StoriesTravel

Birthday Travel Treats: Not So Sweet

September 14, 2017 2 comments1308 views

It was someone’s special 30th birthday on September 1, so we headed over to the motherland, Switzerland. ??

The week long vacay started off a bit hectic with our departure from JFK. It’s a fairly long story so deserves it’s own separate post. The journey went a little heart-stopping like this:

Flight: Boards at 9:15pm, leaves at 9:50pm.

Travel plans: leave home at 5:15pm… no, 5:00pm just in case (NYC peak hour) to head to JFK via subway.

5:00pm: Exit apartment smack on 5:00pm to walk to the subway station a few blocks down.

5:10pm: Almost at the subway, Remi decided to turn back to turn off something in the apartment. No problem – we still have plenty of time.

5:15pm: Arrive at the subway station. Arrival board says 3 minutes for the express or 1 minute for the local. We decide to wait 3 minutes for the express. 3 minutes comes and goes and no express. A local comes and goes. 3 more minutes pass by and still no express. Another local comes and goes. 5 minutes pass bye and an express arrives, the same time the local arrives. We hop onto the express (along with a million other people waiting for the express). We eventually shove our way through (with our suitcases) when the conductor on the loudspeaker says, “there are delays on this track, if you can’t wait for delays, take the 1”. Nobody moves. The conductor then shouts over the loudspeaker “Everybody off this train – move to the local train, now now now!”. So we all push and shove our way through from the express train to the local train.

5:30pm: The train is moving slowly, but it’s moving. It stops at every station (as it’s the local). Just after 66th street, the train stops completely and the conductor says “we have delays on this line, but we should be moving soon.”  It takes maybe 3 minutes, and the trains takes off again.

We reach 59th stop and some train passengers leave, but even more pile in, as it’s rush hour. We’re squished in like sardines, but luckily we have a carriage with aircon. The train leaves 59th station (very slowly) and has just left the platform, when it comes to a complete stop. The conductor comes over the loudspeaker, “ladies and gentlemen, we have a passenger on the tracks at Penn station so are experiencing delays. We should be moving soon.”

5 minutes pass, 10 minutes pass. As the wait time increases, and with the information from the conductor hardly free-flowing, passengers begin to get anxious. We suddenly realise that we’re in a carriage with an older lady with terrible mental health. She starts to scream “I want to get off the train! I want to get off the train!!” After another (lacking) announcement from the conductor “There’s a man walking the tracks at Penn Station, we are experiencing delays” the situation in our carriage escalates when the lady starts smashing her head against the train window and biting her hand, hard. I thought some New Yorkers may have come to the lady’s assistance, but it didn’t really sound like it, so I left Remi and made my way down the carriage towards her. When I had squished my way past the other passengers, there was an older man on his way to a broadway show trying to calm her down. We made conversation and tried to keep her mind off the situation. She’d lapsed back into her panic every third or fourth sentence, but we were able to keep her settled for most of the delays.

5:45pm: 15 minutes of delays and we’re still trying to calm the lady down.  20 minutes in and I realised that her random outcries were affecting a man 2 down from her…who also had mental health issues. Feeling a little more uncomfortable with the whole situation, I made my way back to Remi towards the front of the carriage. When I reached him, I saw a pregnant woman inhaling and exhaling deeply, whilst rubbing her tummy. It was a pretty hectic situation that didn’t seem to be getting better.

6:00 pm: Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, the fire department has been called to perform a mental assessment on the man on the tracks. We are experiencing delays.”

6:05pm: Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, the fire department is currently conducting a mental assessment of the man on the tracks. We are experiencing delays but should be moving shortly.”

6:10pm: Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, the fire department has completed it’s mental assessment of the man, and we expect to be moving shortly.”

6:15pm: Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, we should be moving shortly”.

6:17pm: Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the move!”  Our carriage cheers and claps.

6:18pm: the train comes to a stop. Train conductor “Ladies and gentlemen, they have cut the power to the tracks. We are experiencing delays.” – This is when we really start to panic. We’re stuck underground, with no mobile reception, between stations, with no power, with (at least) two mentally unstable passengers, a stressed pregnant lady and a flight to catch.

6:20pm: We’re on the move and finally arrive at 50th stop. We’ve got the choice of staying on the train to Penn Station, or leave the subway to catch a cab to Penn (to catch the airport shuttle to JFK). We opt for the cab and fight our way out of the carriage, carry our bags up and down the subway stairs and come out at ground level. Somehow, the weather has completely changed, and we find ourselves in the middle of a torrential downpour.

We make our way to the street and hail a cab – we ask him to take us to Penn Station and he says “Walk! It will be quicker than this traffic!” So we start walking, in the rain. We’re stressed, and late. It’s been an hour and 20 mins and we’re still in our neighbourhood. Walking through Times Square on a good day, takes forever. So walking through Times Square, at peak hour, through the rain, with luggage is not advised. We walk past another subway station (with different lines) and decided to give that a go.

