi is weaving, jerking and zipping all over the road. He steps on the pedals like a first-timer, speeding up to the backs of other cars, then slamming on the brakes right before we hit them. We swing around corners with reckless abandon. As I slide around in my seat, trying to hold onto my stomach, I’m not comforted to see the taxi driver tugging on his seatbelt. It looks like he’s checking that it will be strong enough. That can’t be good.

Oh well, I think. At least we’ll crash near lots of doctors. (I’ve achieved delerium.)

As we near the hospital, the taxi driver barks, “Whereyouwannago?”

“Emergency,” I get out, through clenched teeth. “Emergency!”

The taxi driver mumbles to himself. He’s probably trying to figure out if I was telling him I wanted to go to Emergency, or if I was just summing up our situation as we plummet through traffic.

Finally, we jerk to a halt in front of the Emergency Department entrance, and I tumble out of the cab. The taxi tears off around the corner, off to terrorise its next customer. As I wobble through the sliding doors, I feel a strange sense of elation. I’m not nervous anymore. I survived that taxi ride, didn’t I? Nothing in this hospital can scare me now. I am invincible!

Thank you, insane taxi driver. Thank you.