Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vignettes from a long day

Dancer and I arrived at the Amtrak station at 7:45 this morning. To my surprise, fully a third of the passengers northward were foreign students. A Bulgarian girl had forgotten her cell phone charger. The conductor -- who had cheerfully, and without being asked, punched a gazillion holes in an extra ticket for a four year old -- offered to lend her his personal phone charger. He remembered to retrieve it when he went off-duty at Albany.

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Our cab driver spoke a language I did not recognize. He spoke it loudly on his cell phone, as he gesticulated with the other hand (the one that should have held the wheel). I considered asking him to hang up, but did not want to distract him from what little attention he was paying to his driving.

The streets of Saratoga Springs are extremely placid. Given the number of taxis in town, I took the driver's card for the way back. 

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There are times when not having a car truly makes life different. The other girls arriving to the summer dance intensive brought in comforters, curtains, mini-fridges, cases of bottled water, multiple suitcases. Dancer brought two medium-size bags and her dance bag. When you have to carry everything you're bringing, you don't bring much.

It took us 15 minutes to unpack. 

I later realized that even if we'd had room to bring more, she doesn't actually own more to bring. Except maybe an extra pillow. I also realized that this is the first time in her life she has had a room to herself.

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I'd planned on taking the train home, but wasn't sure whether to take the 3:53 or the one that leaves around 6pm. Turned out I didn't have a choice: the earlier train was sold out. So before we left the train station I'd headed over to the Greyhound booth and got a bus ticket home for 3:50pm.

At 3pm I called the crazy cab driver, who picked me up in front of Dancer's dorm. "How are you doing now?" he asked. I said I was feeling a little sad, because I was leaving my daughter for a month. He pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of his three children, ages 6, 5, and 3. "I haven't seen them in four months," he said, "So don't complain."

He's from Egypt. He's a U.S. citizen, but only lives here for three or four months at a time. "No offense," he told me, "But I don't want to raise my kids in this country. I'd rather have them there, and miss them."

I didn't complain.
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I arrived at the bus station at 3:14, and as I was contemplating my dinner choices (granola bars, stale bags of peanuts or candy) a woman shouted, "Last call for New York!" Surprised, I asked if I could get on that bus. She said yes, so I did.

Turned out the bus only went to Albany. I looked at my ticket; there was a second section for a second leg, which was good, but the time on the ticket said 1:30 p.m. I looked around the Albany bus terminal, and decided that come hell or high water I was getting on the 4:30 bus. Nestled beneath a highway overpass near some warehouses, the bus terminal seemed to have been built as bad-novel fodder. The most you could say for it was that someone had painted the cinderblock blue.

There was nowhere to buy food or coffee, except for a vending machine. I decided to go hungry. The bus driver did not look at the timestamp on my ticket. I wondered if I'd merely heard 3:15 as 3:50, but then someone told me the bus I'd gotten on first had been 40 minutes late. Who knows?

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The bus made New York look ethnically bland.  Unlike the train, there was no wi-fi. No one even asked; no one carried the kind of technology that required it.

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Despite traffic delays, we arrived five minutes early. I went downstairs to the subway and discovered it was Gay Pride Parade day, because everyone was wearing t-shirts and kissing. Got on the train, came home, said hello. Andrew had successfully delivered Big Guy to his camp bus, and was just returning from taking Snuggler and Little Guy to auditions for Stuart Little.

I bought root beer and ice cream for dinner. It was a different than our usual fare. But then it had been a different kind of day. I think it was mostly good.

Photo: I packed my life into three bags. Leaving for NYSSSA tomorrow!!!
My 13-year old daughter's worldly belongings


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bless you. Just reading your story made me sigh. Some days are like that. Glad everyone made it to where they were supposed to be and that dinner was a great end to the day.

  3. Ha! I know that Albany station well; the bus drops us off there for 45 agonizing minutes on the route between nyc and montreal. I usually visit it in the middle of the night. I've come to almost enjoy it as a horror movie museum.

  4. I like your vignettes. They really do get at a side of American life many Americans don't see.