Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Hawthorne

Every morning I start out my day taking Metro-North down to White Plains. Now one would probably assume that White Plains is the closest train station to my work, but the fact is that it is not. Mount Pleasant is actually the closest, but as it isn’t a regular stop, the closest train station would be Hawthorne. The place I work for has a shuttle bus that goes to and from White Plains though, so it is easier for me. But there are the occasional times where I end up going to Hawthorne or Valhalla, like when I leave work early and such. So although I am not a regular rider from the station, I am a bit more familiar with it than many of the other stations I’ve visited on the tour. I’ve seen it on the sunny days, and even on the snowy days. I am always curious about the changes going on at the station, such as the coffee shop that is supposed to be arriving at some point in the station building. And I was rather excited when the flowers arrived, along with the new clock in front of the station (which in my photos below had yet to be revealed).

Original Hawthorne station, circa 1900. Note the sign on the front which lists the distance in miles to each end of the railroad, in Chatham on one end and in New York City at the other. A similar sign still exists at Mount Kisco.

When the New York & Harlem Railroad first began making stops here in the 1840’s, the station was named Unionville. If the current name of Hawthorne evokes the memory of an American author, you are certainly on the right track (no pun intended). In 1901 Unionville became Hawthorne, honoring Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, daughter of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rose became a nun and was known as Mother Mary Alphonsa, founder of a home for those suffering from incurable cancers.

Below are some of the photos I took in Hawthorne at my last visit (which was sometime around July). The clock had recently arrived, the sky was an amazing shade of blue, and the flowers were blooming. In fact I think one of my favorite photos that day was the one of the flower. Although many of the stations I’ve visited I may never go to again, I’ll be checking up on Hawthorne in the future, as I’m eagerly awaiting the new coffee shop… and I’ll probably have to do a before and after of the little station building.


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White Plains, Level 8, My new favorite place

Despite the fact that I started this blog to talk about all the crazy people I see on the train, I don’t really do it all that often anymore. But that is not to say I still don’t see crazy people. The coat guy is still around in White Plains, sporting his new favorite accessory: a big red cowboy hat. I rode in this morning with a skinny guy that dreams of being a bodybuilder. He had about ten bags, along with a few magazines that had photos of greased up men with muscles so enormous they must be taking steroids. The seat next to him he used as a table, as he buttered his bagel and mixed up his protein shake with the cup of milk he purchased from Starbucks. Bag Lady still rides the shuttle bus, as does the whiny girl that moans in some foreign language on her cell the entire ride. Yesterday I had to sit through the entire shuttle ride listening to her whine – she does not talk, she whines – and she continued to do so in the waiting room of the train station. I couldn’t stand to hear it anymore, so I went exploring.

There aren’t too many places in the White Plains train station I’ve never been. But I figured, why the hell not, I’ll go to the top of the parking garage. Up at the 8th level you can look down at the city of White Plains, listen to the rumble of the diesel engines as they head to Wassaic, and hear the whine of the M7 as it brakes and stops. And besides all the bits of trash (used condoms, eew) it is actually kinda nice up there. And quite peaceful, since I never seem to see anybody up there. Anyways, here are some photos of the view, morning and evening.

You know, the only thing I’m afraid of now is that someone is going to see me up there looking down and think I want to jump. Thats the last thing I need – cops coming after me. With all the stories I hear about photographers getting arrested and such for taking pictures, I really have a fear of the police, and I don’t trust them one bit.

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The Attempted Hijacking of Bus 702

This morning marked the arrival of our new shuttle bus. Within minutes of waiting, however, it seemed as though we were about to get hijacked by a masked man. Upon further scrutiny it seemed as though we were mistaken: it was just another passenger waiting out in the bitter cold for a bus that was going to be late. Typical.

Though the new bus is nice, I must admit. It turns out that the robot man is not our driver, it is some other guy. And we thought the robot drove slow, this as yet un-nicknamed fellow is even slower. Even poor bag lady missed her train (boo hoo). Just the part that the bus no longer picks us up in front of the train station isn’t the most fun. At least there you could wait in the vestibule, which is at times warmer even than the waiting room. Now we get picked up across the street by the Greyhound stop, and thus have no warm place to wait. (and now I deserve a good sarcastic boo hoo for myself).

Another side effect of the cold weather is that the pigeons begin to sneak inside the train station. I had been wondering where they were for a month or so now. Most people think pigeons are dumb, but they have to have some smarts to know they’d rather be inside than out in the cold, and practice amusing methods of getting in. I hadn’t seen any of them inside until today. A pigeon tore through the upstairs waiting room earlier this evening, flying over the people waiting for their (late) trains. Just in general freaking people out. Terrorizing the train riders, though today nobody ran off screaming. One of these times I need to capture that on video.

