Wednesday, September 2, 2009

(or, The One that Got Away)

So, you're in your car waiting for the crossing guard to go up. But instead of seeing a train, you see some guy running down the tracks. That was me. Continue reading to find out why.

One of the places where I once lived was just a few blocks away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is the same museum with all the steps that “Rocky” ran up in his first movie.

Every year, Philadelphia puts on a fantastic fireworks display for Independence Day right in front of the museum. This was very convenient for me, since most everyone else has to contend with the worst traffic jam of the year.

One year, I met a girl during the fireworks event. It had started to rain when I spotted her. Rather than try to come up with a line, I offered to share my umbrella with her and she accepted. She lived far away, but said she would be at a certain nightclub the following weekend that was halfway between each of our homes. So, that weekend, I hopped on the train and went. At the closest stop, I was still a good distance from the club and didn’t have enough excess money for a cab, so I walked.

I never did find her there (the first “one that got away” that night). There were so many people that I have no idea if she was there or not. It was not my kind of scene but I stayed for a while to do some people watching before the walk back to the train station. As I walked, I realized it was near the time for the last train, so I began to run. I got near the station and saw the train, so I ran at full speed. The train was only 30 meters away when it began to move. I kept running. Now I was running on the tracks after the train in the middle of the night and I was wearing brand new leather walking shoes.

These trains are relatively slow and I was a distance runner, but the train was beginning to pull away from me. Off in the distance I could see the lights from the next station, so I put in a little more effort. The train stopped and I was getting closer, 100M, 50M, 25M, and then it started again.

Well, I don’t quit easily, so I kept running. The train crossed a road and before the crossing guards went back up, I crossed the road as well. There was a car there waiting. They probably got a kick out of seeing me cross the road like another train.

We approached another station and again I couldn’t quite reach the train in time. And then again at the next station. This time, I was a good distance away when the train pulled away. I knew I would be even farther away at the next station, so I stopped. Another one that got away.

I had no idea where I was. There was a main road going in about the same direction as the tracks, so I took it. My new shoes were now well broken in.

I knew that I was still way too far from Philly to walk, so I decided to catch a bus. I stood at the bus stop and, although it was late at night, I didn’t have to wait long. I waved but the bus didn’t stop. Then I realized that its route didn’t use this stop but I could see another one up the road with different route numbers. So, I went to the next stop and waited for another bus. Some time passed before the next bus and, wouldn’t you know, it stopped at the place where I had been but not at the place where I was now. How much longer before the next bus and where will it stop? Is this another one that got away?

I began to walk.

OK, buses are out and walking isn’t going to do it and I need to sleep eventually. Time to hitchhike.

Well, it's now 2:00 in the morning but there is still an occasional car. The only problem it's a fast road and people aren’t seeing me in time to stop. I got a few honks and a “Hey sweetie,” but no one stopped. (Now why would someone yell “Hey sweetie” and then not stop? I don’t get that.)

Now I’m thinking about where I will sleep for the night. While I’m deciding, I am still walking with my thumb out. And then I hear a car slowing down. It stops. I run to the car and look in. It’s a guy with a shirt from the Jersey shore – the kind I was selling the summer before. It had the sleeves cut off with a picture of a woman in a bikini and some sexual text. It said things like “Wine me, dine me, 69 me” and “No muff too tuff, we dive at 5.” This is not something a respectable person would wear. I got in anyway. (My apologies to the people reading this who happen to own such a shirt.)

He wasn’t going into Philly but he was going near the last subway stop on the “El” (the elevated line). That was perfect since that was the train that went closest to my house.

Fortunately, the subway runs all night and there is only about 25 minutes between trains. It was still a very long ride and I had to walk a little ways after I got to my stop, but I slept in my own bed that night. At least that one didn’t get away.


Lauren Barr said...


Your story-telling ability is certainly one that didn't "get away!"


Anonymous said...

I may have been that guy watching you whizz by....I'm still laughing.

mike said...

good one

Evan Barr said...

This event happened in 1984. Now my kids ask me to read this to them occasionally. I skip the part about the shirt from Jersey.

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