Sometimes your day isn’t the best one.

I am currently sitting on Amtrak train number 649 out of New York, NY heading to Harrisburg, PA. I am going home.
Not “home” in the sense of my clothes and my bed and my toys and my cat, but “home” as in that inestimable Homestead from whence I sprang oh-those-many years ago. Pennsyltuckey. Ma and Pa. The incubator of my impressionable younger self.
Normally, I take a rental car. Why, you ask? Well, because it ends up being cheaper, dear readers. To rent a car for five days is actually less expensive than a train ticket there and back for my lady love and me. (Oh, Amtrak, where has the hey-day of working-man train travel gone?) Plus, I get to drive right up to the house as opposed to making my folks pick me up at a train station 45 minutes away. So all in all, a better deal, no?
Oh, dear readers, today was fraught with peril from the first. I should have smelled it in the air but, alas, my olfactory organs failed me in this endeavor.
My gal and I went for lunch before I was to pick up the car (she has to work the rest of the week so she’ll be joining me and the fam on Friday eve to spend the weekend with us).
I put on my jaunty straw hat (heck – I’m going on a mini vacay!), strapped on my overstuffed backpack, and set out. Becca was dressed well because she has several auditions and meetings today in her very important arts-y life.Her hair was up and blown and her shoes were tall and suede.
We stepped outside in beautiful summer weather. This was going to be a good day.
We got on the subway and rode downtown. Then things got real.
We come up the stairs to find ourselves in the rain. Sigh. This is not what we wanted. Becca, ever-industrious, took out an umbrella from her bag. She took my poor little straw hat in hand and protected her hair and outfit as much as she could while we trudged to Panera Bread.
AFTER placing our order, our cashier informed us that all the tables were taken so they’d be giving us our food to go. Thanks, Mandy. Super helpful. I glanced out the window to see the sidewalk seating covered in water. Would we have to sit there? Or would we have to find somewhere else to go, under an awning maybe?
Luckily, the gods of NYC were still smiling upon us – or, at the very least, they were indifferent. We managed to secure the smallest table in the joint. It was at the back, crammed between the trash can and the restrooms. A swinging door about three feet led to the kitchen. By the time we left, a queue to pee had formed right beside us.
Forced out by an anxious young woman who had circled the entire seating area and who now asked us outright “Are you done?”, we left.
With the skies still spitting, my love and I parted ways. I carried my straw hat, trying to steer it clear of any noticeable raindrops. I walked a few blocks to Herald Square, where I picked up the uptown F. I got off at Rockefeller Center and walked another block to Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Now, I’ve rented cars often before, but never from Enterprise. Kayak.com told me they had the cheapest rate this time, though, so I listened to the price-comparing boating craft and made the reservation. I paid for it with my debit card, as I always do with other rental cars.
Anthony greeted me dressed in a white shirt and tie. He shook my hand and wanted to chat about the weather. This was a far-cry different than, say, Alamo, where half-asleep polo shirt-clad workers ask for your card as a form of greeting.
(Side note: I much prefer the half-asleep ones. I don’t like chit-chat, and I don’t like smiley customer service where I’m meant to feel like I’m special. I’m of the New Yorker mindset of get-in-get-out as quick as you can.)
Anyway, he asks for my card. I give him the card I paid with. He says, oh no, not a debit card. A credit card. I say, oh of course. This has happened before. They always like that credit card. Even though one may have a million dollars in your checking account, they want the card with a twenty-dollar limit. Even though I’ve prepaid for the reservation and the money was already taken out. C’est la vie.
I hand him one. Ooh, I’m sorry – do you have another one? This one didn’t go through. Brow furrowed, I give him another. The same story.
Then I think back:
My gal and I had just come from a vacation in Connecticut (more deets on that to come), but I know neither of my cards are maxed out… I used the card on vacay since its easier to track purchases. In fact, at the end of this month, I will rectify those purchases by including extra in my credit card bill payment.
Anthony: “We need enough for a $600 credit hold.”
I furrowed my brow again. I didn’t have $600 left on either one?? Embarrassed, I stepped outside to check some balances.
One had $387 left on it. Boo. The other had $589. Double boo. If I would have spent $11 less on vacation by card, this situation would be non-existent, and Anthony would be trying to sell me insurance by now.
Then I came up with a genius plan. Chortling with glee, I called up the credit card company. I told them the situation. I asked them if I could pay off a few hundred right now. They said certainly, but the credit balance wouldn’t reflect it until next month. Curses!!
Then another idea crossed my mind. Rushing back inside, I asked Anthony if I could give him a credit card number. I know that I could get somebody to give me their card number so I could place a credit hold on it. After all, it won’t be charged (unless I total the car, that is, but that’s beside the point). He shakes his head. No. It has to be swiped. And you really can’t take this bank card, which has Visa on the side, WHICH IS RUN AS A CREDIT CARD EVERY TIME I GO TO A BODEGA? Nope.
Drat and double drat!
Curse my paycheck-to-paycheck existence! Curse my what-I-thought-was good planning by putting everything for this last vacation on the card and then paying it off. Curse not looking ahead to see this coming.
Defeated, I informed Anthony that I needed to cancel my reservation. I think he took pity on me and didn’t charge me a cancellation fee (that I know of) and said I’d get my money back in about 24 hours. (Again, since I had already pre-paid!)
Then I looked at a train schedule. There was a train leaving at 2:11that got in at 5:35, and one leaving at 2:44 that got in at 6:35. Why two trains, otherwise exactly the same, on the same track, going to the same place, travel at different speeds, I do not know. I looked at the time. It was 2:00.
I could never make the 2:11, I told myself, so I decided on the 2:44. I came to terms with the fact that I’d be getting in an hour later.
I walked the block (in the rain) to the subway station. I went back down to Herald Square (from whence I had just come, mind you). I walked two blocks (in the rain) to Penn Station. I got there at 2:13. I went down and bought a ticket for the 2:44.
Then I see that the 2:11 is still boarding. I could have gotten in an hour earlier.
SIGH.
I wait the half-hour. Then our track is announced – 13. How auspicious.
We begin to file toward the track stairwell when someone taps me on the shoulder. It is a policeman wearing body armor. “Please step aside, sir, so we can check your bag.”
Great.
I go up to his compatriots, who stand ominously beside their terrorist-detector. They wear white gloves and trace my shoulder strap with a piece of cloth. Ah yes, I think. That’s where most people keep their bombs. Of course.
The machine does not give a reading, positive or negative. The policemen look at me as though I’ve broken the machine telepathically. I watch the line of passengers all board the train before me. They’re all picking their seats, siting where they want… The machine is turned off and back on. They rub the other shoulder strap. We wait patiently. The machine beeps. I pass. I am not a threat to Homeland Security.
They tell me I can skip the line. Happily, I go up to the Amtrak employee examining tickets at the stairway.
She scowls and tells me to get to the back of the line. I say I had my bag checked. She doesn’t believe me. I can see it in her eyes. But she lets me pass.
Wet, defeated, and embarrassed, I board the train.
Now, in my seat, I watch the rain fall. My phone just buzzed. Flash flood warning for most of the east coast.
Harrisburg, my destination, is right on the Susquehanna River. The train station has closed before due to flooding.
Here’s hoping I make it there, but today’s track record hasn’t been great.
Keep your fingers crossed.

