The Journey to Metuchen

Well, it was an interesting trip, in the Chinese sense of “May you live in interesting times.” Nothing fatal,  not even calamitous, and occasionally just plain funny. The plan was a quick trip from Ann Arbor to my sister for a family visit, partially funded by one of those $9 fares Spirit Airlines puts up from time to time. (Actually, since I had to pay full price on the return flight, I’m not sure how much of a bargain it really was, but it got me off my duff so I guess its OK.)

The first part of the journey took place in my ’07 Turbo Forrester, a relatively new car. The check engine light was on, as it has been for several months now. The first time it came on, the shop where I have my oil changes done told be it was an “Evap” problem–more commonly known as loose gas cap. It went away and stayed away for a few months. The next time it happened, I took it back to the dealer who advised me that the code was for the “secondary air injector” system, one of the “gifts” from the EPA. He said not to worry about it, I probably wouldn’t see it again. Of course I did. So, they decided they had to replace some component in the air quality system. The estimate was $800, not covered under warranty. But Subaru came through and agreed to come up with most of it.

Needless to say, a week after this repair, the light was back on. The dealer relates that he asked Subaru (as long as the engine was already in pieces) whether they might want to change “both sides” of this system, but Subaru only agreed to change the one that had coded. That day, the code was “Evap”. They reset it and the light stayed off for 36 hours. The next code translated to “bad gas” (supposedly a common problem in our area of the Midwest). This time it stayed off for 24 hours. Now the code was “secondary air injector” (the side Subaru had not agreed to replace). So I’m off to the airport in a car that has the check engine light lit while we wait for new parts to arrive.

The first part of the journey by auto accomplished, the next phase was the airport parking mini-bus. Uneventful. One of the few times I could say this this trip.

No problems with airport security, I arrive at my gate with the sign reading “on time.” I sit down, pull out the newspaper and glance up. The sign has changed to “delayed.” The plane is sitting on the tarmac, so do we have mechanical problems–did the “check engine” light come on? Nope, this time the problem is that La Guardia traffic control won’t provide permission for our plane to leave. Traffic is heavy at La Guardia.

Ultimately, they kept us waiting two hours, one hour on the ground, another in the plane. But at about 6pm we rose into the skies and had a lovely flight to the New York metro area. As it turned out, the traffic was still heavy at La Guardia, so we circled the City a few times. Beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, Central Park, bridges and water. Great views of Flushing Meadows Park, the NY Worlds Fair globe and the old and new Mets stadiums as we finally landed (smoothly, thank goodness) at La Guardia.

I had no problem finding the commuter bus I had reserved. The driver was a trip and a half. As we got ready to leave, he greased up his arms and donned a variety of body armor explaining that these various braces and wraps would prepare him properly for the road ahead. He artfully posted his sign “Tipping is a cool thing to do” and we were off. As we approached the entrance ramp to the freeway, we came to a complete stop. “What is this?” our Knight-driver exclaimed (with some extra colorful language I can’t repeat in a family blog). Evidently there was a wreck or mechanical failure on the ramp. So after a New York Minute, he pulled the bus out of the ramp and onto city streets and we headed for Manhattan the old fashioned way. We arrived at Grand Central Station where I was told to transfer to a mini-van which would get me the remainder of the way to Penn Station.

It was at this time that I bid a fond adieu to my travel companion–a lovely young lady employed in the Ann Arbor branch of Google, Inc who had taken the same plane as I and reserved the same bus. Aside from the usual travel banter, I heard a bit about marketing operations at the Ann Arbor office. In a way, it was Google that caused our paths to cross. Originally I had intended to take mass transit, but that’s always awkward when transporting luggage. So I used Google to locate the commuter bus we were both taking.

I was in luck at Penn station–the train to Metuchen had just opened its doors, and with little fuss we were on the way under the Hudson. I didn’t realize it, but I was in the last car of the train. As it turned out that was unfortunate because the doors of the last two cars do  not open at Metuchen. The conductor advised me to move up to the next car, which I did, but that placed me in the second-to-last car. So we arrived at Metuchen, and then under the watchful eye of the conductor, I stood by the door which did not open. I waved goodbye to Metuchen as the train headed for Edison station.

At Edison, I called my sister Barb to let her know that they might want to consider picking me up in Edison. As it turned out, in keeping with the theme of this trip, her house phone was out of order. She had sent my brother-in-law off to the station to pick me up (without his cell phone). So all I got when I tried my sister’s house phone was a busy signal, and voice-mail for her cell phone. Eventually I grabbed a cab and arrived at my sister’s home shortly after her husband had given up on me arriving in Metuchen.

I had a delicious chicken cacciatore (one of my sister’s signature dishes), and all seemed swell after a nice, stiff single malt Scotch. I had left Ann Arbor at 2pm, and arrived Metuchen at 10:30. That made it about a half hour sooner than I could have driven. But then I would have had to stare at the “check engine” light for those hours, so I guess it was all worth while.

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