NYC – The City that Never Sleeps? Not so much.

On Friday, July 29, 2011, after completing my first work week with the rest of the Release Engineering team in Toronto I left for the airport around 3pm to catch a flight home to Albany, NY. The week went well and everyone had a great time, visited plenty of good restaurants and pubs along with a trip to the new office (under construction). Little did I know what adventure lay ahead on the trip back home. Here is the abridged version of the chain of events.

  • My Air Canada flight from Toronto to La Guardia was scheduled to depart @ 7:15pm EDT. Upon arrival at the airport the ticket agent mentioned that the flight had been delayed. My connection from NYC to Albany would be missed, but figured the flight could be straightened out on the ground in LaGuardia.
  • Sent a text to my wife Lisa to let her know what was going on and she told me heavy thunder storms were in the forecast, moving out around 10-11pm.
  • Not long before we were supposed to board the plane, the flight was delayed a 2nd time to 9:00pm EDT
  • A 3rd gate change delayed departure until 9:40pm EDT.
  • Finally boarding, the flight was supposed to leave at 9:40pm, but we are still sitting on the runway at 9:48. We spent another 20-30 minutes taxiing and waiting for overhead traffic to clear but at least we are on the plane!
  • Oh, did I forget to mention one kid played basketball in the waiting area for 2hrs. Dribbiling, lay-ups on glass by the check in desk. What a special treat for everyone in the waiting area…
  • Landed at La Guardia around 11pm on Friday night to find out that the US Air flight @ 9:29pm was the ONLY flight available and was clearly missed. The earliest flight out to Albany would be sometime on Sunday.

Yes things were not looking good. Called Lisa again to let her know what was going on.

  • Began calling car rental companies from the airport. Lovely, these multiple choice answers can be used for all of them:
  1. Business is closed after 10pm
  2. All vehicles have been rented
  3. Vendor will not rent vehicles one-way, must be picked up and dropped off at LaGuardia.
  • So, onto hotels, maybe I could rest for the night and try to pick up an early rental return. Well Deja-vu:
  1. No Vacancy – on a Friday in NYC, go figure…
  2. No shuttle service available between the hotel & airport
  3. No answer at the main desk or through central reservations
  • Called Lisa back with an update, with her having never driven in NYC let alone La Guardia and the fact that it was getting late with a ~3.5 hour drive looming overhead. Having her drive down for a pickup did not seem like a good idea.
  • In the meantime, Lisa was trying to find alternate transportation. She checked the Amtrak schedule but both early morning trains on Saturday were sold out. Also friends we know in NYC were out of town so the streak of bad luck continued.
  • Lisa found the Metro-North Railroad (commuter train) schedule online and suggested I take a cab to Grand Central Station and try to catch a train to Poughkeepsie NY. The drive would be less than 2 hours from home and she could pick me up. We thought worst case scenario, at Grand Central Station I would have a place to stay until the next train, so that was the plan.
  • My cabbie made really good time from the airport, even with some construction delays. Figures, arrival time at Grand Central was not long after the 1:50am train for Poughkeepsie left the station so I was stuck waiting around until 6:20am.

Yes 11 hours and counting.

  • Well hello there Murphy how have you been? Last train departs Grand Central at 2am and police begin sweeping vagrants out into the street shortly afterward. FYI, the station closes from 2am to 5:30am daily. Two young teenage girls and a boy were in the same predicament but luckily an officer made arrangements for them to remain in the dispatch office rather than having to fend for themselves.
  • So at 2:00am I joined the ranks of NYC’s homeless. With my knapsack and suitcase in tow started walking the streets of Midtown Manhattan. I can easily say that nothing heightens your awareness like having “tourist”, “mobility impaired” and “come rob me” stenciled in neon on your person while walking around the city.
  • Must have walked at least 40 blocks around Park Ave. Lugging a knapsack loaded with books and a laptop around for 3+ hours is loads of fun, I highly recommend it especially when you are bored with nothing to do and tired.
  • Looked for a 24/7 coffee shop nearby but there was nothing open.
  • It was really hot and muggy that night (mid 70s), while roaming the streets, kept texting Lisa so she would know I was still breathing.

