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The Joy of Riding the 1:20am Train

My son and I went to the NCAA regional semifinal basketball game at Madison Square Garden Friday night. We watched my nephew’s team, Michigan State, defeat Virginia. The game got over at 12:30 AM, and I knew there was a 12:43 train back to Trenton and I was hoping to catch it.

NJ Transit train at Penn Station
NJ Transit train at Penn Station (Twitter)

The personnel at the Garden herded us, very politely, into just a few exits, and it took a long time to first, get to the door, and second, go down five flights of steps, go outside, and then come back in via another door to get to Penn Station. We hustled down the stairs just in time to see the train pull away. Why was I so determined to catch the second-to-last train of the night?

Because I’ve been on the last train before. I warned my son that some of the riders on the train will have been enjoying themselves in the city on a Friday night and that he might see things he hadn’t seen before. So, they announce the track number for the 1:20 train and we board; there aren’t that many people on the train, so I’m thinking we dodged the bullet.

No such luck. I was wearing a Michigan State pullover and one inebriated passenger going down the aisle asked how they did; I told him that MSU won and then he pushed me, which was unexpected, especially since I was sitting down at the time. The recoil from the push almost made him hit the deck, but he staggered and caught himself. I realized that the push wasn’t a “hey, I want to fight you” push, but more of a “we’re both sports fans and I don’t like your team” kind of a push.

He announced to me that he had attended the University of Wisconsin (another team in the tournament and also a member of the same conference as MSU), and that’s why he didn’t like MSU. I was reeeaaallly hoping our interaction was going to end there, but, no, he grabbed the seat right behind us, although he remained standing.

He asked me where we lived and I told him, Jackson. He then asked if we were on the right train, and I told him I worked near Trenton so that’s where we caught the train when I got off work, which prompted him to ask what I did for a living and I told him I co-hosted a radio talk show. He asked what station, and I told him, and he said, “Damn, my dad listens to the station all day!”

He then sat down, and I thought we were in the clear. Again, no such luck; he stood up, jabbed his phone in my face and said, “I Googled you! You’re Doyle!” I told him I knew that, but, thanks. He then asked, or rather, demanded, that I pose for a picture with him for his dad, and I complied. I then turned to my son and said, “He is going to wake up sometime later today and go through his phone and wonder, “Who the hell is this white guy I have my arm around?”

I know you’re asking, were there any other drunks on the train? You bet there were! The train had three seats on one side of the aisle and two on the other, and, as luck would have it, there were five drunk servicemen in the seats in front of us. They weren’t all equally drunk- there was a semi-sober guy from Long Island who kept apologizing for his drunker comrades; all five were either in the Air Force or Army and since they are serving their country I was willing to cut them some slack. I was, however, hoping that they, along with drunk black guy behind us, would be getting off soon, maybe Secaucus or Newark. No such luck again as the drunken soldiers were going all the way to Hamilton and the drunk black guy was getting off in New Brunswick (he wound up missing his stop). The drunkest of the servicemen challenged me to guess where he was from based on his accent; well, the outstanding feature of his speech was how slurred it was, but I guessed anyway, and said “Nebraska”.

Not only was that not correct, it apparently was an insult and he went off to pout. Actually, he went to the last row to hit on a drunk girl with big breasts and a couple of his buddies made a run at her, as well. I won’t tell you which ones were married. I wound up talking with semi-sober Air Force guy about his training exercises at Fort Dix and about being a father (he has an eight month old).

Anyway, the train got us back to Trenton around three and we were home by four. Most importantly now, my son knows what the last train of the night is like.

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