Our Lady of Nothing at All (Part 1)

img_02371277213625The first sensation Maura became aware of was a sort of sloshing, slurping sound. Other sensations seemed to indicate she herself was actually a part of this sound, like the tugging and pressure she felt on her tiny body. There was a sudden whack of something — air — assailing her nostrils, now open and no longer filled with fluid. The new air carried a strong Scent to Maura’s brain, something remembered, known. It gradually became identifiable as the Scent belonging to the Gentle Voice, the warm cavern that had held Maura for some time now. It was much stronger now, though. She could almost taste the scent on her rosebud lips and became excited to take in more of it. But that meant more of the sloshing and slurping and the tugging and pulling.

To take itself off the uncomfortable feeling of tugging and pulling, Maura’s mind reviewed her time spent in this warm world. She could hear the Scent singing to her, lulling her with soothing sounds like water running over smooth stones. The Scent was always singing to her, although sometimes Maura would catch sounds in between that seemed far more sad and troubled. The Scent would shudder slightly and Maura would feel a gentle pressure, a clasping of some kind, on her little sphere and body. And Maura would be aware that she, too, felt sad and unhappy. But the clasping part made her want to see more of the Scent.

At last, she made a decision to go with it and moved closer toward the strong scent on the new air, and with a final slurp, she entered this new world. What met her senses was a full-on assault. Loud noises, things clanging, voices shouting, and light — blinding light. Mixed in with the Scent she knew were other smells; harsh, acrid ones she couldn’t identify as belonging to the world she knew. It took some moments as her over-stimulated nervous system quieted and she was able to adjust herself to the new surroundings.

Her tiny nose and ears and body were picking up strong signals from everywhere, but her eyes, the weakest of her senses, couldn’t seem to adjust. Everything was fuzzy, distorted and very, very frightening. It was all mostly bright light, really, with odd, dark shapes moving in and out.

And worst of all, she couldn’t find the Scent — it was out there, but not as close now, she could tell. Suddenly, it was replaced by another Scent, not one she knew, and her whole body convulsed in response to it. The new Scent clasped her tightly (that part Maura liked), but just as quickly unclasped her and laid her on something cold. More sounds followed.

—She’s five pounds and fifteen ounces, what a mite!

—And cute as a button.

—Is the mother okay?

—Sure, but she’s taken it on the chin, poor dote. She’s exhausted.

—Right. Fingers and toes accounted for, check. Eyes responding and reflexes fine, check. Nice head o’hair. I’ll wager mammy was belchin’ and burnin’ up the oul’ gullet on this one!

The sisters gave Maura a thorough cleaning, then wrapped her in a soft blanket and placed her on a small, metal cot. For the next three hours, she felt very disconnected from her Scent and familiar sounds and world. She was very frightened.

She tried to emulate the sound of her Scent singing to her, thinking perhaps she could find the Scent that way. But what came out was more of a screeching, and it startled even herself.

Eventually, a sister came in and scooped Maura up. She was taken down a long corridor of bright lights, more acrid smells and jangly sounds. The sister opened a door to a room where three young women lay in identical beds. Maura was taken to the furthest bed, next to a window, where a small, dark-haired woman lay.

—Up now, Phil…here’s your darlin’ babby. Isn’t she lovely?

Philomena, the dark-haired girl in the bed, sat up painfully, minding the new row of stitches in her belly, and eagerly held her arms out to the sister. She settled Maura into them, holding her close to her breasts, and immediately began half-singing, half-cooing to her. Maura instantly opened her eyes and became acutely aware of comfort. The Scent was back! And closer than ever! She settled into her mother’s arms contentedly and closed her eyes, allowing the exhaustion of this startling, new world to take over. Soon all was dark and warm again.

Philomena was a 27-year old new mother, lying in a cot in a hospital in Cork, Ireland on the 8th of April, 1960. Until last night, she had been living for the past two months at a mother-baby home on the outskirts of Cork City along with twenty other young women. All of them were pregnant and not married to the fathers of their children. There were also the appalling whispers of fathers and brothers, cousins, and even a priest being responsible for some of these pregnancies. And that was the way it was in Ireland . If you made the fearful mistake of becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, no matter the circumstances, you did your time at one of these god-forsaken Gulags run by fearsome nuns who made you feel right shite every waking day.

