On Heavy Rain and Transit Nightmares

Today I took a nap.

That was not in the day’s plan. The day’s plan included going to work. Unfortunately, the weather and MTA Maryland had different ideas in mind.

In the mornings, when I drive to work, I reach an intersection where I have a choice to make. Go left, and I get on the Beltway and drive to work. Go straight, and I drive to the subway station and take the trains to work. If I have a lot on my plate, I’m more likely to drive to work. If the weather is likely to be really bad, I’m more likely to drive to work. If I don’t have a lot to do at the office, if I don’t feel the need to urgently get to work, if I feel like doing writing or reading on the train, I’ll take the subway and Light Rail.

This morning…

I didn’t have a lot to do. Train.
I had a book to read in my bag. Train.
Rain was likely. Drive.
But rain was also supposed to be light and intermittent. Train.

So I drove straight, went to the subway station, parked on the sixth floor, and bought my ticket.

The subway train runs down the middle of 795, and as the train approached the Beltway I saw that traffic was stacked on 795 and the Beltway. I’d made the right choice. I hate sitting in traffic. I especially hate the Beltway when it’s clogged.

The train reached State Center and I disembarked. As I stepped from the subway station into the open air, rain fell. I had no umbrella; it was back in my car at Owings Mills. (The weather forecast on the radio had said rain “in the afternoon.” Near-nine o’clock was not “in the afternoon.”) But the rain was not heavy, and I didn’t feel especially damp even when I walked the block and a half, crossing Howard Street, to the Light Rail stop.

That was at ten minutes to nine. I expected a train at or near nine o’clock.

At 9:09 I pulled out my phone and tweeted: “Waiting in the rain for the Light Rail train #mtafail” (That hashtag, by the way, is used daily by New York metro riders. I like muddying the hashtag waters with my tales of Baltimore MTA woe.)

This was no ordinary rain, however. It was a dark rain, a heavy rain, full of lightning and thunder. It fell hard and fast and in heavy drops. It was the kind of rain I associate with hurricanes. It was the kind of rain that takes your breath away. It was the kind of rain that displaces air and drowns the world. That was the morning’s rain.

At 9:14 someone at the stop said that they’d just gotten off the phone with MTA; the Light Rail system was flooded and not running. This was not posted on the MTA website or on their Twitter feed, however.

This was followed, a few minutes later, with: “Someday I might possibly get to work; of course, I’ll be bloody drenched by then.”

I checked the MTA website. Apparently, shuttle busses were running. I tweeted, “It’s wonderful that Shuttle Buses are running; it would be more wonderful if they would actually appear.”

At 9:41, MTA Maryland tweeted: “Due to flooding- shuttle buses operating between North and Woodberry Stations & Camden and Patapsco Stations. More info at mta.maryland.gov.” North Avenue was two stops north of State Center/Cultural Center. Camden was many stops south. This message implied, at least I thought it implied, that there would be trains in between. Surely. (Though, it did occur to me that, with the way the schedule works, there might not have been a train in between North Avenue and Camden.) In short, this message only instilled more confusion and it gave no insight as to whether or not I’d be moving at any point.

Five minutes later, a southbound train, heading for the airport, appeared. The rain was slacking off, the clouds were breaking up, and trains were running. But still, nothing northbound.

Thirty minutes later, I gave up waiting.

I e-mailed my boss, and I told him I was bagging it for the day.

It was already quarter past ten. I had no idea if I would ever get to work on the Light Rail. I could go back to Owings Mills and get the Beetle, but it would take me until at least eleven o’clock to do so. Then I might get to work between 11:30 and noon, and by that point the day has been well and truly shot.

I had the sick time and the vacation time. The morning had been wasted, why not write off the rest of the day as a loss?

The truth is, I had almost nothing to do at the office today. The Monday after the order forms go to press is usually very quiet for me; there’s a spreadsheet to import into the software, and that’s about it. And it doesn’t even need to be done on Monday. I’d even thought about taking the day off anyway — I’d gone out of town for the weekend, and I was bloody exhausted when I got home last night — but I felt good in the morning and ready to face the world.

The universe just had other plans.

I came home. I took a nap. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a nap.

Tomorrow will be a better day. A more productive day.

And, hopefully, not such a wet day.

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