Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Yesterday, I showed you a couple of pictures from our trip. Here are some more, as well as a few thousand words. I'm including the few thousand words despite the fact that pictures are supposedly worth a thousand or so each. Not my pictures.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28th
I met MY WIFE at South Station in Boston at 5:30pm. Our train to New York was scheduled to depart at 6:45. We had something to eat in the food court, and then boarded the train at 6:30. It left on-time, so that was a good start to the trip.
AMTRAK has had a wonderful idea. On our train, there was a designated "Quiet Car." If you choose to sit in this car - which MY WIFE and I did - you voluntarily agree to forego use of cell phones. You are also asked to keep conversation to a minimum and at a low volume.
Of course, three seats up to our right, a woman was making a cell phone call. About a minute after she started, the conductor came through and informed her that there were no cell phones allowed. After he continued on his way, she said to whomever she was calling, "I don't know. He says there's no cell phones in this car. Yeah, I know. Anyway..." and she kept on talking.
Now, I'm no shrinking violet, but I'm also not needlessly belligerent. I was trying to nap a bit, and I was willing to wait a minute or so for the woman to finish her call. However, it appeared she was like many cell phone users. She had no intention of ever finishing her call. After listening to her chatter inanely for at least 10 minutes - and hoping in vain for someone else to speak up about it - I had had enough.
I went over to her and said, "You know, there are no cell phones allowed in this car." I smiled while I said it. I was hoping she would say something like, "Oh. I'm sorry. Even though the conductor told me that information just a few minutes ago, I must have let it slip from my peanut-sized brain. Thank you for reminding me. I'll hang up now."
Instead, she said, "Yeah? So?"
I was, of course, taken aback by the sparkling wit of her retort. I continued, "You were told by the conductor: No cell phones. And I'd appreciate it if you'd hang up."
"I will, as soon as I'm done."
"You should be done NOW. Cell phones are not allowed in this car."
She then said, "Do you work for the railroad?"
I said, "No, I just ride the railroad, same as you. And same as all of the other passengers here who decided to sit in the quiet car where no cell phones are allowed."
"Well, if you don't work for the railroad, then I don't think you have the authority to tell me to stop my call."
I would like to be able to say that I took the phone from her hand, threw it to the floor, stomped on it with both feet, and then chucked her out of the window, enjoying greatly the sight of her bloody and mangled body bouncing down the tracks back towards Boston. However, what I did was say...
"Right. Well, I guess I'll just have to get someone who does have the fucking authority."
(In keeping with the spirit of the quiet car, I said it in as sotto voce a way as it is possible to say a sentence with "fucking" in it.)
I walked through seven cars worth of people chatting on their phones and got the conductor. That's the amazing thing about this. Every other car on the train was available for making calls. Ours was the only car designated as a no-call zone. All she had to do was walk twenty feet into the next car and then she would have been able to gabble away as idiotically as she desired and nobody would have cared a whit. Instead, she chose to be an ignorant asshole. What drives someone like that?
The conductor came back to the car. He told her that she had been previously warned, in no uncertain terms, to put the phone away, and he said that if he got any more complaints about her, he would put her off of the train at the next station. Hurray, AMTRAK! I wish I had gotten his name. He deserved a nice letter to his superiors. She gathered up her things and moved into a car full of other people who also enjoy unlimited squawking, bleating, and blathering.
(Huh. I'm one to talk about blathering. Pot, meet kettle.)
Anyway, after that tremendously satisfying incident, the rest of the ride was wonderful - and quiet. We arrived at Penn Station on-schedule and, after gathering our luggage, we rode the subway to Grand Central. Our hotel, the New York Helmsley, was a short one-block walk from there. After checking in, we rode the elevator to our room on the 38th floor.
The 38th floor.
If you know me, and perhaps you do by now, you know I am generally not a fan of high places. Having a room on the 38th floor was preferable to one on the 39th, but not much else. However, I knew once I actually got into the room, I wouldn't mind it much. It's the elevator trip that really spooks me. And getting too close to the windows, of course. And thinking about how much air space there was between my bed and the earth, and how the entire building is likely to collapse at any moment, sending me flying into the abyss.
The picture above is what was seen when we looked straight ahead out of our window. It is rather spectacular. The photo at the top of the piece, showing the East River in the distance, is the view we got when we looked to the right. And here is the view we had looking to the left.
I never would have seen it, but MY WIFE isn't nearly as scared by heights as I am, so she had no problem with leaning against the window (which always scares me to death, as I imagine her falling through it, leaving me much richer from the lawsuit but also immeasurably lonelier) and then asking me to come take a look. I demurred, but she insisted that it would be worth it. She said that if I fell, I had her permission to come back and haunt her.
She was right. It was worth it. How often do you get a chance to see the upper reaches of the Chrysler Building from such a close perspective? I love Art Deco, and it is probably the biggest piece of Art Deco in the world, so how could I not be entranced by it? You'll notice that the left-hand side of that photo is a reflection. I liked the view so much, I actually stuck the camera out of the window to get the shot.
(Yes, the windows on the 38th floor of the hotel opened. We were both somewhat incredulous concerning that, but for this picture I was glad they did. You have no idea how much it scared the bejeezus out of me to shoot it, but I wanted a clear shot and there was no better way to get it.)
Here's some detail:
Notice that the designs in the masonry - these are at about the 30th floor level, I would suppose - were intentionally done to invoke the thought of automobiles. The metallic projections, both here and nearer the peak of the building (see next photo) are basically gigantic hood ornaments.
Amazing stuff. Since I didn't plunge 38 stories to a hideous death, I'm glad I got to see it.
Tomorrow: Astoria, The El, The French Culinary Institute, and... a bagel mit schmeer. What more do you need?