But where else would Phil have gone? She had no family herself to speak of. Some dim memories would flit across her mind of the mother who would visit her on odd occasions, as she shuttled from one foster family to another, and then finally on to the nuns at age 15 to work for her keep. That was it. No real brother-memories or sister-memories — no sense of who her own father was. Just the constant rootlessness and dependency on others.

So she’d had no choice but to turn to the nuns when she discovered she was pregnant with Robert’s baby.

Philomena had been working in Dublin (her first, real on-her-own-job) as a domestic ward aide in a large hospital when she met Robert. She liked the work and was good at keeping her wards spotless, as well as giving the patients the benefit of her sympathetic and kind nature. Many of the sisters there encouraged her to pursue nursing, and Phil kept that in the back of her mind as her own private dream.

She also liked the other girls she worked with and struck up easy friendships with many of them. All the ward aides roomed together in a section at the back of the hospital for staff. It was certainly no worse than anything the nuns or foster families had offered her as hospice over the years, and it was enhanced by the fact that the girls could pretty much come and go as they pleased within curfew.

So Phil and many of the other young women she worked with would pretty themselves up on Friday nights and rush off to the dances at the old Star in Dublin. They were all meeting up with fellas they were dating, or with new fellas they hoped to meet at the dances. It was at one such fateful dance that Phil was introduced to Robert by her friend, Eileen.

—Hey, Phil, wouldja have a look at that fella over there with my Joe? Is that not dreamy or what?

Philomena glanced over in the direction Eileen indicated and took in a tall, dark-haired man wearing a better-than-average suit. She couldn’t see his face clearly as her vision wasn’t the best, and she hadn’t yet saved enough for new glasses (nor would she necessarily choose to wear them when she went to the Star, remembering the line Marilyn Monroe used in that American film How to Marry a Millionaire: “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”). Plus the lighting in the dance hall was wretched. But going by Eileen’s genuine enthusiasm, Phil could tell Eileen thought she’d snared quite the catch for her.

—Is he not gorgeous? What, are ya an eejit? Are ye lookin where I’m pointin’?

—Sure, sure…I see him. He looks pretty good from here. Who is he?

—A friend of my Joe’s. Joe wants me to set you up with him, Phil. He’s brilliant…comes from good family, Joe says, and has a good, steady job.

—What’s he do, then?

—Joe says he works up Finglas way for a stained glass company — y’know, does all them fancy church windows and the like.


—Is that all ye can say?! Shush now, here they come over…

Eileen and Joe awkwardly made introductions, while Philomena and Robert blushed furiously at one another. Finally, he offered to get her a lemonade and gently guided her by her elbow away from her friends. They wound up in a dark corner of the hall, where the music wasn’t quite so loud and there was no danger of reeling couples dancing into and over them.

—So, howyeh, Phil? Where are ye from? Not from here, I can tell that.

Philomena blushed furiously, always conscious of her somewhat questionable background. But she could tell from the impish grin on Robert’s face that his question was not intended to be judgmental; he was just breaking the ice.

—Em, no. I’m from Wexford way.

The impish grin widened. Robert handed her a lemonade and reached inside his own pocket for a small flask.

—Care for a bit extra in yours?

Phil nervously eyed the flask and realised that Robert had brought a bit stronger concoction to reinforce his bland ade. She shook her head no.

—Cheers, but I’d rather not.

—Well then [he poured a generous measure in his own glass], here’s lookin’ at you, kid!

The man was definitely gorgeous in Phil’s estimation, now that she could see him closer, but she could plainly tell this was a fella who liked to party. Possibly too much. He already seemed a bit well-lubricated. Not unsteady or sloppy, mind you, but clearly a few spiked lemonades down.

Robert finished his drink and asked Phil if she’d like to dance. As they glided back onto the noisy floor, the showband whomping away like mad, she was surprised at what a deft dancer he was. He smoothly whirled her around the floor, never losing his footing or stomping her toes as so many other fellas did.

A few sets later, Phil and Robert, now sweaty and laughing, rejoined Eileen and her Joe. It was nearly closing time, but both couples were not quite ready to call it a night. As Joe had a small flat of his own, he invited everyone round to his place and Phil nervously accepted the invitation with Robert’s enthusiastic encouragement.

