I was standing on the platform looking at the train. It was packed. Had I stepped on, I would surely have stood the entire way to Jamaica station, which wouldn’t be so bad, but then at Jamaica I would have to find the next train to continue on. I was hungry and there was a direct train coming in just under 30 minutes. I had been out Zombie-Christmas caroling all night with Vince and some new friends from ZombieNYC.com, so I decided to head back up into Penn Station and get a late dinner. For some reason, I always find myself at Kentucky Fried Chicken when I get food at Penn. This night was no different.
After eating, I set out to catch the 1:06 train. Standing in the waiting area was a hefty man carrying a large bag, wearing a red coat, red pants, and even red sneakers. He had a distinguished white beard and was wearing a festive Christmas hat not unlike my own. Okay, Mine had elf-ears and bells, but it was still your typical red/white Christmas hat. As a zombie-caroler, we were handing out candy canes to people, and I made sure to take a handful with me when I left the zombie crew at Bar None. so I approached him, addressing him as Santa and offered him a candy cane and some friendly chatter. He was in the city visiting some friends, though in my mind, he worked at Macy’s or some mall. He was very friendly and really played the part of Santa, so I smiled, wished him a Merry Christmas, and we shook hands as he handed me his business card. Simply a portrait of Santa Claus on one side, and a very well done cartoon of Santa’s workshop on the back. Above the portrait were the words, “I met Santa!”. I laughed and walked away thinking how funny it was that I had just met Santa in the middle of Penn Station. This is where the fun of the evening ended.
I watched eagerly as the clock approached 1:06, however the track number for my train never showed on the large display in the station. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes past the time my train was supposed to arrive that people started to notice the smaller screens reading that due to switch difficulties, there were no trains running between Penn and Woodside. This meant no trains in and out of Penn Station. Announcements were made advising that the subway would honor Long Island Rail Road tickets to Woodside, but there was no mention of trains from Woodside to anywhere else. I waited on line to speak with an MTA agent. At 1AM on a Friday, you can imagine that there are a lot of people, mostly drunk and/or tired standing around Penn. By this time, the departure times for multiple trains had passed, so there were an exorbitant number of people stranded in the station’s waiting areas. To make matters worse, there was one MTA agent working in the office. By the time I got to her, she seemed pretty irritated and gave me an attitude because I didn’t understand her initial answer. Rather than simply stating that there was no way to get to Hicksville via LIRR/MTA, she explained the entire region claiming that all the main lines were out but some of the interconnecting lines were operating. This meant absolutely nothing to me, as I don’t ride the train that often. I don’t know what trains interconnect to what stations. She eventually clarified and basically told me I was S.O.L until the track issues are resolved.
My cell phone was dead, so I ran into Duane Reed and picked up an emergency cell phone charger. As I walked back into the waiting area, I saw that they had announced my train was on track 20. Excited that they actually fixed the train, I bolted across the waiting room to the staircase that descends on the train platform. I took a seat on the train next to a man who with his jacket seemed to take up 2 and a half seats. Perhaps it was his way of trying to discourage others from sitting there, but I refused to stand any longer. My feet were killing me. No sooner had we begun moving, when the train came to an abrupt halt. We were stuck again, and this lasted a while. I tried to sleep, dozing in and out a few times. According to the authorities, the train had somehow managed to jump tracks with some cars on one rail and others on another. It took about an hour, though it seemed like an eternity for them to get the train going again.
I managed to sleep for a better portion of the ride. I woke up amazingly as the train opened its doors at Hicksville Station. I jumped to my feet, grabbed my jacket and bag and ran before the train left and I was stranded again. I had made it. I looked at the clock and it was 4:15am. The 1:06 train got me home 3 hours late! I hate to look back and think that I could have gotten on that first train and made it home hours earlier. But then I wouldn’t have met Santa Claus.