Friday, September 22, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

So earlier I am dashing around like a madwoman, trying to get to Penn Station as early as possible to get to Philly to see J as early as possible. (My Verizon wireless card for my laptop allows me to work remotely, even from NJ Transit trains.) (Also, should point out that I am using my "loaner" laptop, and it is as big as a house.)

I digress. I am lugging my heavy suitcase and ginormous computer to the N train, then transfering to the 3 train, and finally I am before the NJ Transit ticket machine. I punch in the proper codes, insert my debit card, and am at once interrupted by a peculiar man. He looks like an Hasidic Jew at first glance (telltale hair and beard); yet upon closer inspection, he is quite harried and carrying a trash bag. He's approaching everyone imploring them to help him.

"How do I get to Morristown, New Jersey??" He questions the woman to my left. She ignores him. I quickly scan the machine and locate Morristown.

"How do I get to Morristown, New Jersey??" He asks me loudly.

"It's code 558," I reply calmly. "See? Just follow the prompts and type code 558."

"Morristown?? Can you do it for me? I can't do it!" He barks.

"I'm sorry," I say. "But I'm in a rush."

I scurry away, listening to him command another traveler: "You do it for me!" Instantly, I regret not taking a moment to help the frazzled man. In truth, I had a few minutes.

In Hudson News, I'm elated to find a copy of the Philippa Gregory book I've been meaning to buy. I grab it, along with some Sweettarts, and head to my Trenton-bound train.

Fuck, I think suddenly.

I forgot to get my ticket from the machine.

I managed to pay for my ticket, tuck my debit card back in my wallet, but with the slight distraction, I forgot to grab my bloody ticket.

Idiot! I berate myself. The universe mocks me. Ha! Should have taken the time to help that poor man, she singsongs.

I race back to the ticket booths, but the line is now far too long. I quickly visit a nearby ATM and resign myself to the five dollar surcharge for buying the damn ticket aboard the train.

Then I am sitting on the train, sweat beading on my brow, when a benign conductor stops before me.

"Where to?" He asks kindly.

"Trenton," I whisper, smiling wanly. I move to hand him my twenty.

And then, that beautiful conductor places a ticket on my seat and continues on, ignoring the cash in my hand.

The obvious moral here is that sometimes when you're an asshole, and neglect to grab your train ticket after you've purchased it, you will run into a nice conductor who can read your mind, and has mercy on your deflated, scatter-brained soul.

I love New York. Hell, I even love Jersey today.

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