As they stepped out of the Star, they were met with a warmish June night and the humid smells coming off the Liffey. Arms linked, the two couples laughingly made their way toward the river, crossing north toward Joe’s ramshackle neighbourhood, singing as they went. Robert’s fine baritone merged nicely with Phil’s own strong soprano, and she shyly smiled up at him as their voices bounced off the river and cobblestones. From somewhere off to their left came a loudly shouted WOULD YOU EVER SHUT THE FUCK UP? All four laughed and wound the song down to a low chorus.

They arrived at Joe’s and climbed the two flights up to his darkened flat. Joe went about flicking on lights and opened the one window in the place. His upper body disappeared out the window and returned with a quartet of bottled stout. Phil accepted a bottle as she was more than thirsty again from the walk and quite sure Joe had nothing of a non-alcoholic variety there.

A radio was switched on and Joe and Eileen began a slow dance, nuzzling and kissing one another as they circled the room, oblivious to Robert and Phil. Robert’s left eyebrow shot up and he motioned Phil to a dilapidated sofa, which served as the only furniture in the room besides two wooden chairs and small table. She sat down next to him and he immediately launched an arm around her. Phil hadn’t much experience with men, and what little she did have was not of a positive quality. During a brief stay working with a farm family when she was 14, Phil was accosted in her room one night as she slept by the foul, sweaty patriarch. Instinctively, she lashed out with a solid foot to his groin and effectively rolled him off her before further harm could be done. The sight of the doughy farmer squealing down the corridor, his startled, now wide-awake wife three steps behind him and shouting questions was nearly worth the cost of Phil’s job. The farmer’s wife stared Philomena down the next day at breakfast, flinty-eyed and convinced that Phil had seduced her lout of a husband. So that was that — out she went and lucky, according to the farmer’s wife, that the gards weren’t called.

Fearful of a future of jobs like this, where’d she be at the mercy of some sex-craved father or husband, she turned to the nuns in Cork for help, where she’d spent most of her limited schooling. Their response was to send her to an institution known as St. Dominick’s up in Waterford, notorious for taking in ‘wayward women’ to do commercial laundry and sewing, often never to see the outside world again. But Phil felt her choices were limited, and besides, the nuns told her because of her fine hand with the needle, she’d be doing fancy sewing instead of the hard, leg-killing laundry work. Still, she’d spent ten years in that dreadful place. Ten years of being taunted by fellow inmates for her somewhat ‘elevated’ status as a seamstress, taunted by the nuns for minor infractions, and taunted by the public every time the girls were all trotted out for May processions or outdoor Masses. It was soul-sucking and Phil feared her decision may have been ill-informed: she was becoming a shapeless, nameless thing like the rest of the inmates and the nuns began to treat her in kind. What little money she’d saved before coming to St. Dominick’s had been given over to the nuns for her ‘keep’. Phil harboured no illusions about the money the nuns made off her stunning, intricately embroidered Irish linen tablecloths. She knew she’d never see a penny of it.

On the brink of becoming a mindless automaton, one day Phil was pulled from the sewing room and told a visitor was there to see her. When she was ushered into the nuns’ ‘special visitor’ parlor, she was confronted by a somewhat wild-looking woman of middle age, her obviously long, thick hair swept up into a whorl with pins. Dark and gray clashed in this whorl and Phil found she couldn’t take her eyes off it. She finally met the face under the hair with her gaze and realised she was staring at her own mother, Honora.

SEPTA Tales: Regional Rail Misery


I’ve felt a rant coming for a long time on this topic.  Perhaps some of you fellow regional rail riders will commiserate.  Some of you may think I’m just a cranky middle-aged woman.  But it’s got to get off my chest or I fear I will have to invest in a larger bra.

I am a daily SEPTA passenger on the R7 train line to Philadelphia, which delivers and collects humans from Trenton, NJ through Chestnut Hill outside the city.  Because the R7 − like its sister the Main Line R5 − shares tracks with the Northeast corridor’s Amtrak train, we are beseiged by any number of outtages, electrical issues and ‘police activity’ alerts on any given day.  We also have to put up with the hyper-speed Amtrak Acela, which blows by my departing station, Cornwells Heights, with such force that I often find my morning Metro plastered in my face or my umbrella departing Mary Poppins-like into the wind.

Back in the early 1980’s, I used to ride what was then known as the Chestnut Hill East, when SEPTA was the more customer-friendly Conrail.  Ah, those were the good old days − smoking cars and partying with the conductors, sharing $2 styrofoam cups of beer from the Reading Terminal Bar (see Brian DePalma’s Blowout for the full ambience of that place).  Passengers became friendly with one another − hell, I regularly met with some of my fellow smoking-car riders for a monthly Chinese BYOB get-together off the Wyndmoor station.  Politeness was the rule.