After writing all of this, it seems that everything is pretty normal over in White Plains. But on the home front, Goldens Bridge, it seems that everything is not. Here we don’t have pigeons, but people terrorizing the station. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the obnoxious area skater kids, drunk on a weekend with nothing else better to do. They’re probably the ones to blame for the graffiti I mentioned before (and some new graffiti that appeared this afternoon), but maybe not for the weekend’s escapade of kicking in all the glass panels on all the doors of the south side vestibule. Maybe it was creepy, perpetually drunk Santa Claus. Who knows? Though, uhh, Metro-North? I can live with the fact that you never wash the windows. I suppose I will live, albeit a little frustrated, when you don’t clean up the graffiti. But umm… will you at least fix the glass? Is this train station even safe? Should I be carrying mace around on my keychain?

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Farewell, Jose

Here I am yet again, sitting on my train, netbook in hand, enjoying my time. I don’t know about most people, but I figure the good majority don’t enjoy riding the train. Some times, riding the train is the high point of my day. On the train I can people watch, and there certainly are a bunch of crazies. The garden variety drunks and people who talk to themselves, all the way to the OCD folks that find it impossible to eat anything orange. Who decide to eat M&Ms. And are on the platform surrounded by discarded orange candies that they couldn’t bring themself to ingest. The train gives me plenty of time to do things that most normal people would have difficulty fitting into their day. Blogging perhaps. Without the train there is probably no way that I would have ever been able to read more than fifty books in one calendar year alone. That is more books than some people even read in their lifetimes.

On the other hand, buses I don’t really enjoy quite as much. Taking a shuttle bus is another portion of my commute to work, a portion I don’t discuss quite as much. The people on the bus pretty much are the same every day, which is good and bad. Good in that I have friends to ride with, but bad in the respect of people watching and catching a glimpse of some random amusing person that just happens to be on my train that day.

Over the past fifteen months or so since I started taking the bus, the number of bus passengers has increased steadily. Enough so we now require two buses, the original “Summit” bus, whose driver is a nice guy named Jose, and another new bus. We have different names for this second bus: the cocktail bus, due to the fact that in the front there is a table with cupholders, or my personal favorite, the robot bus. Robot bus, because the man that drives the bus has a very slow, slightly too loud monotone that he speaks in, prompting me to nickname him “The Robot.”

Unfortunately it seems come the new year we will be getting a new, larger bus, instead of two smaller buses. This is unfortunate because it means we will go back to having only one driver. And it appears that the driver is not going to be Jose. It will probably end up being the Robot Man. And this is despite the fact that most people prefer Jose, in fact my friends will wait for Jose if he is not the first bus to arrive. And he gets you to the train station on time. Not to say he drives too fast, but he doesn’t take the most roundabout and slow way of getting to the station that the Robot does. Plus Jose is always kind, for example, in the rain or a bad storm instead of dropping us off at the “designated bus stop” he drives us right up to our buildings. True, these are simple things, but he is a good guy. We asked Jose was going to happen with him, and he said he would probably get stuck driving a bus route in Connecticut instead, and that he really isn’t too keen on that. Anyways, Jose, you will be missed.

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It’s Wednesday… Let the Crazy People Run FREE!

Did someone let the nutter bus loose today? Was the local asylum giving out day passes? We had some delightful numbskulls today getting in fights on speakerphone in the waiting room, and an amusing man wearing a New York Times badge that was having difficulty hearing on his phone. Of course when you have difficulty hearing, the only solution is to stick your finger in your ear, find the nearest corner, and go stand facing the corner while resting your head against the wall for support. Can you hear me now?

I like to read and mumble. And then get on my speaker phone and get into arguments, which I am sure everyone loves to hear!

I can’t stand some people’s UGGly boots, but there are some that just make no sense to me at all. These boots are so hairy it looks like an old, brown poodle died on each of your feet.

Every time Santa Claus Man treks up the stairs at Goldens Bridge, he thinks in his mind, ‘I can reach the unreachable star!’ because just going up a flight of stairs when you are that drunk might as well be climbing Mount Everest.

Ah, good old Sleeper Kid. I have to give him credit, at least he isn’t trying to eat and sleep at the same time any more.