Depressing, saw at least 20 homeless people sleeping on street grates, benches, building steps and in alleyways. Ages ranged from teenagers to the elderly. Some people were so contorted from being slumped over on a hard bench with relaxed muscles there should have been damage from snapping or dislocation. Not sure how two people were even able to breathe given the position they were in. I did see one very odd group of “nappers”. They appeared to be clean/fairly well dressed with a few pieces of luggage, wondered if they also had the pleasure of being booted from Grand Central.

  • Around 4:45am managed to find a local grocery store open and was able to get something to drink but didn’t want to hang around. If this is the city that never sleeps I am not convinced!
  • At 5am the entertainment arrived, bars were closing and it was time for the severely inebriated to meander home. Good thing most of the travelers were couples, leaning into each other and staggering provided enough forward momentum w/o drifting out in to the street or light fixtures very often. All in all this was probably the most amusing point of the night.
  • After completing my walking tour of NYC, shuffled back to Grand Central in time to board the 6:20am train bound for Poughkeepsie.  Lisa sent a message that she was on her way to pick me up.

It is a little over a 90 minute drive from home but near her parents so she knew the area. Neither one of us were able to get any sleep the night before and were running on pure adrenaline.

  • My train rolled into the Poughkeepsie train station at about 8:30am and Lisa was waiting for me on the platform. We were both tired but we hopped back into the car , made a quick stop for breakfast at a drive through and headed home.
  • We got home about 10:40am and crashed at about 11am; don’t think we were conscious again until 6:30pm.

So there you have it, 20 hours of non-stop excitement after an awesome work week in Toronto. In the grand scheme of things this is small potatoes but I thought everyone would appreciate a good laugh; Murphy’s Law certainly took over. This concludes my little NYC adventure. I wonder what my next trip has in store… Can’t wait!

Until next time.

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7 Responses to NYC – The City that Never Sleeps? Not so much.

  1. Lisa Armstron says:

    Next time you’ll drive right??? 🙂 I still find myself laughing about it.

  2. mccr8 says:

    I was in a similar situation a few years ago, with a delayed flight into NYC making me miss the last train to New Haven, CT. Fortunately, I was there with a colleague which made it a little better. Eventually we walked over to Times Square, and there were quite a few people around, so it wasn’t too bad. We ended up spending the last few hours of waiting in a 24 hour McDonalds there, after having purchased a bit of food.

  3. And I thought the joint in Brussels where I once spent the night from after the last metro (≃ 1am) to the first one (≃ 5am) was dreadfully boring compared to that mythical City That Never Sleeps! At least I was away from the rain and could get Belgian fries (don’t insult a Belgian by calling his potatoes “French fries”! 😉 ), falafels, tea, whatever…

    I like the way you tell stories.

  4. Lisa Armstrong says:

    I told Joey I can no longer complain about the time I was stranded in La Guardia for over 5 hours alone (thanks to a certain airline who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent). The other 14 people I was travelling with, including Joey, were on the plane and took off without me. What happened to him was so much worse. 🙂

  5. Jeff Walden says:

    My family lives midway between Flint and Detroit airports, and once we got stuck at the Detroit airport waiting for a fifteen minute hop to the Flint airport where we were parked. Because the flight wasn’t canceled, just delayed, we had to stick around, despite it being faster to drive home than to fly and then drive, and it being well past midnight when the flight eventually departed. Not much fun.

    In an echo reminiscent of the basketball kid, I happened to have a frisbee in carryon luggage, so pulled it out for a bit and we played a bit of catch with it inside cavernous McNamara. I very much doubt that’ll ever happen again to me, but it was great while it lasted!

    • adirondackfirefly says:

      60 miles/1hr – too bad they did not have a shuttle service available as a backup.
      A frisbee in a stadium sized space sounds like fun. That would have been a *much* different animal than the repetitive sound of dribbiling [ read in the slow, drip-drip-drip that is water torture ]

  6. jeapadcance says:

    Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.

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