Meeting Mr. Train Station

“We’re here, last stop,” he said.

I blinked my eyes open, “Where’s here?”

The man in the Septa uniform replied, “West Trenton, we’re in West Trenton Ma’am.”

“That’s not here, that’s there…I’m supposed to be in Yardley.”

The assistant conductor took one look at my giant purple suitcase, carry on duffel bag, and lap-top case and said, “Let me see what I can do for you, these bags are going to be a lot of work for you to get off and on the train.  Maybe the conductor will let you just move to the front car and stay on the train while we turn around.”

No such luck, as it turned out the conductor was new and a ‘by the rules’ kind of guy, so they very nicely helped me and my bags out of the train and onto the platform.  The assistant conductor let me know that they’d be back in about twenty-five minutes and there were two ways to get to the other side of the platform.

He pointed toward a staircase and said, “The ‘safe’ route is to go down the stairs, through the tunnel and back up the stairs.  The other way is to wait until the freight train is gone and cross over the tracks.  I suggest the safe way.”

I managed to get my bags down two flights of stairs with the help of a young woman who grabbed my duffel bag and stayed out of the way while I manhandled my suitcase down the stairs. (It seemed like a great idea to buy a suitcase that is half as tall as I am at the time I bought it.  What can I say, it has wheels!)

I let myself take a breath as soon as we reached the fresh air; relieved that the tunnel wasn’t as long as some of the more frequented tunnels in the L train stations in Chicago or the subway in NYC.

One of the things I find interesting is the variety of train stations, there are no two alike.  The one in Yardley is more like a bus stop and provides little shelter from the weather.  Others have vending machines, restrooms, and heat.  The West Trenton station is somewhere in the middle.  I didn’t know what to make of the man sitting on the bench propped against a large duffel bag.  He was larger than most men, his clothes were clearly tattered, and his face wasn’t completely visible under his hood.

Being a woman traveling alone, I opted for the unlit bench outside the station rather than going inside where it had to be warmer.

“Miss, it’s cold out here.  You got at least 20 minutes before the next train comes.  Come inside where it’s safe and warm.”

Over the course of the next twenty minutes I learned about the best place in the station to sit when it’s cold as well as when it’s hot.  The free spirit who sat across from me was retired from the military and had plenty of stories to spare; including the one about the charger he built for the batteries for his Walkman.

“Yep, I built this here charger for my battries, they’re for my Walkman.  Last week some crazy fool thought I was building a bomb.  Why people got to be so crazy?”

I didn’t know what to do other than smile.

At 6:02 he said “Your train is here miss, now don’t you go falling back asleep.  It’s only a three minute train ride to Yardley.”

He held the door open for me, the conductor and assistant conductor met me on the platform and put my bags on the train.

“You just met Mr. Train Station. He knows every train schedule, every train stop, and every nuance between here and the end of the line,” said the assistant conductor.

“Huh…  Is he homeless or does he just like to ride the train?” I asked.

“We’re not sure what his story  is, but he’s there every day.  Some days he rides the train and some days he just stays in the station.  He always has his fare, is a true gentleman, and seems happier than most of us do.”

His comments gave me some interesting food for thought.

I’ve come a long way from being so nervous I could barely stand to read a page of a book for fear of missing my stop to falling asleep, missing it, and not panicking.  I’d have to say I’m glad I met Mr. Train Station, but I don’t think I’ll miss my stop again.

2A is not 2B

Track 2_section A

Today I took a trip into Philly for a new and different reason.  For once the butterflies in my stomach weren’t about missing the train.  In fact I didn’t even triple check the number assigned to my parking spot at the Yardley train station.

The ride into Center City was uneventful with the exception of the sudden outbursts that made me glad my kids are no longer under the age of five. In spite of the overly loud reprimands, I managed to stay focused on the “page turner,” Google AdWords for Dummies, by Howie Jacobsen, Joel McDonald, and Kristie McDonald.

Last month one of my unofficial dreams became very official and was the reason for my afternoon jaunt into Philadelphia.  For a while now I’ve wanted to earn a living doing something I love.

I’d spent months considering the path of freelance writing for magazines only to remain discouraged and unmotivated.  I just couldn’t get excited about generating a bazillion ideas, submitting at least as many query letters to editors, and having a fraction of the work actually published.

This summer I realized I was overlooking the obvious. It dawned on me that I had an opportunity to marry my love of writing with my business and technical experience in a way that I could earn a living.  Not only that, it was a perfect chance to help people.

Last month I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and introduced myself for the first time as the owner of Discover Your Customers.  During the midst of my rambling and less than eloquent introduction I made a mental note to work on my elevator pitch.

The first person I met was Bonnie, the organizer of the round table meeting.  Our initial conversations were emails and LinkedIn messages exchanged by a couple of night owls.  Not only did we hit it off in person and are already brainstorming workshops – she is the reason for my trip; which was to meet with a prospective new client.

I’d heard about the power of social networking and now I’m an even bigger believer than before.  During the aftermath of Sandy I got an email from Bonnie.

“Hey there,

Hope you made it through the storm without too much difficulty – do you have power?

I just heard from a woman named Linda — she was referred to me
by someone I’ve never met in person, but I’ve connected with from LinkedIn (her name’s Susan). Susan does web writing, but was too busy and told Linda to try me — but that’s not my thing, so I told her I’d check with some of the people I knew…so that’s what I’m doing. :)”

Wow, so someone I met through an online social network and happened to hit it off with in person had just introduced me to a potential client.  The very next day I got a phone call and and email.

Linda and I arranged a time to meet and with more than a few butterflies to keep me company, I followed my instincts and headed into the city.  It turns out the angst was all for naught; the meeting went well and I’m fairly certain another connection has been made.

I was so pleased about how the meeting went that I forgot to engage my travel neurosis and check, check, and check again routine.  Instead, I calmly slipped into the last seat on the bench and waited on platform 2B for my 4:25 pm train back to Yardley.  Never mind the fact that I knew I was supposed to be on 2A, it just never occurred to me to check both the track and the section number.

train arrival board

I saw a red bench, the number 2, and naturally assumed that since it was the first platform I saw, it must be 2A.  I was baffled when the 4:25 train flew by me instead of stopping. After a few moments of perplexed consideration I realized that 2B was not to be and I made my way to 2A.

track 2A

As it turns out, it was a happy accident.  The 4:47 train was an express, not a local – which meant I got home at almost the same time as I’d planned for, the train was more comfy, and I had a story to tell.

I may be well on my way to being a successful business owner, but I think there are some things that will never change.