UPDATE:
Around fifteen miles from Harrisburg, the train slowed to a crawl. It took us an hour to cover this distance due to “signal problems ahead.” I arrived fifty minutes late. Still pouring rain. Oof.

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Sometimes you go MIA for a bit while you’re playing war.

ConfusedSoldier2

Hello again, world!  So, it looks like it has been one day shy of an entire month since my last post.  Now, I did have a guest post in there (a big thank you to my lovely gal Becca for sharing her jury happenings) but as for my own words, it’s been awhile!

What have I been doing with this time, you might ask?  So much, dear readers, so much.

For those of you who are unaware, I serve in the Army National Guard, which takes me away for various bits of training here and there.  From August 3 – 20, I was at the frighteningly-named Warrior Leader Course, which is a school intended to make better leaders of those who are climbing the rank structure (i.e. – yours truly).  In said course, we sit in a classroom for two weeks taking tests on how to write a proper Army memorandum, how to conduct physical readiness training, how to march a squad of soldiers, how to present an oral brief, how to conduct small group training, and other terribly exciting subjects such as these.  Then, for two days, we go out into the woods with M-4s and fire a lot of blank rounds at people pretending to be bad guys as fake IEDs and mortar rounds blow up all around us while our instructors scream in our faces that half of our people just died because we took too long making a decision on how to attack the enemy.  Then we get a haircut and graduate.  Hooah.

Once back home, the proper apologies were made to the cat for leaving her fatherless for so long.  She was perturbed but appreciative.

Then the lady and I set off for a glorious five-day vacation in Connecticut!!  My next post will contain an abundance of abounding details of marvelous New England splendor.  Stay tuned!

Sometimes you have jury duty. (GUEST POST!)

Hey y’all. Before I interrupt your regular programming, I should tell you that the lovely Artie is off in Vermont doing his civic duty as a member of the US National Guard. I call this three week period “Sergeant School” because I genuinely have no idea what he’s actually doing. As for me? I’m the infamous “girlfriend.” That cat Artie posts about? Yeah, I spent $75 for that ball of fur (and all that to be bad cop to Artie’s good cop. Geez. Parenting is hard). So! How I have I kept busy during the month Artie has been away? In addition to performing in two shows off-off-Broadway (the big-time!) I was called for Jury Duty. Here is what happened.

