Last Wednesday, a storm hit the Northeast. Two esteemed sports writers were stranded in different cities, but absolutely had to get to their destinations. These are their stories.
Joe Posnanski's flight landed in Pittsburgh because of the weather surrounding New York, but he had to make it the rest of the way somehow. Peter King was heading home to Boston from New York, but the trains weren't running. In their own words (Posnanski in italics, King in bold), here's how they managed.
I stood in Penn Station in Manhattan Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. with a friend, Alex Stern of the Elias Sports Bureau. He was going south on the Amtrak Acela for the Thursday night game in Philadelphia. I was going north, home to Boston, after the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year event Tuesday night.
I finally realize that I just need to rent a car and drive to New York. I am told by a local that it is about a six-hour drive. I secure the one-day car rental for a mere $240 and tell the gate agent to take my name off whatever list he has.
Finally, around 1:45, in a packed train station, with no end to the delay in sight, I got on the phone to my travel agent and asked her to look for a car-rental place anywhere near Penn Station. Much to my chagrin, because I wanted to work on the way home, now I'd have to slog five or six hours through the nor'easter to get home.
A young woman from China approaches me and asks if she can ride with me to New York. I have a hard time understanding her, but she seems close to tears and, of course, I tell her she can come along.
"Want a ride?'' a complete stranger to my right said.
I looked at him, wondering if I should know him. "I recognized you and heard you on the phone, trying to get a car,'' Chris Bierly, a businessman from suburban Boston, said. "I just got one. I'm going home to Boston. You can come if you'd like.''
"Wow,'' I said. "Thanks. I'm in.''
It is snowing just outside of Pittsburgh, though the roads are not too slick yet. I am talking to my wife, Margo, and I do not mention the snow because she will have a panic attack. In the background, the woman is talking on her phone in Chinese. She is undoubtedly telling someone that she is 85% certain that I am not an axe murderer. Or she could be telling someone that she have found her next axe-murder victim. I do not speak Chinese.
So we sat in the back of a Town Car, Chris on the left, me on the right, and we chatted for a few minutes, then settled in to work/call/write, thanks to the wireless DSL devices we both had.
The GPS tells me to turn right to get back on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I turn right. Then, suddenly, the GPS says "Make Legal U-Turn." Legal U-Turn? Where? Then the GPS says "Go 13 miles and then turn around." Yep. Going east on the Turnpike when I'm supposed to be going West. Yep. Next exit is not for 13 miles. Yep. That's 26 miles out of the way if you are counting at home. And, yep, the woman in the car says three of the 12 words she will say on this trip: "Going wrong way."
Ryan Clark of the Steelers called, and I made a couple of calls on a story I'm working on for the magazine.
Pitch black and snowing somewhere in Pennsylvania. It occurs to me at this moment that Pennsylvania is the longest bleeping state in America. I actually love to drive, but it now feels like I have been driving for nine days. Woman is still sleeping or pretending to sleep. I feel very tired myself.
I napped for 20 minutes.
I celebrate 12 hours on the road. We are actually approaching the city now.
All in all, a great trip.
The woman says the remainder of her 12 words ... she is hoping I can pull over somewhere here and drop her off near a subway stop so that she can go to Chinatown. This sounds reasonable to me. I turn left, pull off to the side, drop her off. She thanks me profusely ... I feel good about myself.
When we were close to his home in Newton, I asked him if I could pay the driver to take me the final 15 minutes home to downtown Boston. "It's all taken care of,'' he said. "He'll take you there."
Turns out the Midtown Tunnel is not $3.50. It is $5.50 Surely the guy will grant me the 50 cents.
Conversation with toll booth guy goes like so:
Me: Sorry, hey, all I have is $5.
TBG: Check your car, man, there's always spare change.
Me: Um, it's a rental. There's no change in here.
TBG: Check your pockets, there's always spare change there.
Me: I don't carry change. Really, all I have is 5 bucks.
TBG: All right, then.
(He pulls out an envelope and starts writing on it. Cars behind start honking. He keeps writing ... it feels like he takes approximately 5 hours to do this).
TBG (handing me envelope): "All right man, put your money away. I'm doing you a big favor."
Me (looking at envelope and seeing that this will now cost me $7.50): Thanks.
TBG: "You're a lucky man."
One other Acela note, from a Friday afternoon trip back to New York. As critical as I've been of their awful coffee, I've got to hand it to Amtrak for adding Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA to the beverage list.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was Wednesday for Joe Posnanski and Peter King.