A little over a year ago I took a step out of my comfort zone and attended my first writer’s group meeting. I drove into Philly in a state of panic, nearly backed out, and ended up having a great experience. My next trip involved a lesson in how to use my smart phone for directions and I learned about the advantages of paying attention to cross streets and setting the navigation on walking not driving.
The adventure in getting lost in the city led to some great pictures and a desire to try taking the train instead of my car. My work husband explained that there was a train station so close to the location of the meeting that it would be impossible, even for me, to get lost.
Over the next several months I mastered the round trip by checking and re-checking the train schedule and coordinates no less than a dozen times for both legs of the trip. Yesterday I decided to abandon my routine of paranoid planning and second guessing in favor of the feeling of confidence based on the fact that my last several trips into the city had been so routine they bordered on boring.
I caught the 11 am train out of Yardley and without hesitation replied, “Market Street East, round trip” when asked my destination. I listened to Cold Play and smiled as I wrote in my journal and patted myself on the back for figuring out the train schedule and my new found confidence. I was even more delighted to write about giving an accurate answer regarding which train station was closest to the Walnut Street theatre along with a recommendation of a restaurant for lunch.
We stopped at the Suburban Street station and I began to have doubts, but put them aside and stayed on the train. I told myself I was in the right place and if not, I couldn’t possibly be far off. The tunnel under the convention center was my first clue that something had gone wrong. I took a deep breath, used Google maps on my iPad to get my bearings, and tried to ignore the fact that I was walking in a sauna. Twenty minutes later I saw the sign for Shops at Liberty place and for the Suburban Street Station.
I duly noted the lesson and after walking back to Market East when the meeting was over I’m sure that I won’t ever forget which station I want again. I checked the boards and made my way to the platform with seven minutes to spare.
I sat back and congratulated myself for figuring things out without having a meltdown, slipped my return trip ticket into the slot on the back of the seat, and looked out the window.
I saw gravel and graffiti instead of trees, “Oh crap, this doesn’t look familiar…” I thought. I don’t think I said it out loud but I can’t be entirely certain.
I tried to rationalize, “The train only goes north and south…how lost can I be? The woman collecting tickets didn’t say anything…so I must be on the right train…”
She called off the names of one unfamiliar stop after another and nothing outside of my window looked right.
I have Septa bookmarked as a favorite and for the first time I noticed that there is a Trenton Line and a West Trenton Line. It didn’t take me long to figure out where I had gone wrong and I was headed toward Trenton through Bristol and Levittown not Langhorne and Yardley.
I ran through some options in my mind. I could take the train back to Philly and start over, I could walk fifteen miles in my flip flops, figure out a cab, and last but not least I could cry. Then it dawned on me, Heather lives in Bristol and Donna lives in Levittown.
I sent a text to each of them, “Hi are you home by chance?”
While I waited and hoped for my phone to vibrate I started the search for cab companies in Levittown.
A reply from Heather, “hey! yes but about to be picked up to go to Sam’s w/m’dad. what’s up?”
“I took the Trenton line instead of west Trenton and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get to the Yardley station. I was hoping if I got off at Bristol you might be able to give me a ride.”
“ooh! where are you now?” she asked.
I tried to remember the name of the last stop, “Trying to catch the name of the next stop, I’m getting close I think.”
She responded instantly, “sure—I’ll tell dad I’ll meet him there. no worries! what’s your arrival time?”
“I think it’s the next stop.”
She texted, “It goes Bristol, croydon, eddington, cornwells heights…”
“We’re at Croydon now,” I texted back.
“Ok on my way!”
A few minutes later she rescued me from the heat and the wrong station. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see her. In addition to getting a ride to Yardley, we had a chance to catch up a little and she brought me some new reading material.
In some ways things haven’t changed much during the last year, I obviously haven’t lost my knack for getting lost and turning it into a story. I may still get lost, but there’s a huge difference in how I handle it. I laugh instead of cry and I reach out to friends instead of panic.
Two wrong stations in one day might just be a record for me, although I’m not sure it tops winding up in the wrong state.