In which Ted engages in pitched battle against a Wall Street ne'er-do-well...
Conducting a walking tour of historic New York seems like a charming idea, and it probably usually is, unless the weather outside is a muggy eighty degrees. Which it was, last Thursday, when my group set off at high noon from the safety of our air conditioned hotel. By four o’clock, I was sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat, and dreading the subway ride back to the hotel, and then the walk back to Penn Station, hauling my suitcases.
So, by the time I reached the sanctity of the train back to Eldredge, I was a damp, grouchy mess. Plus, I had to hide my damp grouchiness during the entire walk, because it wouldn’t do to snarl at anyone during the tour, even though a lot of the tour turned out to be a lot of “See that building over there? That used to be a historic place, but they tore it down last year. Now it’s a high rise. See that place? It’s all boarded up now, but five years ago, it was really charming...”
I moved through the train and finally landed a spot in business traveler section. I sat next to a Chinese man intently watching an Audrey Hepburn movie on his laptop.
There was a small table separating us from the two seats opposite us. Only one of the seats was occupied as I sat down, across from the Chinese man. The space directly across from me was empty. However, I knew it was going to fill up, fast. I moved my feet directly against the back of my seat and placed my laptop in front of my legs, and started to thumb through an old copy of the New Yorker.
About five minutes later, a thin man with well-groomed gray hair moved into our area. He wore an expensive suit and carried under his arm copies of the latest Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He had a thin, patrician nose, and carried himself in a way that suggested that he was a powerful man, and knew it.
He excused himself and moved into the seat across from me. Then he threw his newspapers on the table, sat down, and started to spread out his legs out.
I felt my laptop bang up against my legs. He must be settling, I thought, and chose to disregard it. I knew that my laptop was not encroaching upon his space at all, but was shoved right up against my legs, affording him plenty of room—more than I had, actually.
“Oh,” I heard the man say, clearly annoyed. He looked over my way. “What do you have under there?”
I looked up from my magazine. “My laptop,” I said.
“Well, would you mind moving it?” he asked.
Okay, I have to admit it. As I said, I was grouchy and hot, and not really feeling the love at the moment, particularly because I could sense that the man was used to having his own way, and also, was trying to stake a claim for his stinking hams in prime real estate under my side of the table. Frankly, I didn't want his toes wiggling around that close to my crotch!
So, before I could really think about it, much, I fixed him my best “Miss Thing” look and said,
“Sir, my legs are up against the chair and my laptop’s right in front of them. I’m not taking up much space, here. How much more room do you REALLY need?”
He blinked. “Oh. Well, as long as it’s on YOUR side of the table.” He knew damn well it was.
“It is,” I said, firmly, and went back to reading my magazine.
I thought that would do it, but it didn’t. For the next half an hour, this man would kick at my laptop, every five minutes. Then, realizing that he couldn’t get any farther, he would let out a big, huge sigh of frustration. I felt like I was sitting across from a little boy trying to sneak a cookie out of the cookie jar, but was being punished by his mother.
Every time he would sigh, it would make me more determined. There was no way that this spoiled brat was going to claim an inch of my territory underneath our table. It was mine, all mine, and I wasn’t about to cede my claim to some stinking Wall Street executive. Not hardly!
Finally, somewhere around Hartford, he realized that his was a losing cause, and he found a seat elsewhere, which gave me plenty of room to spread out my legs for the rest of the ride.
But I wonder if I savored my victory, too much, because, as everyone knows, there’s a little thing called kharma. And, during the next three hours of my train ride, a thunderstorm started brewing over the Boston area. The storm was so bad that, between Eldredge proper and South Eldredge, a tree was felled by a lightning bolt, landing on the railroad track.
As we approached Providence, where I was to change trains, I knew nothing of the fate of the electrified tree, but I was getting worried, because I also didn’t know what time the train to Eldredge was going to pull in. I was depending on my friend, Buns, to pick me up at the Eldredge train station, and I knew that she didn’t want to be driving me home too late. It was already 8:30.
As it turns out, the trains from Eldredge arrive in Providence every hour at ten past. But fortunately, because of the electrified tree, the 8:10 had been delayed for a half an hour, and just as we pulled in, it was ready for me to board.
“What great luck,” I thought, and called Buns to share the news.
Here’s the problem, however: because of the tree, the ride to Eldredge was filled with starts and stops, as the train conductor tried to safely negotiate his way down the tracks. And, rather than taking this into consideration, the conductor neglected to call out when we were approaching each station. From my side of the train, all I could see was darkness.
At a certain point, I thought we were approaching Eldredge, and called Buns to pick me up.
The girl in front of me turned around, “Where are we?” she asked. When I told her, she frowned, “Still that far away from Boston, huh?”
The conductor started making his way down the aisle, at that point, and the girl repeated her question.
“In Eldredge,” he said.
Wait a minute. “In” Eldredge? I jumped up from my seat, and moved toward the back of the train section, and realized that we were pulling away from the Eldredge station. From his comfortable suburban dwelling, I could just see the Wall Street stockbroker breaking open a bottle of cognac and toasting my misfortune.
But, I had to let Buns know. I took out my cell phone to call her, and ask her to pick me up at the next stop, in Franklin.
It was at that point that my cell phone, drained of energy, decided to completely die.
I limped back to my seat in the train, shoulders lowered, completely and utterly dejected. Fortunately, the kid behind my seat took pity on me, and let me borrow his cell phone. Not knowing Buns number, I called the one person I could think of that could get me out of this mess: Josie (Corb was working that night).
An hour later, after waiting at the Franklin station in the darkness for forty minutes, Josie pulled up, with the kids in the back seat, happy to see their Dad home. I have to admit, it was a welcome way to end the day. I had escaped from New York successfully, having vanquished snooty Wall Street executives and overcome lightning strikes, and could now return to the homestead and slip into my pajamas, to regale my loved ones with thrilling tales of my exploits and heroic feats of derring do.