Progressive Prison Project
The Platform Less Taken: Heading East on Metro-North
By Jeff Grant
I stood with about a half dozen other passengers on the Greenwich Metro-North platform yesterday morning. We were waiting for the 8:17 am through-train that makes local stops from Greenwich to New Haven; as I spied my fellows on the platform it was pretty clear that this was a working class train – they were all workers of some sort or another. I guess I am a worker too.
Across the tracks, of course, was the throng of the beautifully dressed and neatly polished – Wall Street Journals crisply tucked under their arms, iPhones and iPads holstered, all stoically ready for the day’s battle. On our side, our minds played tricks on us – undermining our collective sense of purpose and self esteem – as the 7:49, 8:01, 8:08, 8:18 and 8:30 each pulled into and out of the station across the tracks. No announcement had been made to explain the whereabouts of our train.
As we became more anxious about our train, we seemed to push closer together and congregate next to the taxi stand – the only spot on the platform that received any sun on the very brisk and windy morning. Jose was a stylish twenty-something, talking with a man that turned out to be his Dad – he had a huge rolling suitcase that was almost as big as he was. They were smiling but obviously worried about the train. As we talked, I learned that Jose had been home visiting his parents in Greenwich – they are local workers who saved up enough to send their son to college in Boston. Jose was taking the train to New Haven to catch the Mega-Bus the rest of the way – it’s only twelve dollars from there, far less expensive than Amtrak.
Hector, another in our group, had gotten off a train at the wrong station and had been standing on the platform for almost an hour. He was travelling to his job in Bridgeport from New York City and thought he was in Stamford when he got off the train. He looked tired and was confused that another local hadn’t some along sooner.
An older woman was dropped off by a taxicab and slowly made her way to the platform – she walked slowly to the ticket machine and was unsuccessful in her attempt. Frustrated, she made her way over to us slowly and explained that she was on her way up to New Haven. We asked if we could help her buy a ticket but she declined – we all seemed to know better than to push her.
Now a community of travelers, we each shared our Metro-North war stories. I explained how I am a minister in Bridgeport, and that I try to take the express train home to Greenwich in the afternoon – but that sometimes it passes by the Greenwich station without warning and leaves us off in Harrison. It sometimes takes over an hour to get home when that happens.
The 8:17 finally came at a little after 8:30 – our train platform communion experience had taken just over forty-five minutes. But it was a memorable, precious forty-five minutes that I will long remember and now I get to write about.
The conductor came by and took our tickets, and apologized for the delay. The older woman explained that the she didn’t have a ticket – that she couldn’t figure out how to work the ticket machine. The conductor smiled and told her that it was all right, that he would only charge her for the discounted ticket machine price. I couldn’t help but wonder if this sort of thing happened on the westbound trains?
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Director, Progressive Prison Project
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604