How Matt Yglesias ruined my travel mojo

I used to love Matt Yglesias – he’s a great writer with interesting political insights – but now he’s ruined a special secret I only shared with my very best friends, at least those friends who happened to be waiting with me for a train at Penn Station.

My son actually first showed me the secret entrance to the trains, that now isn’t so secret anymore (although, full disclosure, Matt’s piece was published last July, which, as I’m just now catching up with it, detracts somewhat from my mojo). It was a boiling hot day maybe ten years ago, and for some reason I was in New York traveling back home with him. It was before some holiday, and people were jammed there under the information board that used to make a lovely clacking sound when it changed the trains, but now, like everything else, is electronic. We were hot and our train was late.

upstairs.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeHe steered me toward the stairs you see here, leading down to the next level (I’m stealing these images from Matt, in revenge). There, in front of two giant fans, are two screens. One is confusing, because Amtrak trains aren’t on it – it’s for New Jersey Transit. But the other one, below it, posts the gates for the Amtrak trains even before the official announcement. Then, instead of nearly getting downstairs screen.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largetrampled in the great rush upstairs, you just walk calmly to the unguarded doors, doors with no officious ticket checker, and board the train before any of the hoi polloi arrive.

Only once did this not work – it was a September 11 I think, or perhaps a day when the city was under some threat. Chip and I went down (we’ve taken to calling it our private entrance), waited for the screen to change and walked to the gate, only to find our way barred by a machine gun (and a tough-looking guy holding it).

As I say, I’ve showed off for friends with my private entrance, but now Matt has ruined it. Slate, they say, has over 4 million U.S. visitors. I’m going to have to run a survey, next time I’m in New York, to see how many of us, jostling to see that tiny screen, read Slate.

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