Commuting around New York and New Jersey-or Not

A Commuter's Tale: Proud Mary, I get it

By Anthony Buccino

There are always people milling at Port Authority bus terminal. They sit around, read newspapers, have coffee or wait to buy a winning lottery ticket out of this rat race.

"Left a good job in the city, la-di-da-dah."  I wonder if Fogarty had to wait ten minutes for a bus, take a 45-minute ride – on a good day – and then walk uptown for about 15 minutes from the Port Authority Bus Terminal dodging hundreds of early-rising tourists looking for the line in the skyline in Times Square from W. 42nd Street to W. 48th Street and Avenue of the Americas?

PABT NJ Transit Commuters Endure Delays- photo Anthony Buccino

In that short trip we leave the one-family homes in outer suburbia, pass the shuttered gas stations, the backside of one mall and the side view of another, cross a memorial bridge over the Passaic River, then tool along that river for a while until it's time to ride parallel to the highway-under-forever-construction project to Ridge Road at the ridge of New Jersey's great northern swamp. The swamp is a reminder of man's tinkering with nature. It was once a vast forest until the settlers decided the trees there made fabulous furniture.

We roll along a half-cloverleaf past the former drive-in theatre now business center and pass the new stadium that replaced the 40-year old stadium, onto the highway, the past-due arena and a blue striped boxy monstrosity that someday may become a mega mall if it doesn't sink into the muck and mire of earth and New Jersey politics.

Think of it as a piece of art to awaken sleepy commuters slogging towards the wizard in that city backlit by a glimmering sun. For homebound commuters it's a symbol of leaving behind all that is ugly and yet still stands while everyone fills their pockets and the construction never gets done.

For a while in the morning heading into the city our buses have their own lanes. We're actually driving in the left lane against oncoming traffic, yes, on the other side of the divided highway taking us all the way to the whirlwind helix leading into the tunnel named for our 16th president.

Unless you're riding shotgun or have a habit of staring out the driver's side window, the tight traffic pattern goes virtually unnoticed.  But it serves to move us quickly, a relative term, to our destination to two of the ugliest, yet functional buildings known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

This Seat Taken? Notes of a hapless commuter, by Anthony BuccinoInside the buses queue as far as the eye can see, stopping long enough to let out a few passengers, then pulling up, letting off a few more, repeat, rinse and spit.

And so you see the eager beavers rush to be the first off the bus at the earliest stops in the queue, they can then scoot down the stairwells and arrive at the west side of the terminal.

The longer you stay on the bus, the further east you travel. In the far east, you'll find the escalators that take you down a level, thus avoiding the crush of the stairwells.

Moving staircase or static steps, down a level and you end up on the mezzanine level where you must decide how to leave the building. If you debark the bus early you may walk the city-block width of the terminal at the mezzanine level or the first floor level. Or you may simply exit the nearby west doors to your destination. Each path has its own rewards and retailers.

There are always too many people milling around the station. They have time to sit around, read a newspaper, have coffee or breakfast, or wait in line to buy a magazine or a winning lottery ticket out of this rat race. Well, that is what it's all about. I mean we all want to get out of this rat race. We know the rats are winning. Remember that ugly blue-striped building?

We go to work every day so we can some day stay home and not go to work. There are plenty of good jobs in the city, plenty for us to leave when we get tired of the crowds, the endless walks, the broken sidewalks, tripping potholes, sudden-stopping tourists, Bible spouting commuters.

If we look long enough we'll see Murray the groundhog frolicking in the safe zone under the catenary wires. Murray is fat, dumb and happy. He doesn't have to commute to work in the city. Neither these days does Proud Mary, nor I. I write from home.

Happy trails.

Adapted from: This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter

First published on Write Side of 50 as A Commuter Tale (From Home)

Voices on the Bus, Train...

Copyright ©  2013 by Anthony Buccino

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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.

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