Morning Glory

One of the big trade-offs of moving to the suburbs was dealing with a daily commute into the city.  I knew I wasn’t going to love it but, in the grand scheme of the moving equation, it seemed tolerable.  What I didn’t know is that NJ Transit is one of the most poorly run operations in the history of modern (or even ancient) transportation.

Take this morning, for example.  I’m, as usual, running my ass off to make it to the train on time.  This entails missing a belt and shoving an oatmeal down my throat while kissing my kids goodbye and trying to find the car keys that I misplace every single day.  It’s kind of like a scene from Groundhog Day (which I hated as a movie but enjoy the everyday reference).

I speed through town with years of pent up road rage (remember, I hardly drove for the 16 years I lived in the city, so I have some vehicular aggression to catch up on).  This involves tailgating, honking, cursing and trying to fumble for the $5 that I’ll need to park (don’t get me started on this).  Wait, that’s not $5 in my bag, that’s the shopping list I couldn’t find last weekend at the store.

Are you feeling the early warning signs of a stroke with me yet?

Then.  I arrive at the station, somehow on time, basically in a full sweat (it’s 44 degrees out, FYI).  I run up to the train platform and take out my Blackberry to see what work I am inevitably behind on already.

And I see this email from NJ Transit.

Raritan Valley Line train #5714 up to 20 min. delay, due to disabled train ahead.  Sent: 7:27 AM

This isn’t good.  Not good at all. Thank God I don’t have a 9:00 meeting.

Then, several minutes later, this.

Raritan Valley Line trains are subject to 10-15 minute delays in both directions due to slippery rail conditions.  Sent: 7:35 AM

First, what happened to the disabled train as the cause of the delay?   Second, notice that the delay is now affecting all trains on the line.  And, most importantly, WTF are slippery rail conditions on this non-icy and quite sunny morning, you ask?  Excellent question.  If you’re new to NJ Transit lingo, let me enlighten you. I was told a few weeks ago (because they use this phrase chronically) that “slippery rail conditions” means we have a problem with wet leaves. 

?Wet leaves?

Yes, folks, the entire NJ Transit operation is easily thwarted by the presence of wet leaves on the tracks. 

?Look, I’m no engineer.  Maybe it is a legitimate issue.  I have slid in my car before on wet leaves, so it’s definitely feasible.  But doesn’t it seem ridiculous?  Shouldn’t we be able to solve for this after, say, hundreds of railway-operating autumns in the Mid-Atlantic where leaves have predictably fallen, right on schedule?  I don’t know the answer but I’m going to need something better than this.  I’m in PR, after all.  Let’s put some spin on this, I say.

?OK, Fordeville, you want better?  How’s this:?

Rail Update: Raritan Valley Line trains are subject to 20-30 minute delays in both directions due to disabled train.  Sent: 7:46 AM

Note that we’re back to the disabled train.  I guess the perilous wet leaves were properly disposed of in the last  11 minutes.  Meanwhile, we have various unhelpful PA announcements at the station regarding ongoing delays.  The train platform is really getting full but most folks don’t seem too bothered.  I guess they are used to it.  I was about to have an embolism. ?

Raritan Valley Line train #5422 is cancelled ; passengers may use train #5902.  Sent: 8:40 AM

?Oh, my God.  Did I mention I hadn’t had any coffee yet?  And that I pay $133/month for this bullshit?  (By the way, NJT, learn how to spell “canceled” correctly since you have to use it so frequently.)

I think someone at NJ Transit told the person hitting the email button to just stop talking because we had sheer radio silence for a while.  And then later, the train finally arrived.  I somehow even managed to get a seat.  I spent the ride thinking about selling our house and leaving the suburbs.  Surely the NYC subway system wasn’t so bad, right?

?Did I mention that NJ Transit is only half of my journey? Once I am free of their nonsense every morning, I have to deal with the PATH train, whose torture tactics make NJ Transit look like Amateur Night.  I’ll give full attention to that another day.

In the end, it took 1 hour and 45 minutes to travel the 35 miles from my home to my office.  You have to ask what’s in store for me once we hit the freezing mark.  How will NJ Transit manage this?  More to come.

Oh, and here is the email that can only be described as the pinnacle F-U of the morning.  Note that I received this after finally arriving at my desk.  Perfect.   

Final Rail Update: Raritan Valley Line trains are now operating on or close to schedule. 

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  1. Tamara says:

    Wow, that is a horrible, horrible commute. I’m so sorry.

    (By the way, the Septa trains in Philly also have the wet leaves on the rail problem.)

    • fordeville says:

      OK so maybe I shouldn’t have ridiculed the wet leaves. I can’t help it. P and I are now thinking NJT should work a wet leaves theme into their logo, at least on a seasonal basis.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Atleast you had some good company on the platform! And the next time I will even make you and P some tea. Oh yeah thats decaf tea so you probably are not interested. Larry can bring the coffee or we can just forget the commute and go hang out at the deli.

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