The One Where I Spent 15 Hours in Penn Station

So here’s my latest travel story.  I do want to say on record that I am 100% aware that delayed travel is one of the lesser of life’s worries in the scheme of things.  But everyone has a breaking point and when you constantly encounter “setbacks” getting places and you’ve been alone in a train station for an extended period of time, you’ll find that yours isn’t too far off.  I guess you can say I’m one of those people who live in the moment.  Yeah, that’s what I’ll call it haha.

So as you know, I had three canceled flights back to Raleigh on Sunday, December 26 & figured Amtrak was my next best option.  Once the roads got bad, it was decided that we were all going to set forth for my grandparents’ house which is closer to NYC.  My cousin graduated from the Police Academy on Monday and the ceremony was 11am at Madison Square Garden.  My Amtrak train was scheduled to leave at 11am, below MSG at Penn Station.  This is what my parents house looked like about 2 hours after it started snowing:

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That brings us to Monday morning.  I blogged right before we left, back when the day was very young.  We left to drive in a little after 7am because the LIRR was shut down.  It was as the snow plows were coming around the neighborhood.  My parents, uncle, grandparents, sister, & I all piled into my snowpocalypse02mom’s Highlander.  Christie & I shared the very back row with my giant suitcase & my carry on duffle bag.  It was cramped but a fun ride.  My poor dad had a bunch of backseat drivers lol.  The Long Island Expressway (aka the LIE for all the cool kids) was somewhat of a mess but not nearly as bad as it probably could’ve been.  Thank goodness our sanitation workers on LI don’t hate us.  It only took about an hour to get into the city, which was way better than we thought.

snowpocalypse3Uncle Lou is all ready to see Matt graduate.

snowpocalypse4This isn’t the best picture in the world but it shows how much our ride in promoted family togetherness, haha.

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Aaand here’s the LIE: A view from the front & from the back.

I picked up my train ticket and then sat with my family in the LIRR section of Penn Station until about 9:30am.  I was very emotional saying good bye because I didn’t want to miss Matt’s graduation.  I think Matt’s wanted to be a cop like his dad since he was a year old.  I’m so proud of him and to be so “close” to the graduation but so “far” was difficult.  My train was still on time when we got down to the Amtrak area.  Within minutes of our arrival, it was listed as “Delayed.”  A lot of trains were delayed due to the foot of snow outside.  I figured it wouldn’t be a long delay by the time 11am came around.  However, the 7am train to Raleigh didn’t leave the station until 10:15am.  My mom tried to get me on it but the man at the gate was not budging whatsoever.  At the time, I wasn’t aggressive about it.  Trains on the board were going from being listed as “Delayed” (unspecified time) to “xx min late.”  I was kinda hoping that if my train would be listed as a certain amount of time late, I’d get to go upstairs to the graduation.

My parents left to head upstairs at 10:30am.  From 10:30-1:15pm, I sat and waited for a new departure time.  Christie, Uncle Lou & my mom sent me pictures during the ceremony.  I sat down by an outlet, plugged my phone in to charge and got teary-eyed each time I saw a new picture.  My mom called me at the very end, as they were marching out to “New York, New York.”  Yeah, I don’t have to say it but I cried then too lol.  But everyone came back downstairs to say hello to me afterward so I was able to see Matt in uniform, 20 years in the making.  You can see in the pictures that I have “feel sorry for myself cry-y eyes.”  What?  I never said I wasn’t an emotional person.  Side note: My cousin took my uncle’s shield number.  BIG AWWWWWW.

snowpocalypse7SO happy that I got to see Matt in uniform.

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snowpocalypse9Awwwww 🙂

family-matt-graduationFamily picture.  If you look in the background at the board, my “Delay” was the 2nd one listed on the left hand side.  The train above it left an hour after that picture was taken & mine stayed in the top “Delay” spot forever.

Everyone left to drive back.  We couldn’t believe that the LIRR was still shut down by then.  I was feeling really sad to be alone again and went back into the waiting area.  At 2:45pm, it was announced that my train was almost ready to have a track.  RELIEF! JOY! COULD I FINALLY GO HOME TO SEE JAY & ZOE?!

HA! No.

For one hour, my fellow Train 91 to Miami passengers and I stood, watched the board, and waited.  And waited.  And…waited.  4 trains that had been delayed left.  We all started talking amongst each other.  “I had to walk here through the unplowed streets carrying my suitcase all the way from downtown.  I was soaking wet and my stuff is still wet,” One guy told me.  “I had to take a 6am train from Boston to get here and was panicking because I thought I would be too late to catch our train.  Little did I know…,” A woman shared.  We started to collectively realize by 3:30pm that we were the only train that had been delayed prior to 1:00pm that still had not left the station.  At 3:45pm, our train’s status went from “Stand by” back to “Delayed.”  Dejected, everyone returned to the waiting area to sit back down.

Then we heard about the power outage.

Maybe 15 minutes after we sat back down (time is fuzzy at this point), every single train became listed as “Delayed.”  Announcements were made that there was a power outage between Penn & Newark, NJ due to snow on the track causing problems on the 3rd rail.  It was unknown how long until trains would resume again.