I have no pictures for this one, so instead, I will leave you with a story:
This week marks the return of this rather large and obnoxious woman. She rode the shuttle bus last year, and then all of a sudden disappeared. Honestly, I had hoped she got fired. I guess she didn’t, because now she is back. Maybe she just rides the bus in the winter for some odd reason. I don’t really know. Either way, she is dead set about being the first person to get on the bus. She can and will push aside any other person in her way to be the first person on the bus. As witnessed this evening, if she is sitting in a seat and there is another open seat right next to her, her fat ass is not moving an inch. Our building complex now has two shuttle buses, but for the longest time we had only one. Before we got the second bus, extra people would have to stand in the aisles if there were not enough seats. Now that we have two buses, people that don’t fit in the seats on the first bus are required to wait five minutes or so for the other bus to come around. Tonight there was an extra seat on our bus, but because fat ass didn’t want to move her butt, that person had to stand in the bitter cold until the other bus came around. And then she had the audacity to laugh about how cold it was outside, and that she couldn’t have waited another minute out there. When someone said to her that there was one more seat, she said, “Who gon’ fit dere?” If someone can’t fit there next to your fat butt, maybe that is your cue to go on a diet? For the record, as I am sure I will get a flame from someone about that, I do not have a problem with fat people, but I do have a problem with assholes.

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Please Do Not Touch Me (Part 2) & The Zoo

Some of my older readers may recall my mention of a man that stroked my knee while riding the Long Island Rail Road. I do not like touchy people. I do not want to be touched by these people. This morning I was really engrossed with a novel I am reading, hanging out on the benches at White Plains station, waiting for my shuttle bus to arrive. Apparently I was so engrossed that I didn’t see the shuttle arrive. A man, who also apparently rides the shuttle and looks to be a fairly new rider, walked over and placed his fingers on top of my hand, alerting me to the arrived shuttle. I sort of thought this was awkward. Never have we ever had a conversation before, and as of yet we still have not. He just touched my hand and then walked away. He could have say, spoke aloud, or if he was really intent on touching me to notify me, he could have tapped me on the shoulder, right? Perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so bothered by this incident, but it just felt rather awkward.

In other news, the train has been more like a zoo this week… in fact a man was so alarmed by this fact I saw him putting on bug spray prior to getting on the train! (okay, I exaggerate, but he was putting on bug spray!) Yesterday we had an adorable kitten by the name of Trouble. Today we had an obnoxious little dog, who knows what his name was. Not counting service dogs, I don’t really think animals have all that much place on the trains. Small animals either on the passenger’s lap or in a carrier I think are acceptable. But walking your dog on a leash in the train aisle is kind of dumb to me. I certainly hope she picked the dog up when exiting the train. Well, I am sure she did, otherwise I would have been hearing “oh come help, Fido fell in the gap, we need to save him!”

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The morning of silence… and no crazies to be seen.

This morning I arrived into White Plains train station and was surprised to note the downstairs benches were completely empty. Many times I find myself at this spot looking for an open spot, only to find the seats completely full. Or other times there are a few empty seats… but empty for a reason. People generally like to keep a distance from the station crazies… the winter coat man has been around frequently this week (despite some of the days being quite warm), deeply engrossed in conversation with himself. But not even he was around today. Complete emptyness. I wondered if today had been a holiday I was unaware of, and nobody had work…

Though I soon learned the lack of people was due to train delays… the delay announcer was stuck on permanent loop, reading the name of every train coming northbound from Grand Central. According to the radio on the bus, a train got stuck at Scarsdale station… and according to my friend who was apparently on that train, the first two cars actually had smoke in them. She showed up to work rather late and a bit dishevelled, and talked a bit about angry passengers demanding refunds. Didn’t hear much else other than that though… but hey, I’m not complaining. At least *I* had some peace and quiet :D

In other news, the campaign of passenger passive aggressiveness continues, and today we were rewarded with angry mumbling of “this is outrageous!” in addition to the normal angry glares. This situation will likely resolve itself in one of several ways… 1.) The lady drives her car to work, 2.) The lady takes the number six to work, 3.) The lady complains to the bus company about the passengers being assholes to her. Hmm, I have a feeling it will be number three. And of course the bus company would be too nice to reply to her and say, well stop being an asshole to the bus driver!

Before I go, one more additional observation… fried chicken may not be the best meal to eat on the train. Yes, I do get rather annoyed when people leave their food trash on the trains, you COULD just take it with you when you get off and throw it in the trash… but come on, ziploc bags full of your picked clean fried chicken bones? That is just nasty.

