Waking up at 12:45 a.m. on a Friday to shower, shave and put on a suit is not my usual routine, so to say I was out of sorts would not be a lie.
It was an inauspicious start to the trip to Washington, D.C. as the 1:43 a.m. Long Island Rail Road train on Feb. 27 was roughly 20 minutes late getting to the Copiague station. The LIRR was having a worse time as two train-related accidents the day before — one that killed three people — resulted in chaotic travel on the commuter system.
A wave of desperation washes over you when the only train between its scheduled time and 3:38 a.m. is a train that doesn’t seem to be coming. As I weighed my options — speed to Hicksville, drive to the city, surrender to the travel gods and watch the House Oversight Committee hearing on C-SPAN from home — the Babylon train that was — you guessed it — about 20 minutes late from Penn Station — pulled into Copiague.
The only other person on the platform asked a conductor about the 1:43 a.m. train; the conductor said it will be arriving in five minutes. To me and the other man it seemed manna fell from heaven. Finally seeing the train’s headlight round the bend was a huge sigh of relief.
Getting into Penn Station 20 minutes late cut off the waiting time in the Amtrak area for the 4:40 a.m. train to Washington’s Union Station. If you are expecting a smooth ride, let me end your dream right now. The train jolts, pulls, pushes, rattles and shakes. The effect is akin to being in a dry washing machine.
After a brief nap, I awoke to daylight at 6:43 a.m., a much better feeling than seeing the cold darkness of night. Found an article on journalism in the Amtrak magazine, my lucky day?
Edgewood station in Maryland at 7:10 a.m. You see people running for the train and remember for me it’s an adventure, others are just trying to get to work on time.
In D.C., easily grabbed a taxi and within minutes was outside the Rayburn Building. After a roundabout route between the two sides — House and Senate — I see the craziness outside room 2154, where the hearing for Lawrence native Michael Cohen was taking place and headed up stairs to room 2247 — the Overflow Room.
House Oversight and Reform committee Chairman Elijah Cummings banged the gavel at 5:17 p.m. to end the proceeding. I collected my laptop, camera and note pad. I headed downstairs to take in the craziness once more and saw Alex Wagner from the Showtime cable show “The Circus” and as I wheeled around Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was one of Cohen’s inquisitors earlier in the day, passed me by.
Once again, I easily got a cab and in minutes was back at Union Station. Grabbed a meal and relaxed. Killed time in a Hudson News store and bought the John Grisham novel “The Appeal” for the ride. Easy read for tired eyes.
Amtrak caught a tailwind and the 10:37 p.m. was four minutes early. On the 10:45 p.m. LIRR train to Babylon and was home by midnight, what a whirlwind.