Friday, July 25, 2008

Up the creek without a cell phone

So Mark and I were in NY/NJ recently. We had a wonderful time playing tourists, discovering new eateries, visiting old ones and spending quality time together. I will add we also visited a number of game shops and rooted out stitching retailers.

On this particular day Mark had to dash into the city to take an exam. He was starting at 12noon and we agreed to meet at 5pm outside of Borders at New York's Penn Station.

An excellent arrangement which gave me plenty of time to lounge around the hotel room some more and catch up on my much needed rest. Our hotel, by the way, was near Newark Airport. It was a perfect location to jet around NJ or hop a train to the city.

At the appointed time I left the hotel and made my way to the train station. Mark and I had remarked previously that the train system in the US doesn't seem as efficient as the one in the UK. If a train was posted to leave, say, Paddington station in London, at 5:03pm understand, as the second hand reaches the 12 the train is pulling out of the station. Not so with the trains along the NE Corridor. This is why I wasn't too worried when the 4:40pm train didn't arrive. However as 5pm approached I became concerned.

Then there was an announcement over the loud speaker "Due to limited power supply, all trains are cancelled until further notice!" I instantly turned to the person beside me to get confirmation that what I heard was correct - no trains!!!

I must give a little color commentary at this point. The weather that day in NY and NJ was hot, overcast, humid and severe thunder storms were threatening. Apparently all trains from Virginia to NY were affected which was cold comfort to me standing on the platform with my iPod blasting and my cell phone popping with text messages to family and friends an activity I thought I would partake in to while away my time waiting, when I thought the train's arrival was imminent.

Given the sudden abandonment by New Jersey Transit of its customers I made the decision to jettison my journey to the center of the earth and head back to the cool, climate controlled comfort of my hotel room. However before I did that I had to find a way to contact my husband who would be patiently waiting for me at our appointed location.

I have said to Mark time and time again, you need a cell phone. At the best of times he doesn't like talking on the phone much less carrying one around with him. This was a perfect example of why a cell phone in this day and age is a critical piece of every day equipment.

Given that we were meeting outside of Borders, I figured I would give them a call and ask the person who answered VERY nicely to go out and get him so I could talk to him. Would someone take that on and help a sister out of a bind? It was worth a try.

I got a friend to go on line and look up Borders' phone number and then text it to me. This happened within the space of 60 seconds. So now, armed with the only means of connecting with my husband I was at the whim and mercy of the next person I talked to on the phone. I called Borders and was asked to hold .... and I held and held. Finally gave up and called back. This time I got an obliging lady, who, after I explained my dilemma, agreed to provide assistance.

I described Mark to her but for the life of me could not remember what color shirt or shorts he had on. So much for my powers of observation. I would make an horrendous eye witness if I can't even describe accurately how the man I live with was dressed. I gave a general description (tall, slender, black man with a baseball cap) together with his name and hoped for the best.

An eternity later a voice came on the phone - are you holding for Mark Wilson. "YES! Um, yes, I am." "Hold please." "This is Mark Wilson." I instantly recognised the mellifluous tones of my husband's baritone voice and poured out my tale of woe explaining why at that instant we weren't standing together in front of Borders embracing each other after five hours apart. I ended by saying, "This is exactly why you need a cell phone." Actually those weren't the last words - I also murmured, I love you and ended the conversation.

That taken care of I made my way back to the NJT booth to get my refund for a ticket I know I would never use. The fact that they did not give me a refund and gleefully told me I can use the ticket at any time was no panacea for the entire train system collapsing and spoiling my last evening in the city.

The moral of the lesson? Don't depend on NJ Transit unless you have a cell phone.

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