That, my friends, was my first breaking point.

I called Jay to tell him and he went, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! HOW DOES ONE PERSON HAVE SO MANY DAMN PROBLEMS TRAVELING?”  Feeling completely desperate to just get the hell out of the train station, I decided I was going to look into flight options.  It was around 4pm, airports were rumored to reopen at some point soon, and there was a 6pm flight out of LaGuardia on US Airways that I would try to get on.  That’s when I sent out that Tweet to find out if airports were open or not.  I also called the all-knowing LIJames who confirmed that I was out of luck on the flying front.

I got in line at the ticket counter to see what would happen if my train was canceled, if they could change my ticket to the 7am train the next morning or if they’d let me exchange for a train to Richmond, VA (so Jay could pick me up there).  I know the ticket agent was probably having a rough day, but he was 100% unhelpful.  He wouldn’t exchange my ticket, told me I’d have to wait in the 30 minute long line again if my train was canceled and I’d have to call Amtrak if I wanted to get on the train next morning.  So I called Amtrak.  It was 4:48pm.  “What do you mean your train is delayed?” The agent on the phone asked me.  “I have it listed as boarding at 4:45pm.”  Oh, hells no.  I responded, “I’ve been staring at the board since 9:30am.  My train is not boarding nor have any announcements been made to give us a departure time.  We have had no updates all day long.”  She kept asking me, “Are you sure you aren’t calling me because you missed your train?”

Next, I called Southwest to see if my Rapid Rewards membership/Business Select ticket on the canceled flights would get me priority on ANY flight back from NY to anywhere in NC the next morning.  Again, no luck.  Nothing was open until Thursday morning.  I looked into renting a car one way and driving.  I got a slice of real NY pizza which tasted amazing and was the first thing I’d eaten since 10:30am and got a nice strong $10 Jack & Diet Coke at TGI Friday’s (Thanks for slipping me that pity $20 before you left, Uncle Lou!).  I made tentative plans to stay at Jeremiah #2’s apartment that night if my train was canceled since I couldn’t get back to LI with the LIRR still suspended.  I chatted with fellow Train 91 to Miami passengers at Friday’s.  It was a popular spot because it directly faced the board with train statuses.

At 6:30pm, WE HAD A TRACK!!  We all got in line and boarded at 6:45pm.  Then we waited to get the hell out of dodge.  And waited.  And…waited.  And…and…waited.  FOR FOUR HOURS!  The Silver Star Train 91 to Miami did not pull away from Penn Station until 11:00pm!  12 HOURS LATE.  We were on board for so long that they changed crews!  My second breaking point was 2 hours after we had been waiting.  I was exhausted on all levels, feeling sorry for myself, missing Jay, missing my family and was starting to get that feeling of crawling out of my skin.  You know – that antsy “OMFG I can’t breathe, I need to know what’s going on and I need something to happen right now or I’m going to completely freak out” feeling.

When we finally started moving, I immediately hit the snack cart and bought a half-bottle of wine, aspirin (turns out hours of crying gives you a headache), and water.  And no, I didn’t drink the entire half-bottle of wine.  It was cheaper to buy that then get a few of the little mini bottles.  I ended up putting on PJ bottoms & for lack of having any t-shirts to sleep in, I ended up wearing a new Express shirt I had gotten for Christmas that was short-sleeved.  Special shout out thank you to my sister Katelyn who handed me a bottle of contact solution “just in case” before we left my parents house on Sunday afternoon.  AWESOME foresight.

Overall, the ride wasn’t too bad.  I watched Supernatural until about after 1am.  We were in Philadelphia, I think.  Luckily, they broke us down by destination so everyone in my car was only going to the Raleigh or Cary stop.  Each row had two seats and I had the row to myself.  The seats were very nice.  They of course reclined and had trays but also had power outlets too.  I fell asleep after 1am and woke up to see Baltimore and again as we were leaving Washington, D.C.  It was about 4:30am in DC and that’s when we were told by one of the attendants that we wouldn’t get into Raleigh until 10:30am instead of the scheduled 9am.  This was because we “stopped longer in DC than usual.”  Since I had to go to work straight, I was NOT happy.  Also, Jay had to be at work at 9:30am and if we got in any later than 9am exactly, he wouldn’t be able to pick me up which meant all the trying to get home to him & Zoe ASAP would be put on hold until 5pm.  I was so frustrated.  I fell back asleep at about 5:15am and woke up around 6:15am then again for good at about 7:30am.  I think we were just over the border of North Carolina at that point and it was GORGEOUS outside.  There was a lot of nature scenery with snow and the sun glistening off of it.  I felt so much better waking up to that.

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I finally got into Raleigh at 9:45am.  My friend Josh picked me up and drove me straight to work, where a co-worker had tons of Dunkin Donut products awaitin’ me and no one said anything to me about how terrible I looked and how much I probably smelled.  Jay picked me up from work and once home, I squeezed Zoe for about a half hour and took a shower.  I am so thankful to be back in Raleigh alive to tell the tale in a 2,100 word blog post!

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