Monday, June 23, 2008

That Familiar Feeling of Being on the Wrong Train

My trip to DC this weekend was a little unsatisfying. I would have liked to have gone down earlier in the day on Friday, but I decided to actually be a dedicated employee and not skip out on a weekly meeting for the third week in a row, only for it to be cancelled at the last minute, way too late for me to get on an earlier train.

Of course, I must always try. Remembering my experience flying standby out of Chicago just one weekend before, I decided to hustle to Penn Station to try to get on an earlier train. The machine wouldn't let me; the line was too long; and the customer service phone line had a 24 minute wait, cutting it way too close to the train departure time. So, diligent and fearless traveller that I am, I just went down to the train platform and asked someone official-looking with a hat, "I have a ticket for the next train, but can I get on this one?" He looked at me with big, greasy eyes and said, "I guess so." Seemed good enough to me.

Union StationAs I got on the train, I relished the window seat I'd found on a pretty empty train, despite the website saying it was sold out. We chugged through the Westside rail yards and into the tunnel under the Hudson, and that familiar hole-punch sound began approaching from the front of the car. When I offered my ticket up for punching, the conductor told me that I had "the wrong ticket" and that - gasp - I had to get off the train at Newark. I panicked slightly that the next train would be routed differently somehow and not go through Newark, but in the end the biggest inconvenience was just having to wait a half hour for another train...in Newark.

I was kicking myself for being considerate of anybody at work except for myself.

When I arrived in Union Station (which is actually quite beautiful), I had my friend Amanda and her husband waiting to take me out to their favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Pacific Cafe, for some fried tofu, fish curry and a couple bottles of wine with their fun gay friends. I'd put off this trip for such a long time, but the moment I sat down and we all dug into the food and drink together (Amanda abstaining from the booze at least until she gives birth), I couldn't imagine what had taken me so long to get there.

My only other experiences in DC were for work, and once in college for a NOW-organized rally against Violence Against Women. I wasn't really ever involved in Women's Studies at Colgate, but in 1994 I had the chance to pay very little money for a bus trip to DC with some girlfriends and sleep on the floor of an alumna in Arlington, VA. Early in my days of exploration, that seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

Being on The Mall, surrounded by tens of thousands of passionate, rallying women, I actually felt like I was part of something. It was burning hot out, with the sun beating down on us, so all the women just kind of took their tops off - and we followed suit. At the time it was kind of a novelty to be standing in public in our bras (something that Liz Green and I would revisit at Chittenango Falls and on the car ride back), and rumor has it that our glee was captured by C-SPAN cameras. I remember when I got back to snowy Hamilton, NY - nearly laying in the snow to cool off my sunburned back - I got a message from Maria that said something like, "Next time you decide to be on national TV, make sure you have a top on!"

I guess this time it just felt natural to take my clothes off in DC, because I was more than excited to get naked for a massage at Nusta Spa. I'm pretty sure my massage therapist was a gay man, based on Amanda's friends' comments about him, but I'm a red-blooded female, and I must admit I enjoyed having his big strong military hands on me. Maybe too much.

There are plenty of other things I'd like to do in DC, having goofed off at the Smithsonian 14 years ago and no real exploration since, but once again I was being considerate to others and decided to get back to NYC in time for Michelle's house party Saturday night. Filled up on champagne from Amanda's baby shower, I got back on a train and snoozed my way back to NYC, too tired to drink or even really socialize at Michelle's party. I kept kicking myself for crafting my weekend around the needs of others, but I think actually Amanda was really happy I came down (and Michelle was relieved I made it back).

And fortunately for me, despite very little sleep, I got to cruise the Gowanus the next morning....