So back to my return trip: had a smashing time in DC with the coolest sisters-in-law there are, and then was taken to Union Station for my non-eventful bus ride to Port Authority Terminal NYC. Non-eventful, that is, until it became clear to the ladies of Long Island that their bus driver had taken the wrong turn, and was hopelessly circling Manhattan.
(Me, bored and taking self-portraits in hopelessly circling bus):
"Are you KIDDIN' ME??!!" was the most printable of the comments made from this stalwart band of females who knew their city thoroughly and realized, beyond a doubt, that the hapless driver was dead wrong in his GPS programming decisions. I should have taken a video of the crowd around the poor man, who looked penitent and terrified as women alternately shouted new directions at him and offered profanities and hand gestures to the traffic on his behalf.
In the end, we were an hour late. I had missed my connecting bus at 10 PM. The next bus I was informed, without apology, was at 7:30. AM. The one accomodation I was given for the complete lack of the second leg of a full trip I'd pre-purchased was a $10 meal voucher which was useful from 6:30 AM on.
I was unhappy. I was scared. Port Authority boasts the most aggressive panhandlers I've ever seen, who seem to outnumber security by at least half. As I walked with a lady and her four children who were in the same predicament I was, we were accompanied by people alternately asking for change and swearing at us for no apparent reason. One gentlemen had told us (rather firmly) to ask for information at a certain kiosk, and when we decided to go a different route we were followed by him, insisting he did not like how we were "disrespectin'" him.
With 18% charge left on my cell, I called my husband. (The "Greyhound" bus had turned out to be an "Eire" bus from the early 90's, with no cup-holders or seat pockets, shades instead of tinted windows, and most assuredly no outlets to charge devices.) When you're panicky and lost, Dan's about the best person on the planet for a solution: he can find a way to get from point A to point B from just about any start point. In more than one continent too. There's got to be a way to market this ability... :)
"Okay Katie, go out to the subway. Take it to Grand Central Station. The last train to New Haven is leaving in about 10 minutes." It was almost midnight.
Growing up, my dad wasn't keen on my mom driving around the block solo after dark. I have some such residual hesitance in my blood. And growing up, "Grand Central Station" was an expression meaning "insanity." Such as, "Kids, you coming in and out the door like that makes me feel like I'm in Grand Central Station."
I had never actually seen "Grand Central Station." But I was about to. Alone, and after midnight.
Deciding whatever awaited me on New York's subways was preferable to finding a corner of filthy carpet to sleep on in the current zoo, I bid farewell and blessings to the family I had been with, gave them my voucher, and ran like mad to catch the next subway, dodging a couple guys muttering to themselves, luggage bumping behind me.
It's hot, muggy, and dirty in the subways. Like a lot. Using what I taught my own girls about approaching strangers (i.e. the only time I shamelessly stereotype), I just kept looking for safe-looking people to ask for advice. Where do you get a ticket? Like this? Which train? Oh thank you... I found an aspiring filmmaker who talked to me about her fictional film about a drug addict until she abruptly said, "Oh! Here's your stop! Jump off and go left!" And then she and the subway was gone in a rush, and I was left on an empty, dimly lit platform, far underground, alone with my luggage.
Lord, I know you are helping me find the edge of my comfort zone these days, but golly gee. Really? But hey, I made it. Found the right escalator, found a young couple to follow, found Grand Central Station to be immense and beautiful (not at all what I expected, I had imagined it more as Port Authority) and anything but busy, an abandoned marbled hall.
I made the last train by four minutes. It was an old one, and jogged and shook aggressively down the tracks. I knew I wouldn't sleep with all the racket, so I just sat there numbly, purse on the seat beside me. Until I woke up to "Newww Haven." And no purse.
Dan and four sleepy kids were ready for me with our mini van at 3:30 AM. I canceled the cards in the morning, chalking up the cash I lost to almsgiving, since I hadn't had time or courage to do any while lost in New York.
Traveling alone. Writing a blog. Losing a baby. This has definitely been the year of going to my edge, and trying to become a better person in the process...
Thank you Lord for Your guidance and protection, Your presence with us every step of the way as we encounter our depths and heights. Without You, there is nothing. With You, we have everything: every strength we need, every grace we require.
"Let all who take refuge in You rejoice." Psalm 5:11