Walking through a store this week, I noticed shamrocks and green hats, and I was reminded of a long past St. Patrick's Day in 2002 when we were still living in Connecticut. On that day, my husband, Grit, and I did not have the luck 'o the Irish.
We had tickets to the Broadway play "Urinetown." Thinking it would be foolish to drive into New York City on St. Patrick's Day, we decided on the Metro-North Railroad. At each stop, the train became more crowded as happy paradegoers piled on. It was a crowded noisy ride but was also like being at a party. People laughed, joked and called back and forth to everyone because on St. Patrick's Day in New York City everyone's a little bit Irish and no one knows a stranger.
As we neared the Mt. Vernon station, there was a sudden great flash of light and then smoke outside the windows of our train. It was only seven months after Sept. 11, 2001, and our realistic reaction was panic at possible terrorism. It turned out a huge piece of metalwork called a pentagraph, which sits atop the train car, had been torn off and fell to the platform. No terrorism was involved but still a broken train.
There were sirens screaming from a distance. Soon, firemen and police converged on the station, and after a long wait, we were told to get off. For such a party crowd, we were amazed how everyone dutifully followed the leader.
Rather than wait for an iffy train, we decided on a taxi to the city. Once in it, we changed our minds. It was a wreck of a cab with a driver who could barely see over the dashboard, so we stopped him in an unfamiliar area of Mt. Vernon. By some miracle, we spotted the subway platform in the distance, and then began a trip from the 241st Street station with 25 stops to go.
The lucky part of this misadventure was it happened at a station where we could get off. Grit recalled a different excursion to the Museum of Natural History with three of our young children in tow. The train caught fire in a tunnel, and smoke began pouring through the cars. It was quickly put out and the train towed into Grand Central — a frightening experience this particular train mishap could not begin to compare to.
We were about 20 minutes late to the play. Because we missed the first scene, it took a little while to get into it, but it was funny and thought-provoking. There was a lot of energy onstage, and some of the songs were really beautiful in contrast to the plays gritty nature.
Twelve years later, we saw the play at another theater. We would have saved ourselves a pile of trouble the first time if we could have known.
In keeping with the theme of the day, on our way to dinner in Little Italy, we were caught in a subway scam. The Metro card machine had a fairly long line. While queuing up to put money on our card, a girl appeared and offered two tokens for $3, which we gladly accepted.
As we were looking for a place to deposit the tokens a boy rushed up and said, "No coins, no coins." Taking our tokens, he used a metro pass to let us through the turnstile. We were stunned. Thinking it over, we surmised the kids had purchased an all day pass and then set up a clever scam to earn a few bucks.
Finally our luck changed. The train ride home was uneventful — like hundreds of others we had taken without mishap or delay.
That day a rabbit's foot or a four-leaf clover would have come in handy. Still, it ended up well, and life would be poor without memories.