Tag Archives: Penn Station


I hate this job. I’ve worked in Penn Station for three years. I clean the bathrooms.

I push my plastic cart in front of the men’s room entrance. I grab the mob and enter. Men are lined up waiting for an empty urinal. The floor is wet and filthy.

A homeless guy is washing in the sink near the door. His garbage bag is half blocking the door. I squeeze into the room and go to the back  near the stalls.

I hear a scream from one of the stalls. I mop the floor trying to ignore it. Crazy guys get in the stalls and attack each other. The cops ignore them. I continue to mop.

I wonder who designed this place. The water barely comes out of the taps and there is never any soap. Most guys give up and don’t wash their hands. God help us if a disease ever gets in here.

I finish mopping the floor and it is already dirty again. I go outside and gulp in the fresh air.

I hate my job.


I finally got into the station. People are everywhere. I’m watching the board like a hawk. In five minutes the number of the platform for my train should appear.

Damn, something’s wrong. The waiting room is packed with people. I can’t move. My neck is getting tired looking up at the board. I turn to the left and something catches my eye.

A neon red sign glows with the name of the pub. I can see in the entrance. The place is filled. Men and women sit at the bar while others stand behind them. One guy has a pint of Guinness. On his right four men in suits are swigging bottles of Bud and laughing. A group of women sips red and white wine.

I look back at the board. I shift from foot to foot. A garbled announcement is made. “The entrances to the station are closed. Please do not go to your platform until it appears on the board. As always stay behind the yellow line and stay safe,” the voice said.

I hear curses from the crowd. I look back at the pub. I watch as a woman behind the bar places a shrimp cocktail in front of a customer. Two stocky guys chow down on chicken wings. A gray haired man in a suit raises a glass of Irish whiskey to his lips. He holds it up to the light so he can admire the golden liquid.  I can almost taste it.

I hear another announcement. “Due to signal trouble all eastbound trains are canceled.” I sigh and look at my smartphone. Of course I can’t get a signal. What else can possibly go wrong?

Someone pushes me in the back and I lurch forward. I turn to complain and I see a group of teenagers. They are staggering and talking in loud voices. Oh no, here it comes. One of the girls can’t handle her drink. Plop. She vomits on the floor. Her male friends hold her as she kneels and continues to puke.

I crane my head and look back at the pub. I can see the television screens behind the bar. I bet they are watching the Yankees game. I wonder what the score is? I lick my lips. I realize that I am starving. I didn’t get to eat lunch today.

I turn back and look at the board. The word ‘canceled’ appears at the end of every train listing. Please, please fix the damn signals. I shift my feet and put my hand in front of my nose trying to filter out the smell of vomit.

Wait, something is happening. The lights on the board are flickering. My gaze is like a laser beam. I am poised to leap into action. As soon as the first pixel forms and I see the number I will shoot to the front of the crowd. After that I will be first in line shuffling down the broken escalator to the platform. Finally I will saunter in and take my clean, comfortable seat on the train.

The board blinked “Gate fifteen”. The crowd surged as one.

I missed the first train. I squeezed onto the next one forty five minutes later. I stood in the aisle for the next hour.

I closed my eyes as I swayed to the rhythm of the train. I watched the bar maid pour another Guinness. I’m glad they know how to pour a proper pint. I couldn’t decide whether to get a cheeseburger or the Philly cheese-steak.

“Look at that guy smiling like an idiot. How can anyone be cheerful on this damn train,” a man in a suit said.