Thursday, April 28, 2011

Newark Airport to Long Island

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So we're staying on Long Island, and I spend two days in Pittsburgh. The plan was to fly back Tuesday night, 7:30, arrive JFK 9:19pm and take LIRR to Ronkonkoma. But then I get a text message from Delta: flight delayed to 8:53pm, arrive at JFK 10:47pm.

OK, whatever. Our future son-in-law emails me with the LIRR departure times. But then Delta sens me another text message: 9:53pm departure, JFK at 11:47pm. Well, as they say in Japan, shikata ga nai (nothing to be done for it).

The cab's a little late picking me up from the office, but so what? I've got a two-hour wait -- minimum? So we get to the airport, I pick up my boarding pass (it still says 7:30pm departure) and go through security. I'm sitting at the gate and then: "Attention, Delta passengers on flight 4326: your flight is canceled. Please proceed to a Delta ticket counter..."

You don't have to ask me twice. "We have you protected on a 6:00am flight tomorrow," the lady says. Just what I want -- another night away from the lovely Carol. Not. It's hard on me not to be able to reach over in the night and enjoy the feeling of her perfect curves... OK, that's not going to help me now, I think...

Back to the current problem: "Anything to LaGuardia or ISP?" I ask. No, but there's a Continental flight to Newark, leaving at 8pm. Where do I sign up?

She does the needful and I walk over to the Continental gate. The Continental lady gave me a new boarding pass -- hooray! and said "Update at 8pm."

Wait. Update--what's that mean? It meant that Newark is on a "ground stop" -- at 8pm they'll tell us whether the flight is actually going. The airplane was already at the gate, but there's no point in getting on until we know it can take off!

I informed our future son-in-law, who got back to me with extensive information on how to get from Newark to the LIRR. Meanwhile, as I looked over at the flight status, the departure time changed from 8:02 to 8:03. I looked again after a while to see it change from 8:21 to 8:22. "Update at 9:00pm," they said.

Eventually, we took off on a propeller-driven plane, flying near a thunderstorm (it's weird seeing nearby clouds light up -- from lightning -- while riding in an airplane) to land safely at Newark right around eleven.

Newark to LIRR

Once at the gate, I exited security and followed the signs to "AirTrain" and took the one that went to "RailLink" (trains go in two directions; check electronic signs).

At the RailLink station I had the opportunity to transfer to Amtrak or New Jersey Transit, maybe some other options. I couldn't tell whether the ticket machines were all alike. By now it was after 11pm; whatever intelligence I'd had in the morning was gone. I did, however, notice a slender young woman, an employee, chatting with another agent, a young man. I walked up to her, and she turned toward me. "I have no idea what I'm doing," I said, giving her my helpless middle-aged uncle look.

"Where are you going?" she asked, as she walked me to the nearest ticket machine. I was going to Penn Station in New York; I may have mentioned that I wanted New Jersey Transit (I'd read somewhere that Amtrak was a lot more expensive). "It'll be $12.50," she told me, adeptly selecting "N" on the screen and tapping "New York - Penn Station." Next she asked me about payment type: "Cash, debit, or credit?"

I inserted my credit card, and removed it smoothly, per her instructions. The machine spat out my ticket, and a credit card receipt. "11:34, Track A," she said, and I thanked her as another middle-aged guy approached her with a puzzled look. I'm sure she gets a lot of that.

Through the wicket (or however you say "かいさつぐち" in American) and down the stairs, I saw a waiting area with a lot of empty chairs. A big screen showed when the next trains were coming; one was canceled but mine was showing on time. The P.A. system announced that a train for New York Penn Station would be arriving in ____ minutes, with the track number, etc.

It pulled in, right on time. I saw a car with lots of empty seats -- it looked good to me, but a dour conductor called out: "This way. This way!" Sure enough, doors on the empty car weren't opening. The car wasn't full, but neither were there many quiet seats.

It made just a few stops -- Newark Penn Station at 11:41, Secaucus (?) Junction, maybe one or two more. Near the end, we stopped for a while and I heard an announcement that we were single-tracked into New York. A few minutes later a train passed going the other way, and we started moving. We arrived at New York Penn Station right on time, 12:06am. I followed the signs to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and found the 12:14am Ronkonkoma-bound train waiting at the platform. I took a seat and we were on our way in a few minutes.

Really, it wasn't hard, but I was glad to have schedule info from our future son-in-law.

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