The Blackout.

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I was at my desk at work when my computer monitor flickered out, and I noticed that the overhead lights were out. We soon discovered that the rest on the office was dark, and from the yells of the people in the elevator, the whole building had no power. We tried to figure out how wide the power outage was. On a sunny day, one can’t really tell if the lights are on in the building across the street. And from the 13th floor, you can’t really tell if the traffic lights are working. (BTW, we really work on one of these rare 13th floors that’s actually called the 13th floor).

Now, my original plan for the day was to leave work at 6pm, be home a bit after 7pm, and hopefully, be on the road to Cape Cod by 8pm (which should get me there by about midnight). After closing up the office as best we could, a co-worker, Dan, and I headed out at 5pm. At this point, I’m thinking that I’ll be home (and on my way north) an hour early….

I work on Rector Street in downtown NYC, two blocks from The Big Hole. Rector Street would be the same road as Wall St, except Trinity Church is in the way. On a normal day, I’d take the (1) train to Penn Station on 34th Street, and then take the NJTransit train home to Bloomfield, NJ. But the NYC subways are electric, as are the NJT trains out of Penn Station. The trains out of Hoboken Station are diesel, however, so that looked like the way to go.

Getting to Hoboken was a problem, because, well, there’s the Hudson River between us. But as luck would have it, there are ferries to Hoboken leaving from Battery Park, about 5 blocks away, so Dan & I headed out. The line to buy ferry tickets was two blocks long, but as I take the ferry occasionally even on days when the trains are running, I had tickets. We bypassed that line and joined the mob on the dock. The first ferry to Hoboken filled before we could get on, but the second one fit us in. We left the island at about 5:20 – and the ferry ride is normally only 15 minutes. But, (there are a lot of “buts” in this story), it didn’t quite work out the way. We at first headed toward Hoboken, but then, about 3/4rds the way there, we stopped, and just floated a while. Then the boat turned around and started heading toward the Harborside dock, in Jersey City. Then it stopped again, and went back to drifting for a bit. Then it turn around again and headed for Hoboken. And then – you guessed it– it stopped, turned around, and finally landed at the Newport dock in Jersey City at 6pm. As they were helping us off, one of the ferry workers said that a shuttle bus to Hoboken Station would be there shortly, or “you could walk — it’s only about a mile”. We walked – it took us 40 minutes, which means it was probably closer to two miles.

Anyway, when we arrived, there was a mob in the parking lot, trying to get on buses. We both decided to use the men’s room before venturing into the crowd. Inside the station was a bit bizarre: The big (obviously electric) board listing the departures was still running, and still listing the normal schdule, although there were no track assignments displayed. When the time for a train’s departure passed, it was dutifully removed from the board, even though no train moved. Similarly, the men’s room just had an emergency light, but the hand blowers were working.

Afterwards, we asked a station worker about the trains. He pointed to one, and said that it would be the next train to Montclair, but he didn’t know when it would leave. But, another train had just left, so it could be soon. So, I said good-bye to Dan, and got on the train, and waited. And waited. About 7:30, the train pulled about 100 yards out of the station and stopped. The conductor came on the PA, and announced that the switches have to be operated manually, so it might take a while to get started. After about five minutes, the train moved another 100 yards, and stopped again. And after another five minutes, the train pulled back into the station. The conductor came on the PA again, this time to announce that they had lost power again, and now NO trains would be leaving the station, but there are buses outside.

Out in the parking lot, there was a long line of buses waiting to fill up. They would pull up two at a time, two destinations would be announced, and anyone going to either of those would fight to get on one of the buses. Since the very full Montclair train had just emptied out into the parking lot, they announced three buses to Montclair in a row. But they weren’t enough for all of us, and I didn’t get on. And, after three buses to Montclair, they felt the need to send at least one to everywhere else before they had another Montclair bus, so the next 15 buses went to various places throughtout NJ. Finally, a little after 9PM, another one went to Montclair, but the driver refused to allow any standees on the bus, so that went out with far less that it could hold. By this time, I’d hooked up with two women, Tracey & Judy, who were also trying to get on a Montclair bus. About 9:45PM, a fifth bus went to Montclair, and we just missed getting on that. Unfortuately, but this time there weren’t enough people going to Montclair to fill another bus for a while. But, they announced, some trains were running again. We went inside and found a train claiming to be going to Montclair. So we sat and waited (this part sounds familar), but at least it was air-conditioned. Finally, at 10:30PM, the train left the station – and kept going! A bit slower that normal – the 20 minute trip took a 1/2 hour, but at these point, who’s complaining.

We arrived at the Bloomfield Station at 11PM. Judy & I walked to my car, and I gave her a ride home.

Decided against leaving for Cape Cod at Midnight, based on the idea that I would be needing gas before I arrived, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a station with working pumps.