1. The alarm goes off at 7:00am. It sucks. I make a cup of coffee and a smoothie, watch 15 minutes of Law & Order SVU (preparation) and then hike to the train. Because it’s early, the train is crowded. I have to stand, squeezed between a businessman and a large woman with an almost equivalently large purse.

2. Arrive at 71 Thomas Street around 8:50am. There’s already a line of jurors outside, so it’s not hard to find. Everyone looks tired. I shuffle through security with everyone else (just like at an airport, except minus the taking your shoes off part), and am pointed to a large room just down the hall.

3. The jury room. No pictures allowed, but imagine a low-ceilinged DMV in the basement of a library. Rows of semi-plush maroon chairs, all pointed towards a front desk. Fluorescents buzz overhead. There are four small nooks for computer use, which have likely been claimed by the first four people who were let into the building. No one wants to fight over outlets, but we know battle is imminent. We are here for 8 hours, after all.

4. Some eager beaver in the front row had apparently begun advising everyone to place their completed summons in a basket on the desk. This strange and amorphous cross-section of our fair borough follows the crowd like underslept lemmings. We eye each other, attempting to glean insight into what we’re supposed to do, and silently follow the crowd as though we knew all along what was going on.

5. At 9:00am sharp, a large black man in a suit made in that glorious NYPD blue appears behind the desk, which is now swarming with jurors dropping off summons, picking up questionnaires, and filling out forms. He grabs a microphone. “Good morning, jurors. I see that some of you have decided to deposit your summons and pick up these forms. PLEASE STOP DOING THAT. We haven’t told you what to do yet. Because of budget cuts, we can’t start any earlier than nine a.m. Sorry that was confusing.” Instantly, we shamed lemmings of all shapes and sizes swarm the front desk, attempting to grab back our summons. It’s an auspicious start to the day.

6. 9:30am. Another man, white, mustaschio-ed, also in NYPD blue, He takes up the microphone and begins our orientation. He’s nice and seems to have a sense of humor. He cracks jokes about coffee and assures us that it’s his intention to get us out as early as possible. The now-familiar refrain appears again: “Here are some pens… We’re running out because due to budget cuts getting new pens is much slower.” “You’ll be out of here at the latest at 5pm. Due to budget cuts, they’ll have a problem upstairs if they keep you any longer.”

7. 10am. Our jury orientation video cues up. I’m in the front row, so I can see well, but the screen is about as large as the one I have in my apartment, pinned to the back wall behind the desk. I have no doubt that the jurors in the back can’t make out a thing. As most films of this ilk do, the video starts with an artistic reenactment– this time, of medieval methods of justice, in which criminals were bound and tossed into water to see if they floated (guilty) or sank (innocent). Good start! Aren’t we all so glad justice doesn’t work like that anymore! Yay justice system!

8. We are orientated through till about 11:00am. I swear to you, I have NO idea what we even did, except that we were given incredibly detailed instructions and filled out some pretty damn confusing paperwork (“please detach D from A and B, but be sure to leave C untouched,” “if you are 100% on commission then you can get your fee, but if your company has more than 10 employees you get the fee from your company, however if you are being paid even though you’re here you’re not entitled to a fee…”)

9. Finally, we stumble into a long, long line to drop off our first questionnaires and our summons. This is an epically long line, and moves remarkably slow. An enormous cockroach appears on the ceiling and while one girl in a peplum shirt and tight jeans squeals, the rest of us silently curve around, making room for the insect in case it should detach and fall. None of us want a cockroach on our heads, but at some point, you just can’t care enough to scream.

10. The first attorneys arrive for jury selection. They are going to speak to all of us! This is going so well and so quickly! I can’t wait to hear about this case! The attorneys (three of them) introduce themselves and give basic info about the case (I can’t tell you!!). They then inform us that it will be a 4-6 week trial. We blanch. We have been told that the max is usually seven days. I’m game (sort of) except that I have a brief vacation scheduled for the week the trial is to begin. And I NEED MY VACAY. Out of a jury of over 125, only two people volunteer to enter the next round of interviews.

11. That’s the thing about this case, though. It’s nice that folks volunteered, but they are still going to interview each and every one of us to make sure that we, indeed, CANNOT commit to a case of this length. Our wonderful leader, the white mustaschioed gentleman who the chatty woman sitting behind me said “must have been an actor,” reads off a list of names (about a third of us) who would be the first interviewed. The rest of us are sent to lunch.