6:30pm: We get out at our stop and follow signs towards Penn Station exit. Apparently we’re at Penn Station but have to go out of the subway and then back in to get the airport shuttle. So we head out of the subway, above ground and then back down to “Penn Station”. There are absolutely NO signs like “this way for airport” so we ask a guy wearing a big MTA vest how we get to the airport. His reply? “I don’t know” and shrugs at us. “He said, maybe walk down those stairs and ask someone else.” ummm… ?

7:40pm: Remi leaves me with the bags and runs to go find someone who can tell us how to get to the airport. He comes back and says we need to exit this station, walk a block south and then enter that station.

7:42pm: All of our niceness has left us both, and we bowl over New Yorkers on the footpath while we run past them on our way to Penn Station.  Remi took a few shoes off a couple of pedestrians as he ran past with his suitcase, I was running behind him, lucky enough to receive all the dirty looks (at least they were out of my way).

7:50pm: We get to Penn Station. We read online that we can use our MTA tickets to get the airport shuttle. An MTA worker tells us otherwise when we ask him what track to go to. So we need to buy tickets. Remi runs to the ticket line, pushes in to the very front and says “I need 2 tickets to the Airport”. The guys acknowledges him, we pay, and Remi gets x2 pieces of paper. We run to the track and make it onto the 7:56pm airport shuttle.

7:56pm: We see a sign on the train that says you have to validate the purchased tickets online. So we hop online to validate our tickets, and Remi turns a ticket over and in big red bold writing, it says THIS IS NOT A TICKET.  The guy had given Remi x1 ticket and x1 receipt.  I asked a passenger if conductors check tickets on this train – to which he said yes absolutely. Great. So we try purchasing a ticket online and lucky for us, this is an option. So we’re on this airport shuttle, purchasing another ticket, fill out all the information, credit card details and hit “PURCHASE” and the internet cuts out as we go underground.

8:30pm: The conductor enters our carriage and is checking tickets. We’re almost at JFK airport shuttle and are waiting for the internet to reconnect. About 4 people away from us, the ticket is purchased. I hand the conductor my physical ticket and Remi goes to show the conductor his digital ticket and the conductor says “don’t worry about it”. ?

8:40pm: We arrive at the JFK airport train stop and need to catch another shuttle to our terminal.  We ask the conductor (who checked / didn’t check our tickets) which way the shuttle was to the terminals. He said “You wanna go up these stairs here and turn right. But you know that anyway, don’t you” – looking at Remi. I look over at Remi wondering why he would say that, and realise he’s wearing a NYC hat and his Cornell t-shirt on.

8:43pm: We arrive at our terminal, run to the counter, check in and bag drop.

8:45pm: Check in & bag drop closes.

8:50pm: Time for security.
There’s a big line, but it’s moving. Every security terminal is open so we’re feeling good. We check our boarding time, look up and suddenly all of the security checkpoints have closed. ?  The line, that was full, but flowing, is now just piling up and getting longer and longer and longer. Our passports and boarding passes are checked, and we’re told to join the ever-growing line to go through the security checkpoint. Remi sees that another checkpoint is opening, so he walks in the exact opposite direction we’re told to go in and straight to the front of the line. The doors open and we’re the first to go through. Remi unpack his laptops etc and puts his bags through the conveyer belt and walks through the x-ray machine. I’m about to do the same, but I realise the bags aren’t moving – at all. Remi realises that I haven’t followed and calls back to me and I shurg my shoulders and point to the bags. Remi looks over at the conveyer belt x-ray station, and the chair where the guy sits to check the bags is empty, and it’s just swirling around in circles.

9:10pm: Meanwhile, some of the TSA crew catch on something’s not right. This is how the conversation went:

TSA Guy 1: “What’s the hold up?”
TSA Guy 2: “I don’t know”
TSA Guy 1: “Where’s the guy?”
TSA Guy 2: “I don’t know”
TSA Guy 1: “We gotta get these bags through”
TSA Guy 2: “It’s not my job”
TSA Guy 1: “I’m not rostered on it either”
TSA Guy 2: “Just view the bags”
TSA Guy 1: ” It’s not my job”
TSA Guy 2: “Well it ain’t my job”

Their argument & bickering continues. Meanwhile, the empty chair between them is still spinning.

9:15pm: (boarding)
TSA Guy 1: “Fine”
TSA Guy 2: “Fine, i’ll do it”
TSA Guy 2: Pushes the button on the conveyer belt to allow the bags to go through the x-ray machine and walks off.
The bags are going through, but no one is checking them. ? TSA: America’s first line of defence.

9:20pm: We join the passengers as the plane is boarding

9:50pm: Take off! WE MADE IT!!

??  We spend the next 6 hour flight to Switzerland recovering.

Currently working on the next post about our gorgeous European summer vacay; keep posted! x

 

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