No more.

Maybe it’s just the more brutal nature of the Northeast Philadelphia commuter as opposed to the more genteel, suburban/Chestnut Hill character.  Maybe its just that humans have become surlier in general.  But I have to say, in my fifty years on this orb, I have yet to encounter the level of sheer rudeness I’ve met on the Northeast R7.  And I’m not talking rowdy teenagers, disaffected urban youth or New York passengers passing from or through Philly.  I’m talking 60-plus year-old women.

Case study #1:  While waiting for my after-work train at Suburban Station one day, I observed what I’ve come to call the NE Hags −a gaggle of late-50’s, early 60’s bubbleheads nearing retirement from dead-end clerical jobs with center city law firms − going through their usual motions: jockeying for position on the platform, subtly shifting one foot, then another, to nudge out a waiting commuter.  Then there’s the ubiquitous member of the Hag Club who has to assault everyone with massive doses of her vanilla body spray. Um, here’s a news flash for ya, Hag: vanilla is a food flavoring.  Occasionally, it can neutralize room odors as a candle or air freshener.  But it does not belong on the human body.

The head Hag jockey is a dumpy, dim-witted woman who stands as near as she can to a platform support column, knowing this is where her preferred train door generally stops, swinging her bag like a 5-year old waiting for the school bus and chattering to her fellow Hags like a magpie on Meth.  She just makes me feel…wierd.  And nervous with all that frenetic bag-swinging.

As the R7 rolled in, the NE Hags began to swarm en masse toward the door, well before said door even comes near them.  As the train stops, the conductor steps off and the Hag coterie pushes as a mob toward the opening.  But wait.  What’s this?  A passenger is debarking?!  Good Christ, someone actually GETTING OFF THE TRAIN?!!  This has put a serious kink in the Hags’ usual daily manoeuvre.

So they decide to just walk over the passenger as a horde.  But said passenger is a rather large, burly man who ain’t havin’ it.  He’d like to get off the train thank-you-very-much.  Yet the Hags persist.  So the debarker lets fly a few (well-deserved, in my observation) expletives: “Jesus f*cking Christ, can I getoff the train?!” among them.   The Hags go all a-twitter,with the head bag-swinging magpie jockey exclaiming to the conductor that this man is “abusing” them.  Meanwhile, the conductor blithely stands just a foot or so from this scrum, not saying or doing a thing.  I’m convinced some  SEPTA regional rail conductors are specifically trained to do just that.  And they do it well.

Burly debarker is still struggling to get off the train and still, the Hags push ever onward.  Finally I can stand no more and address the conductor, “Um…are you going to help this guy get off, or let these women trample him to death?”  I hear a few fellow platform folk mutter, “Yeah…dude…let him off.” Finally jarred into action, the conductor flushes and allows, “Ladies, please let passengers off the train.”  The sea of Hags reluctantly parts and burlyman finally makes his relieved exit.  I’m sure he’s had nightmares for months.  I know better than to try to force myself into this Hag flying wedge and allow them to jostle for their favored seats.  But while waiting, I remark to the conductor, “Yeesh.  These women would climb over their own dead mothers to get on this train!”  He smiles sheepishly and shrugs.


Case #2: SEPTA has, mercifully, gone the way of the times and designated the first rail car on all rush-hours trains a “quiet car,” free from cell phone noise, over-loud iPods and screaming Hags.  Unfortunately, being that this is only one car among 7 to 8 on any given rush-hour line, it’s usually full to the brim before it even hits Suburban Station.  Nonetheless, SEPTA has a posted policy on keeping cell phone conversations quiet, music turned low and passenger conversations quiet on every train car.  Yet daily I am beseiged with the cell phone screamers, heavy metal enthusiasts with their mp3 players cranked to 11, screaming Hags and the occasional loud, misbehaved child.  And again, many conductors do nothing.  Even when you ask them.

On one particular ride, I was treated to a New York commuter who boarded at 30th Street Station,  headed for the NJ Transit connection with two enormous suitcases and a penchant for extremely loud phone conversation.  As the conductor passed to collect tickets, I quietly asked him if he would implore the woman to turn down the volume of her conversation.  I would have asked her myself (and have done so many times in the past, usually with positive results, being a fairly direct yet polite individual), but she was very large and was glaring at everyone around her.  So I decided to let the conductor do his job.  But he ignored me and moved on.

