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The Penn Station I know...
Old 04-09-2017, 06:28 AM   #1
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The Penn Station I know...

Thousand of people travel through Penn Station each day, paying little attention to it; They purposefully go about their business like robots rushing to the crowded subways. I was once one of them, walking on autopilot, always conscious of the time, the route well worn into my brain. Unlike the many I've seen and was briefly a part of that massive building's secret, its seedy underbelly and it was unforgettable.

I was working for the Long Island rail road as a summer parlor car attendant working weekends. Those two days work paid as much as a week in a local job in a restaurant . There was the Friday trip out to Montauk and the Monday morning return trip, the dreaded early AM Monday Green port to Hunters Point Ave coffee run and the incredible bar car. I don't recall how I discovered it but if you called the crew dispatcher an additional day's work might be picked up here or there. It was one of those calls that had me at Penn Station one faithful day so long ago.

They said to report to track three and meet Frank; Those minimal directions would have me a bit puzzled. I would learn that the Long Island RailRoad offered rolling bar carts on some of its electric trains. Track three was where those carts were restocked. I found Frank near the end of platform where there was a lockable room stuffed with cart supplies like miniatures, limes, lemons and beer. Oh yes lots of beer.

Frank locked the room and said he needed to show me how the elevators worked. The elevators allowed the somewhat bulky carts to be moved from track to track. The ancient steam freight elevator on track three was a rather large affair, dimly lit and all banged up. I would later learn they were all the same. To go down you lifted up a bar and put the crushed beer can in the appropriate position. Frank said to be careful sometimes the shaft would fill with water. Visions of a struggling Ray, a dirty water filled elevator and horrible drowning death filled my mind.

We descended slowly and the elevator stopped with a lurch. Frank opened the the door and we stepped out into a dimly lit corridor of sorts. I quickly noticed the network of leaky steam pipes above us, the puddles on the floor and the grimy cement walls. Frank said it was easy to get lost down here and never step in any of those puddles because you just don't know how deep they are. He then shined his flashlight into one particular crack in the wall. The light revealed a swirling mass of roaches - I thought to myself this place was truly hell on earth. Frank said he had found dead vagrants down here. I though sweet Moses what's next.

So I worked my shift, scared to death, helping the cart guys, who really didn't need help, get to track three. Always careful not to step into a bottomless puddle. Frank said go meet Joe. So I took the elevator down terrified that I'd see one drop of water. I got out and waited. It gave me time to further study this god awful place. I didn't dare move or touch anything. I soon developed a fear that something nasty would drop on me from above. I'm sure that what felt like an eternity was only a couple of minutes when I heard something. Kind of a whining noise. Given my frame of mind that noise had me thinking what in gods name is that? It got louder and louder - Should I run for it?

Joe pulled up in an electric truck of sorts. It had a long flat bed. Joe said jump on and I did. The cart was deceptively fast and Joe an expert at both driving and navigating the maze of tunnels. I hung on for dear life - I thought if I fell off I'll never find my way back. Some how we we arrived at a loading dock where a delivery of booze awaited us. The truck was loaded and Joe took off and soon deposited me and my load at my starting point.

When my relief Tim arrived, another summer college, kid joe asked his relief to 'show the kid the tunnels'. They were gone for a while, when they returned Tim's ashen face revealed that he too had seen Hades and lived its nightmare. Welcome to the club Tim I thought.

I got home that night and said nothing - having neither the words nor the desire to talk about it. I slept deeply that night - tension can exhaust you just like a hard days labor.
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Old 04-09-2017, 09:00 AM   #2
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I love these posts! What year was this?

I had an office in 2 Penn Plaza, right above the station.
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The Penn Station I know...
Old 04-09-2017, 03:20 PM   #3
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The Penn Station I know...

Quote:
Originally Posted by walkinwood View Post
I love these posts! What year was this?
I had an office in 2 Penn Plaza, right above the station.


Thanks, funny but a bunch of people read my first one and had no comment.. I believe the year was 1972 and I was fresh out of High School and as green as they come. I guess I write them to get a chuckle about how naive we are in our youth.
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Old 04-09-2017, 06:54 PM   #4
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I was laughing while reading this. Good story.
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Old 04-10-2017, 10:16 AM   #5
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awesome, i remember playing pinochle, smoking a cigar and having a cocktail on the train. those days are gone forever
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Old 04-11-2017, 12:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Blue Collar Guy View Post
awesome, i remember playing pinochle, smoking a cigar and having a cocktail on the train. those days are gone forever


Indeed they are but they were special..
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