Could I BE more improbable?
...I boarded a train bound for New York City, had the conductor punch my round trip ticket, and subsequently dozed off on an early Sunday morning. 40 minutes or so into the trip, another conductor repeatedly asked, “Ticket, Sir? Sir? SIR! Ticket, sir...” until I awoke. Groggy, I fumbled for my wallet, even as I looked out the window to see where we were. “He already punched it...” I muttered, as I showed him the ticket. “Who?” he asked, with the venom of a traffic cop on the verge of issuing a speeding ticket. “The conductor. When I got on. At the first stop.” He was still skeptical. “Did you move?” I just stared for a minute, trying to process how unnoticeable a chubby Italian guy in a bright red shirt cradling a brass instrument in a lime green cloth bag could be. “I've been here since the first stop.” I said firmly. He shrugged, punched the ticket, and moved on.
...I found that one ticket machine wouldn't accept cash, while another was down completely at the PATH station. The one that supposedly took credit wouldn't read my credit card, and kept canceling my transaction if it didn't get a response from me within five seconds. I was ready to run to the bank of machines on other side of the platform when one of the workers noticed my plight and asked me where I wanted to go. “They're workin' on the machines,” she explained, waving me over to the turnstile where she waved some pouch in front of it that probably had her own scannable card in it. When I realized I was getting in for free, I thanked her with some tinge of surprise; in NY, that sort of thing is improbable. In my life, that sort of thing is improbable.
...In New Jersey, absolutely no one was waiting for me, even though I was sure the Jersey band leader said he'd be there, as on past years. After about 20 minutes, I called the drummer from the Brooklyn band I play for, since he and his father were also working the Jersey gig. They were already up at the church and the band leader had no recollection of picking me up, and wasn't likely to give up his parking space. It was only a mile or so, so I walked. One more mile wouldn't kill me with the five hour procession I had ahead of me.
...The improbable niceness from NY continued in NJ when, at one of the food stops, two kids set aside a tray of sandwiches for the band so that when we were done playing the people into the break, we wouldn't find that the vultures in the procession had already ravaged the tables.
...Some random Jonathan Winters lookalike wandered into the band halfway through the job, playing a pair of small cymbals. He told us how, when he was younger, he remembered his father playing in the procession. He actually wasn't bad, and kept good time with our drummers. In the end, the band leader bought him a drink and kicked him a few bucks, as well as a business card. Now there's a successful audition.
...We played our last few notes just as the first few drops of rain fell. And within seconds of getting under the scant protection of a beer tent, a bolt of lightning struck a block away and it began to pour. Between the wind and the water pooling and spilling over the side of the tent, I got soaked, and feared I might ruin my new cell phone. Suddenly, carrying it in a small plastic bag didn't seem so paranoid.
...The storm let up, and the band leader offered to give myself and the Brooklyn guys a ride back to the PATH. We had a few more beers, and toasted my father, who I'd left home since I thought walking and taking several trains would be too much for him. When we got to the station, the band leader hopped out of the car, which was apparently still in drive, and only after our frantic shouting did he run back and jump in the car to step on the brake seconds before we hit a parked car.
...Back in Manhattan, a girl asked the drummer if it was okay where she was parked. Why he looked like someone who would know, racing toward a train station with a snare drum slung over his shoulder, I cannot say. He did tell her he thought she was fine, while I interjected to point out the “No Standing” sign a few feet away. “You don't even drive and she's asking you?”, I snarked. It's highly probable that I'm more sarcastic when I drink.
...After a typical Monday, capped with another thunderstorm, I headed to the gym for my final workout before the big Workplace Challenge on Tuesday. I started training for the 5K/3.5 Mile race about two months ago, and there have been some improvements. I managed to get faster and whittle my time down to around 38 or 39 minutes, my past average from previous years when I was in better shape. And surprisingly, noticing that my jeans seemed “stretched” and my belt could use a new hole, I got on a scale and discovered that I've dropped 11 pounds! It's not visibly noticeable since it's sort of proportionate all around, but I definitely feel better. Of course, my last practice run was not to be, as the gym was closed. There were only a few cars in the lot, and the staff was hanging around outside. “Uh, we're actually closed,” said one of the trainers. “Power outage. Should be back up around 8. Call first, and if we don't answer, we're not here.
I wasn't going to drive all the way home then back to the gym near my office. I took it as a sign to run outdoors in preparation for my outdoor run, since it is different than running on a treadmill. But when I went to my local high school, I found the track was under construction, with the gates padlocked and severe “No Trespassing” signs. I remembered another track behind my old Middle School, but when I got there all I could see was grass. There was a faint oval indentation and a slightly different green hue in the area where the track used to be. Smack in the middle was a sign warning people that no unauthorized field use was permitted without a letter from the superintendent. My last recourse was a local park, and with the setting sun I didn't have much time to beat the dusk closing. I found running in the park to be great until I hit the first steep hill. I made it to the top and found I was breathing heavier than normal. I managed to run for another ten minutes or so before it started getting dark, but I do think I was starting to get my second wind. I may have run a mile, which is better than not having run at all. I also ran in my old sneakers, and I don't think I'm going to use the new ones that gave me a huge blister. According to my friend “Triathlon”, part of the reason stores like the one I went to can afford to carry name brand products is because they often get defective ones, so the sneaker may be poorly constructed. With my luck, my old ones will explode or catch fire halfway through the race, or worse. i can't predict what improbable fates await me, only that the unlikely awaits.
Wish me luck...