At the next station stop, I opted to just move cars to escape the insanely loud woman (who was now describing a friend’s weekend sexual escapades).  As I passed into the next car, which did look unusually dark and empty, I heard the conductor behind me yelling, “Hey lady!  That car is closed − you can’t go in there!”  Perhaps it was the scene of a murder?  Some loud cell phone-talker finally silenced?  Belatedly I realized this, and started back into my car of origin while telling the conductor, “Well, I asked you to intervene and have that woman speak a bit more softly, but you ignored me.”  He gave me a pithy look, as if I’d asked him to wrestle a large kimodo dragon (probably not far off the mark), and replied, “You’ll have to move forward the other way.”  No apology for not doing as I requested and putting the kibosh on Cell Phone Screamer; no apology for anything.

C’est la vie.

Case #3: This was my Waterloo…my breaking point.  Today.  It’s a Friday night.  It’s hot. I can taste that waiting glass of pinot grigio like nobody’s business.  We all want to get home.  So I wait on the platform with the usual NE Hags and make my bedraggled way onto the R7, taking my usual seat in one of the facing 4-seaters at the door of the train.  A group of quieter women, also regular riders, join me in the remaining three seats.  I dive intoCourtesans, a marvelous chronicle of the lives of several 17th and 18th century English demi-reps.  All is well.  My seatmates are conversing quietly and the ride isn’t long − this train expresses to three stops before my own.  Pinot, here I come.  My fellow Northeast Philly denizens debark at Holmesburg, then onward we go to Torresdale.

As we leave Torresdale station, another regular rider opposite our 4-seater rises in advance of my own stop, the Cornwells Heights station.  I follow suit behind her as I notice a very short, 60-ish woman in my periphery making her way up the aisle.  This is not an infrequent occurrence: often more aggressive riders will begin making their way from their back-of-train seats toward the door, jockeying to get ahead of those passengers seated closer to the door who, by all rules of etiquette, should be permitted to exit first.  But the NE Hags are excellent at manoeuvering, and not possessed of any depth of character, manners or intelligence.  So often as not, you’ll find at least one or more shoving their way ahead of passengers seated closer to the exit.  It’s all in the timing and I try to anticipate this level of absurdity, rising well before my station, and I and my fellow front-riders position ourselves such that the Hags cannot pass.

Except that this one little Hag was determined.  When the train rolled to a halt at Cornwells Heights, she decided to show her displeasure with my ranking in the disembarcation order by violently shoving me as I tried to exit.  And I mean violently.  She thrust a fist into my back.  As a survivor of domestic violence, I learned the lesson on bullies when my late husband fired a round into himself and me.  I survived; he didn’t.  So I turned and firmly said, “Donot try to shove me again.”  At which point she uttered the brilliant retort, “Drop dead!”  Why, so you can climb over me more easily?

Part of the Pennsylvania code on simple assault defines it as an “…attempt[s] to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another.”  Hag jabbing her fist into me just because I happened to be standing between her and the train door meets that definition.  Telling me to drop dead probably constitutes a threat as well.

But I curb further response/action, and continue on down the train steps, where the conductor stands waiting on the platform.  I feel another shove in my back and Hag steps on my skirt, causing me to pitch forward and then jerk back.  Luckily I’m holding the stair rail or I’d be face-planted on the platform.  I’m now in a state of a complete and utter shock that a fellow passenger would show such a level of violence for no good reason.  As I gratefully touch down on the platform, I turn to the conductor and say, “Excuse me, she just tried to push me down the stairs…she assaulted me.”  I’m expecting immediate, concerned response…cops called…train unavoidably delayed due to ‘police activity.’

But that ain’t happening.

This fairly regular conductor is named Glenn.  He is not the same conductor as in Case #1, but had been our ticket-taker for some time and is generally a jovial, passenger-flirty fellow.  Although a term like “conscientious” is not one I’d apply to Glenn and his attention to his job.  He’s been known to cavort and flirt with his young, female passengers du jour between cars, an area expressly forbidden to SEPTA passengers while a train is in motion.  I don’t even want to know what they do or say.  I just keep my nose in my book and mind my own business.

