As if i needed another reason to hate the New York Yankees.
Metro North started a new line this year: The Yankees Express. Among other places, it makes stops in Mt. Kisco, Chappaqua, North White Plains, White Plains, Harlem and then heads directly to the Bronx, so all the fans in Yankee caps can watch their steroid-fueled heroes out-spend every other team on the planet.
Anyway, the great thing about this train, i discovered, is that it pulls into the station a lot earlier than my usual train. I can make it home a full twenty minutes before i usually do when the Yankees are playing a night game at home, so i'm all about that!
I was kicking myself a bit for not making that connection earlier in the baseball season. For about a month, when the Yankees Express would come into Mt. Kisco at 20 after 4, i would just automatically frown, and think about Carlos Beltran, and grumble under my breath about all the good looking women Derek Jeter was dating that week, and then i would wait for my usual 4:34 local train.
But then, a few months back, i finally woke up and asked the conductor if he was making a stop in White Plains. He was very pleasant, and a lot less creepy in appearance than Tom Hanks in 'The Polar Express'. Actually, he looked a lot like Wilfred Brimley, except maybe 50 pounds lighter, and not quite as walrusy.
"Sure!" he said, "Hop aboard!"
It wasn't until that moment that i'd realized how passionately i'd always wanted a train conductor to tell me to "hop aboard!" And he did it with such a Captain Kangaroo-ish enthusiasm that i found it really hard not to get swept up in it. Honestly, i felt like i wanted a lolipop. I could barely control my urge to say to him, "Gee whiz, thanks, Mister!" It was just this perfect mixture of his homespun charm and an unexpected extra twenty minutes to myself! Totally made my day.
It's the little things, y'know?
Since then, i've not always been able to make it to the early train, but when i have, i've usually seen Wilfred Brimley. And he gives me that wholesome smile, and i'll smile back, kind of chuckling to myself at the thought of the first time i saw him. At the way he made me feel like i was watching Mr. Rogers or something. Good times.
...And then there was Friday.
I should have known i was in trouble. A very different train conductor was on the loudspeaker, announcing that "this was the train to Yankee stadium... OWN-LY!!!"
He lingered on the word "only" like he was a super villain in a comic book movie. Like he was completely successful at hiding his creepy Transylvanian accent with every other word in his vocabulary except for that one. Or like he'd been saying that word all day, every day, for the past seventy-six years.
But i got on the train anyway. It'd been a long week. I had toddler snot on my shoulder, and i had no idea how it'd even gotten there.
"Where you heading?" the conductor asked me. "White Plains," i said. And then he snorted. And sneered. And then he snorted again.
"In the FUTURE," he said, "this is the train to Yankee stadium... OWN-LY."
I probably should have left it alone. Left it right there. Probably should have let him have his moment, said, "yes, sir" and let him go on his non-merry way. But i'm the inquisitive type. And, more than that, i'm from South Jersey. And we have something of a low tolerance for the stuff that smells of bullcrap. So i asked him why.
"Why???" he asked.
"Yes, i mean..."
"Why??? ...Because those are the rules."
"Right, but... i mean, it's really not a big deal, is it? I mean... there's nobody here."
"There are people here."
And, i have to say, that was technically true. He had me there. In the car i was sitting in, with approximately, i dunno, 75? 100 seats? i counted nine other passengers near the front.
"Right," i said, "but there's plenty of room here, so why is this an issue?"
"Look," he said, "there are a lot of rules i don't agree with in life, but i have to follow them because that's just how life is."
I could tell he'd had a tough week as well. So i told him, "Okay, fine, i get it. You're just doing your job. I understand. And it's Friday, and i don't want to get into a big thing about this, but, i mean... there's really plenty of room is all i'm saying."
"There's plenty of room NOW, sure!" he said, "But what if EVERYbody started doing this?"
"Well, then, if everybody started to do it, i'd back off, but clearly that's not happening now. Not today, at least."
"That's because this is a brand new line!" he said.
"Fine. Okay, I get it," i said.
I just didn't want to argue anymore. Seemed kind of pointless. And a bad way to begin a weekend. I could have mentioned that the season was more than halfway over, and that the Yankees had played about 40 home games by this point, but, whatever. I was having a Jedi moment. As if Obi wan's hologram was talking to me over this chucklehead's shoulder, saying, "Let him go, Ryan... Let him go..."
So off he went.
...OWN-LY to return three minutes later.
"What do you want me to do?" he said, "Break the rules just for you?! Huh?! Is that what you want me to do?!"
That was when i realized how uncanny it all was-- how much this guy reminded me of every single high school principal in every single movie i'd seen in my 1980's childhood. So I just looked at him like Matthew Broderick at the end of the 'Ferris Bueller' credits ..."You're still here? Why are you still here? ...The movie's over... Go home."
As much as i wanted to unleash my inner Judd Nelson on him ("EAT... MY... SHORTS!"), i'm very proud to tell you i was able to remain calm. He was treating me like some punk little kid with a mohawk who was up to no good. Lookin' to make a ruckus. I felt like telling him, "Dude, you've clearly got the wrong guy. I've got Blossom Dearie going on in my iPod right now...."
...which was true. And which makes the whole thing seem even more surreal than it was. Like, if i was ever going to get thrown off a moving train, i would probably want a slightly different soundtrack.
But cooler heads prevailed. Or, at least mine did. He stopped shouting me down, because i kept ignoring him. What he did after that, who knows?
The only remaining mystery is what happened to Wilfred Brimley? I kind of wanted to see The Principal again to ask about the old guy. But it's probably for the best that i didn't ("What? That slacker? He messed with the bull... and he got the horns.").
Anyhow, the point is, i learned my lesson: Don't antagonize a moron.
It was an important lesson. So much so that i forgot all about it two days later...
the five things i fell in love with today...
2) South Jersey.
3) Matthew Broderick. 'Ferris' was the first movie i ever saw twice in a theater!
4) Sarah Jessica Parker.
5) Quaker Oatmeal.
song of the night...
My Current Top Five "Getting Thrown off the Train" songs...
5) "Nightrain" by Guns n' Roses
4) "Train to Skaville" by The Ethiopians
3) "On the Banks of the Old Pontchartrain" by Hank Williams
2) "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" by Johnny Cash
1) "Stop that Train" by Bob Marley and the Wailers
movie of the night...