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The Passengers’ Passive Aggressive Response

Yes, I ride the Harlem Line. What I don’t mention as frequently is that I also ride an employee shuttle for folks that work in our building and surrounding buildings. The shuttle is always interesting… and there always seems to be some sort of drama. When I first started riding, the driver was a man named Evans Dempster. He was a very nice man, my first day on the job I was very confused about how to get from the train station to work. And then at work, all the buildings looked the same. Evans was kind and helpful when I needed the help… I was nervous as hell that day, and I owe him my thanks. Unfortunately a minority of passengers that ride the shuttle are extremely vocal and must enjoy complaining. They said he drove too fast, they said he drove too slow… eventually Evans got fed up enough with these idiots that he left and never returned. Which was rather unfortunate… Evans, if you ever happen to see this, thanks!

Sometimes the complaints were about other things than the driving. Our shuttle only seats twenty-five passengers, but many days we have more than that. People have to stand. A month or two ago a person called and complained about having people standing in the aisles. They didn’t like it. In response, the shuttle introduced a new rule… twenty-five only. If you didn’t have a seat you were kicked off. This pissed people off. This pissed me off. I regularly arrive ten to fifteen minutes before the shuttle arrives, and I always get a seat. But the kicking people off bit didn’t seem very fair. Where men once stood aside to allow ladies to go first, mutual respect went out the window. I had been predicting a fight to break out by the end of the week… but it didn’t happen. The “rule” was revoked after two days… but much speculation went on as to who exactly was the complainer. We’re pretty sure we figured it out…

Fast forward to last week… the bus was following a car that stopped short to turn, and they hadn’t used their turn signal. The bus driver braked, people got a little jostled. It was certainly not the driver’s fault in that incident… but the aforementioned complainer figured it was right about time to call up the shuttle company and complain yet again. This sort of made everyone else that rides the shuttle annoyed. We *like* the shuttle driver. He does a good job. Enough complaints could put his job in jeopardy… and that is wrong. So what can we do in a situation like this?

Sure we can say that the driver does a good job… but that lady that complains will always be around, and will always be vocal about it. So us riders decided to be a little passive aggressive towards this woman. She always is a tad pushy so she can be the first onto the shuttle, and selects the seat closest to the front so she can be the first person off the shuttle. Not being able to sit in the first row of seats really bugs her. Collectively a bunch of us riders decided that we would all sit in the front of the shuttle in order to push this lady to the back. It seems like a little thing to do, but it pisses her off, and we find it absolutely hilarious to see her get all huffy and annoyed.

Yesterday we pushed her back to the third row, but that was not good enough. Today we got the cooperation of twelve total riders in order to fill the first three rows of seats, pushing her back to the fourth row. In the time it took for everyone in the first three rows to leave the shuttle, this woman almost missed her train. Almost. Just enough to piss her off, to make her squirm. We had a good laugh about it, as she stared at us in anger.

Next time don’t be an asshole. And say thank you to your shuttle driver. Because if you have a problem with the shuttle, get your ass over to the Bee Line buses and take the fucking six.

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I tend to think that the media uses a bit too much fear mongering… especially with this whole Swine Flu thing. In case I just happen to die from the swine flu, remember those as my last words. :D

Anyways, here are some great pictures I took today of someone who may be a little bit too afraid… everybody panic!

Alright, it wasn’t just “someone” … it was a coworker, but even still, it is pretty funny. This is the guy I wrote about before who has the phobia of pigeons… so of course I had to tell him that it would be just his luck to not get swine flu, but bird flu.

I’ll definitely start to laugh the day that other employees here start wearing masks… again, I do think there is a little bit too much panic going on… our company has even introduced some new “operating rules” due to swine flu:

  • Business travel to and from Mexico is prohibited.
  • No visitors are from Mexico are to be received by any ******** employee. Any such meetings are to be conducted by video conference or other such means.
  • Personal travel to and from Mexico is discouraged. Any employees who have or will be traveling to Mexico may not report back to work until a seven day quarantine period has passed after their return.
  • My prediction however, is that the second person to die in the United States from Swine flu, will not be a person that actually has the illness. The person will sneeze while riding public transportation, and will be beaten to death by panicking passengers.

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    Reminder to Self: Don’t Go to Sleep. Ever.

    After getting off the train in White Plains the place I work at has a shuttle that picks us up and takes us to Valhalla, where I work. I was pretty tired this morning, and had a rather nice nap on the train ride down. The shuttle bus was another story however… As we arrived at work, and I was attempting to wake myself up, I hear… “I’m your prince, I have to give you a kiss to wake you up!” Save me please!

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