My goal? To get from 34th Street and 8th Avenue to the Walker Street exit of the A/C/E train at Canal Street by 7:30. A friend from my early Marvel days had written a play, and I was going to meet him to attend the 8 o'clock curtain call.
Easy, right? It's a ten-minute ride from the base of my office building. It was Saturday, but I frequently go in on Saturdays. I'm alone in the office and find it easiest to work then.
At ten past seven, I cruised down to the subway turnstiles. Bollocks. What a crowd! Ghouls, goblins, witches, and assorted others greeted me underground. Whoa. That's what I call a line.
My stop is also the Penn Station stop. And all of New Jersey appeared to be located at the line for farecards.
Cursing myself for not having refilled my own card earlier, I ran back upstairs and headed a block over to the 1/9 line.
I liked the costumes. The night was warm and everyone in the tri-state area had descended onto the city center for tonight. Some were going to parties. Most were surely headed to the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, a stunning, living mass of fabulousness, when all manner of costumed people hold an annual wild rumpus.
But I couldn't get on a train and was beginning to feel a little grumpy. I checked my phone for the time. 7:20 now. I kept walking, heading to Herald Square and more trains. Normally, I'd jump in a taxi at this point, but traffic wouldn't be moving downtown, what with the parade spectators clogging the streets.
There were no vending machine lines at Herald Square so I got to the platform quickly.
"Where are you going?" An MTA employee in a bright yellow vest asked me. They often place these workers on platforms on nights when trains are off-schedule or running amiss somehow. Their job is to tell people what's up.
"Canal Street. I'm going to West 4th to switch to the A/C/E," I told him.
"Damn, you already know!" Then he paused and looked closer. "Has anyone told you that you have stunning eyes?"
The passenger standing a few feet away appeared to stifle a giggle.
"Uh... no. I guess not. Is the D running on this line?"
"My name's John. What's your name?"
"Oh, well, Rae, what are you doing later?"
The E pulled in on the F track. Huh? The E! I could take the E to Canal Street! It normally ran on 8th Avenue, but when faced with an unexpected E train, the best response is to board quickly.
I got on the train, but the doors didn't close. An announcement came over the P.A.
"This train will terminate at 23rd Street. Repeat, this train will terminate at 23rd Street."
Cursing, I disembarked and waited. "John" smiled at me from across the platform. I turned to face the F line and hoped he'd stay put. I checked my phone for the time but I got no signal underground. I knew it was 7:30. I hoped my friend would go inside. It wouldn't do to miss his own play.
The F pulled up. Packed. Way too packed. I thought about all those people pouring out at West 4th Street and turned to the D. Ah, the D! It was finally pulling in.
"This train is running local to blah blah blah."
Arf. The D is normally express, skipping the smaller stops. Not tonight.
Ten minutes later, I finally spilled off the D onto the West 4th platform with hundreds of other passengers. I ran upstairs to catch the A/C, but probably not the E, as previously determined. I stood on the platform trying to text my friend, but of course got no signal. He'd get my texts when I got off the train.
Whenever that would be.
The A pulled in. Hooray, the A!
"The A is running on the F line. The next stop will be Broadway-Lafayette."
I waited. It must be nearing 8 by now.
Then the C pulled in. I boarded, and some guy dressed in a box and no shirt walked around hassling people. I hoped he wouldn't come up to me. I really wasn't in the mood. I recalled giving the finger to a mime in Berlin once. Not my best moment.
Finally, the doors opened at Canal Street. I ran to my exit and up the stairs. My phone sent the messages as I hurried down the block to Broadway.
"You can still make it," typed my friend back. "The play hasn't started yet."
The venue was in a 4th-floor walk-up, a fitting end to my traveling saga.
But I did manage to sit down right as the lights dimmed.