I do have confidence that Glenn is only too well aware of the Hag situation on the R7 (I’ve heard him joke to some of his young female friends about the “screaming old ladies” and in particular, some pretty scathing comments about the head bag-swinging Hag) and will receive my complaint in a serious, or at least understanding, manner.  So imagine my surprise when he responds to my report of an assault with, “Well, I guess she’s not your friend!”

Now, in fairness, I suppose it’s possible that Glenn thought the Hag and I knew each other and were role-playing.  Although he sees me ride every afternoon, by myself, rarely making conversation with fellow passengers, and generally absorbed in whatever book I’m currently reading.  So after seconds of my blinking in astonishment at Glenn’s laconic assessment and him standing there grinning, with the Hag still hot on my heels glaring menacingly, I am so in shock that I decide the better part of valor is to just continue gamely to the lower parking lot where my daughter waits.  A second, even louder “DROP DEAD!” rings in my ears, and I note the Hag has continued safely beyond me to the waiting Park-and-Ride buses.

By the time I reach my daughter’s car, the reality of what I experienced and the complete, utter inaction of our SEPTA conductor has hit and my Irish is pretty well up into triple digits.  I share the experience with my very sympathetic daughter, who has been regaled with countless tales of daily SEPTA foolishness and mayhem.  And then I whip out my cell phone and decide to call SEPTA.

After going through the requisite selections to speak to a living, breathing customer service representative, I finally get to spill my tale of assault.  I provide the rep with descriptions, names (Glenn’s) and other details of the incident.  The seemingly-concerned rep asks if I was injured.  I tell him no, but I am somewhat shaken by the event and shocked at the lack of response by the conductor.  The rep then deadpans, “Well, we usually consider assault something like a knifing, shooting or fist-fight…”  So I then treat him to the Pennsylvania code on assault, and explain how Hag’s hitting me in the back with her fist and trying to shove me off the stairs meets that code.  At that point, I heard keyboard clicking and the rep muttering, “Glenn…Glenn…” as he’s clearly looking up conductor assignments for the R7.  Perhaps he’s actually taking me seriously.   I further explain that this sort of rude behavior (minus the fists) is pretty standard fare on the R7  and is not a phenomena I’ve experienced taking other lines, like the R2 Warminster or R3 West Trenton.  I suggest that maybe it’s time that conductors on this line start taking their jobs seriously and put a clamp on the rudeness.  In other words, do their job.

In due course, I am assigned an incident number and asked for a phone number to which someone will (allegedly) respond with a follow-up.  I am told that the incident will be reported to the regional rail management center.  I thank the very polite rep and ring off.

The pinot has partly assuaged the sting of the assault.  It’s actually going down quite well, thank you.  But it remains to be seen how seriously SEPTA takes complaints of this nature.  I will have to clamber on board the R7 Monday morning and may well encounter my bully again on the ride home.  Bullies – be they incredibly rude and violent train commuters or those we encounter on the roads around our Levittown neighborhood − seem to thrive in abundance in this neck of the Philadelphia region.  I don’t know why that’s the case.  Perhaps it’s because this is known to be a rough-and-tumble, hard-luck, working-class area where folks have had to fight for every scrap they’ve got.  But as a widowed mother who raised two kids on a largely non-profit salary, I’m down with the whole working-class ethos and have had to scrabble my own way forward.  Hell, I chose to live in this area because of the cheaper properties and my disgust with the bourgeoisie of our former snooty Bucks County neighborhood. The key difference is I was raised with manners and a sense of justice.  I hold doors open, allow seniors and the infirm ahead of me in line, and otherwise show respect for my fellow humans.  My momma done brought me up that way and I’m all for the good Karma the pay-it-forward approach gleans.

I hope SEPTA starts to enforce some of their ‘passenger etiquette’ policies on the R7.  A good start would be an orderly disembarcation process: passengers should exit in the order in which they’re seated – those closest to the door go first, after anyone needing assistance, the infirm, etc.

Without order there is chaos, and when you couple that with a Northeast Philly atty-tood you get a primed-to-fire bully.  And one day someone will get hurt.

rottie_cartI am happy to report that since writing this, I’ve enjoyed more than six months of pleasant morning train rides to Philadelphia (although the ride home is still nightmarish and the Hags still abide), thanks to our wonderfully friendly and diligent conductor, Mike.  Now, if SEPTA would just hire more like him!  Sadly, Mike will be leaving us for the another train line run in March 2011…he will be missed.  I think it will then be time to start training my Rottweiler, Hurley, to cart my ass to work…