12. I scurry towards the exit behind the middle-aged man who had been sitting behind me in the jury area. He glances back with a smile as we pass through the doors. “I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.” “Me neither,” I reply gamely. My trusty iPhone directs me towards a cafe– one I’ve actually been to before, since about two years ago I did a show on Walker St. Though it’s only 11:45, I am starving, and I definitely need more coffee.

13. The cafe is nice, and I find a place to sit where I’m completely unobtrusive (like the delightful Artie, I don’t like spending a lot of time in the cross-fire of strangers. I prefer my own company, plus a book and my iPhone). I order an avocado sandwich (on whole wheat ciabatta with arugula, chipotle mayo, and sliced parmesan– Artie’s nightmare sandwich) and a large coffee (Artie’s nightmare beverage). I waste a solid hour and a half reading Lost Girls, a pretty solid nonfiction book by Robert Kolker.

14. I return to the jury room when I can no longer fake having a full cup of coffee. It’s about 1:15, and the security guard makes sure to remind me that nothing is going to happen till two. “Thanks,” I say, “I know.” A change of scenery, even from a cafe to a basement holding cell, is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

15. Around 2, Mr. Mustache returns and informs us they will continue with interviews from where they left off. Like at an EPA (Equity Principal Audition for you laypeople), he will line up the next group in the front section of seats, and as each is brought into the interview room, the group shifts down the chairs. My name still hasn’t been called, so I meander to Jury Room A, where I miraculously find an outlet. This truly is magical. I plug in my computer (and begin this post!!) and also charge my phone. Gotta text Artie the details, ya know.

16. This is already too long so I’ll skip to the fun part.

17. Around 3pm, my name is called to line up for the interview. I am nervous! What? Why?! This is not an audition or a test. This is an interview where some people decide whether or not they want me to be in the next round of jury selection. Really. Nerves are ridiculous. But there I am, holding my juror card and my questionnaire in my hot little hand, shaking like a kindergartener on the first day of class. We shift down the seats gamely, and I inch towards the final seat… the conduit to the interview room.

18. My turn. I head into the room and don’t know what to do. I’m used to auditions, where it’s clear– you walk in, say a friendly hello, do your sides or monologue, say thanks, and leave. They already have your headshot and resume, plus all your info. You just do your job and are outta there! Instead, I awkwardly drop my backpack on the floor beside my chair, and sit down uncomfortably. I didn’t know what they wanted, so I awkwardly shove my juror card and questionnaire towards the lawyers at the desk.

LAWYER: “So, what’s your conflict?”

BECCA: “Uh, I have a vacation? From August 21 through August 26? It’s the only one I get all year. And I work at a university, which starts up again the 27, so… I… you know, it’s totally crazy around that time of year?”

LAWYER: “Have you paid for anything? Plane ticket? Hotel? Anything?”

BECCA: “Well, we’re just going to be in CT, but we’ve already rented a car, so…”

LAWYER: “And what is your job again?”

BECCA: “I’m the assistant to the head of the Theatre Program at Fordham.”

At this point one of the legal assistants lets out a laugh and grins. I glance over a few times before I finally just break the ice.

BECCA: “Did you go to Fordham?”

ASSISTANT: “Yeah, I went to Fordham at Lincoln Center.”

ASSISTANT 2: “I went to Fordham at Rose Hill [another campus, this is confusing, sorry].”

LAWYER: “I guess they let anyone in.”

The main lawyer confers with another one at the front desk. I know my excuse isn’t great… but by god. I want my vacation.

LAWYER: (handing me my juror card and questionnaire) “It’s your vacation.”

And with that, I am free!!

19. After leaving the room, still shaking, I’m directed to wait for instructions at Jury Room A down the hall. Our wonderful proctor of mustache glory pops his head in just after I sat down saying, “Stop looking so downtrodden. I’m just waiting for my colleague, but I think you’re going to smile!” Within about five minutes of sitting down, his colleague arrives. She surveys the crowd and says:

WOMAN: “You are about to be released from jury services.”

There are gasps. I involuntarily cover my mouth with my hand.

WOMAN: “Now please shut up and don’t move because there are people in the other room who are not released.”

We shut up and stop moving.

WOMAN: You will not be called for another six years. I will be handing you your official release papers. Should you be called prior to six years, you can fax over a copy of this. Also, if you’re awaiting payment (I’m not, since I’m salaried… lucky me) it will take six weeks. DO NOT CALL BEFORE SIX WEEKS ARE UP.”

20. My name is the first to be called since my last name starts with “B.” And with that, I’m released into the sunny afternoon. I actually have time to go home and stuff my face with chips, salsa, and carrots for an hour before I go to my rehearsal. It’s the little things, people.

And that’s what my jury duty looked like! I got super lucky, all the way around.

Have any of you done jury duty? Where? What was your experience?

Also, do you miss Artie’s posts? Because I miss Artie.