Taking the LIRR into Penn Station is a normal every day occurrence for tens of thousands of Long Islanders. As a matter of fact, it is safe to say that many suburban and urban commuters utilize mass transit as their primary mode of transportation……And then….there was me!
My niece and I have long embarked on a genealogical quest. We each began our own research on Ancestry.com before we realized it was more fun and productive to work together. With each green leaf we uncovered we became increasingly more excited. To those unfamiliar with the “green leaf” the leaf signifies hidden information, whether it is an US census from 1910, a long forgotten birth certificate, or a military service record from WWII. The green leaf may have nothing to do with your particular family member BUT the gleeful anticipation of long-buried secrets hides behind every leaf. Now back to the train…….
I have been in medical sales longer than I care to remember. A very important component of my “office” was my company car. It was not unusual for me to be in Manhattan for a 10 am meeting, cross over to New Jersey, by 1 pm, and end my day in Yonkers, NY. My brochures, files, calendar and computer were always within arms reach. When I retired, my company car went bye-bye along with the company Amex card, and all the perks associated with being a successful Account Manager. Having to purchase my own car was an eye-opening experience. My new car cost more than my first house!!!!
Although I was thrilled to retire, a part of me felt like I was just divorced and my lawyer did a rotten job of protecting my assets. Back went the company car, and back went the company computer along with the company Amex card, and company gas card!! What was I thinking?
The decision to drive into the city or take the Long Island Railroad was an easy one. I was meeting my niece by Wall street, as we were continuing our genealogy search at the National Archives, in lower Manhattan. On a good day, that part of Manhattan is a nightmare to navigate in a car, but doubly hard in an SUV. I decided to take the train as this seemed to be the easiest solution or so I thought.
As a proud card-carrying AARP member, and without hesitation, I asked the ticket agent for a senior “off peak” ticket. I was absolutely delighted with the senior discount I received. I then asked him for a senior discount Metro Card but he informed me that he was only able to sell full fare tickets. I, of course, declined, as I covet my discounts. I would just wait and purchase the senior ticket from the subway ticket agent. I began my journey into Manhattan. Gomer Pyle had nothing on me. I actually felt like a country bumpkin, with minimal to no city experience. As I gawked at the fabulosity that has become Penn Station, a city unto itself, it was incredulous to me that one could actually survive living in Penn Station. Every conceivable restaurant, drug store, and coffee shop, resides in Penn Station. The strong military and police presence was off-putting but yet comforting. The homeless population, vacated during the Giuliani years have resurfaced but not in the quantities they once were. Street musicians performed their spirited renditions, hoping for the kind approval by the throngs of passersby.
As I crisscrossed Penn Station, looking for the number 1 or 2 IRT train which would take me to the National Archives, I finally found my way to the ticket agent, the senior Metro Card, and the train that would take me to the South Ferry stop. I was exhausted!!
As I melted into the hoards of people climbing the subway stairs, I felt like a phoenix rising up from the ashes. The sights and sounds were amazing. The Staten Island Ferry was to my right, Wall Street and its environs were directly ahead. With Google Maps pedestrian turned on, I gingerly made my way to my destination. My niece’s smiling face was waiting patiently for me on the steps of the building housing the National Archives. I took a deep sigh of relief knowing I made it! As we entered the building in hopes of unraveling generational mysteries, the hopeful anticipation of things to come buoyed my every step as the best was yet to come.