Life in the Fast (Unless Delayed by Equipment Problems) Montauk Train.
By Michael Casper
Let’s face it. Traveling stinks. Whether you are standing in a long airport security line or waiting for a subway train when you have 5 minutes to get to work, going from point A to point B can be dizzyingly frustrating. However, it would be almost impossible to top the madness that is the Friday night summer commute to theHamptonson the Montauk train.
First, let me say that I am happily out of the commuting life. I have been a full timeSouthamptonresident for a year now. My only connections to the train are picking up and dropping off friends or taking the occasional trip to the city. Do I miss the frantic search for a seat or the obnoxious seat mates? No. I also don’t miss the panic of trying to willfully make the subway go faster because I might miss the train or hearing the medical results of the person sitting next to me, talking full volume to their doctor.
My commuting life had two parts. There was the before Hunter’s Point and after. I had met a wonderful partner who had a weekend house inSouthamptonthat he went to all year long. We had an idyllic traveling experience coming to theEast Endfor a few months, only because we drove. We met in February and commuted by car until Memorial Day, when traffic became too much. When we did start taking the train, my partner Bob was able to leave work early, whereas my job required me to work until six. On Fridays, the six became six-ish, as I had to run over to Penn Station to make the5:51. It was a quick dash out the door and across the street.
To anyone who takes a train to theEast Endon a Friday afternoon in the summer, they know that it is a war out there. As the commuters looked at the board waiting to see what track their train was arriving on, the weekenders looked at each other, knowing that they would be fighting for a few empty seats in about twenty minutes. It took me a little while to develop my traveling plan. Those first few trips ended up with me being a stair dweller. Once I had the chance to observe the way the crowd worked, I developed a routine that never varied.
- From Penn Station toJamaica, stand as close to the door as possible….do not sit!
- When the doors open atJamaica, run straight across and go down, as most people go up. (Why? Are the views of the strip malls along the tracks inNassaureally prettier eight feet higher?)
- Go to an open seat and claim it immediately. If possible, ignore the people pretending to sleep next to an open seat. They will be really nasty if you ask to sit down. There is nothing like silent anger for two hours to start your weekend on the wrong foot.
- Say a quick hello to the person next to you and then take out reading material or work material, so your seat mate knows you won’t be talking the entire time.
This routine worked amazingly well. However, there were problems, like when you are gunning for an open seat, but the person in front of you is trying to stuff a suitcase with twenty outfit changes into the overhead rack (which honestly are….what is the word….slight). I also could not guarantee this routine on a Fourth of July weekend, which is its own kind of crazy.
Once you are on the train, how your trip goes from there is mostly dependent on who is sitting next to you. Will you have the person with the thick novel or the one with the cell phone physically attached to their ear as they make plans on what bar they are going to meet their friends?
Once I was fortunate enough to sit next to an older gentleman who had been a costume designer during the early days of television. The whole trip flew by as he told me stories of live tv and off Broadway. I wish all my seat mates had been as pleasurable, unfortunately that was not the case.