Penn Station


Last week I was finally going to get out a bit more. My sister and nephew were coming to New York,  I had got myself ahead with my assignments and had the whole weekend free for pleasure.

Sandra was arriving on the Friday evening at Newark so I researched airport transport and took the subway down to Penn station, a bit excited at the prospect of getting a train called the New Jersey transit. The word ‘transit’ somehow conjured up images of a nomadic life on the road, or rail in this case. The name ‘Penn’,on the other hand,  I associated inexplicably with white picket fencing and Little Women style destinations. Perhaps the professor Jo March married was called Penn.

But I was misinformed by my intuitions. The subway downtown at 5.30 was extremely crowded in a Tokyo sort of way, doors unable to close because of the volume of commuters. I managed a few stations but at Time Square decided to quit while I was ahead and walk the last few blocks. Penn turned out to be a further seething mass of humanity, a whole city below 34th St with multiple railway operators, train lines and people purposefully making their way home after a hard week. After several enquiries I found the ticket office for the NJT and got in the long queue – no, line – which the woman in front of me described as Out-rage-ous. I have noticed that New Yorkers expect good service and the word ‘unacceptable’ is a frequent item in complaint situations, so I was interested to hear the cranked up Friday evening version and made a mental note for future kvetching.

The line moved quickly and with my ticket in hand I went down to the train in a stream of hundreds of New Jersey commuters. The train guard was hardbitten and answered my query whether it was the airport train (I had practised saying this in a no-nonsense way) with a stern ‘Move along to the end !” New York is not for wimps. But it was the right one and soon I was in Newark. I was peckish after my adventure so I got myself a coffee and an Old Fashioned from the Dunkin’ Donuts stand and settled down to watch the Love Actually arrival scenes as I waited.

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