Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ever vigilant
Unfortunately, that title is not a description of MTA-Metro North Railroad employees.

I get on the train this morning. I find one of the few open seats and sit down. As I do, I see someone (I honestly didn't notice if it was a man or a woman) stand up very quickly and bolt off the train just as the doors closed. I thought that was a bit odd, but sometimes people fall asleep and only wake up just in time, and I let it go.

When the woman who had been sitting next to him or her and the man who had been across from them started looking around puzzled, I got interested. It became very apparent that this fast-moving person had left behind a plastic bag. It had what looked like it might have been a purse sticking out of the top, and the shape of a box (maybe a shoebox?) in the bottom. But let's be honest, folks: God only knows what was in that bag.

The woman left behind seemed to think in the same way as I did. She seemed a little shaken by the whole thing, and began constantly scanning for one of the conductors. After all, we all know the line by now:

If you see something, say something
The MTA has a web page devoted to this topic, and regularly posts advertisements both on the trains and in the stations to remind us. They implore you, "Alert a police officer, train or bus operator, station personnel or call 888-NYC-SAFE (888-692-7233)."

After a few minutes, the conductor happens by. She says "excuse me" three times before it catches his attention, and she starts to explain: "Some woman left this bag here and got off the tr—" And he cut her off (!), saying, "I'll be with you in a few minutes."

By the time he came back about 20 minutes later, the woman had reached her stop and left the train. In an effort to clear the seat to make room for another passenger, the conductor picked up the very bag in question and moved it to the floor—so it'd be out of the way. I couldn't believe it. So, when he came back two rows to me, to collect my ticket, I pointed at the bag and explained to him that a woman had run off the train and left it behind. He responds, "don't worry, we'll put it in the Metro-North lost and found when we get to Grand Central—I know all about it."

I let it go, but I couldn't believe my ears.

Honestly, what's the point of saying something when you see something if the conductor isn't even aware of what's going on around him?

No wonder we aren't any safer. And yes, that picture at the top is an actual picture of the actual bag, taken with my cell phone.

UPDATE [12/7/2005 - 13:51]: More from Flip, The Man, and GaijinBiker. Welcome also to the TotalFarkers, and thanks to whoever linked me over there—I'm not a member, so I can't view the article to thank you more specifically.


The Man said...

You should write a letter or something. They drill into our heads "if you see something..." and then ignore you when you see something.

Gaijin Biker said...


Dave Justus said...

You should have gotten a picture of the conductor as well.

superfly66103 said...

Are you f'ing kidding me? Open that biatch up and take a look. What? It's a bomb? Anthrax? The illusion of safety doesn't mean safety. Some crazy chick left a girlfriend does it all the time. She is no terrorist, just dizzy

Anonymous said...

RFTR, what you should have done is demand to see the Metro-North ID of the conductor, then inform him you are calling your attorney with the picture of said package. That the attorney will be instructed to sue you or your estate, and Metro-North should that bag explode or emit a toxic substance. Also, I'm telling this attorney to contact all news outlets with this story.

Dan Mehlhorn, former New Haven Line rider.

RFTR said...

I think SuperFly is probably right—some girl overslept, barely woke up in time to get off the train, and forgot to grab her bag.

That is the reason—the only reason—I took no further action.

But, superfly, what if it was a bomb? How could I possibly know that it wasn't? These conductors are supposed to be extremely cautious, and this guy simply wasn't. He was too busy to be bothered—and that's not good.

Tanstaafl said...

I don't mean to sound like an episode of '24' here, but I wouldn't open the damn thing. Then the little #s on the digital display start rolling twice as fast. If I leave it alone, I may be out of GCS before it goes off.

MetroNorth on the other hand probably has some procedure now to deal with unattended packages. What is that policy and why wasn't it followed.

Anonymous said...


This is real life; the conductors have limited time and other responsibilites and have to make balancing decisions.

Alot of public safety policy in this country is totally out of whack with the risks posed by various activities and eventualities. I think alot of our "counterterrorism" policy in the US is just one example.

Still, I am sympathetic. I would think that at least to keep customers from hyperventilating the conductors should promptly collect all left item and drop it off at the next station. That way, someone actually takes a look at it and can get some perception of the possible risk, passengers are calmed, and the problem is passed on to someone else not responsible for actually conducting a train.


docdave said...

It may sound cowardly but I think I would have got off the train at the next stop and then caught a later train to my destination. Notifying some authority at the next stop could be an option as well.

We humans have very shorr memories and security measures are almost never taken serious by most people until things around them blow up.

Jenn of the Jungle said...

People need to realize that it's not 9/10/01 anymore. The world has changed.

Look at London. Madrid.

I would have been on fire. That Metro conducter wouldn't have known what hit him. Sure, you can say, it's probably a purse and a shoe box, then again, there was a chance it wasn't. Terrible.

I took the train recently to Los Angeles, and they were 3 hours late due to an accident up the rail line. So, to make up for it, they were speeding, and stopping for less than 2 minutes at each stop. So, people would get their stuff on the train, but not themselves, and in one case, a little girl got on, and before her dad could get on, the train took off. I heard her crying from downstairs. Thank god she memorized her dad's cell phone #, so I could tell him that she would get off at the next stop, and we'd wait for him. The conducters didn't give a fig. I couldn't believe it. There were like 10 bags with no owners and a kid with no dad. It was horrible.

Needless to say, Amtrack gotr a piece of my mind when we got home. I can travel free for the next 2 years.