“Don’t worry, I take the PATH train all the time,” I said confidently to my sister, Misty, and brother-in-law, Travis.
We needed some positivity after the evening’s events. Our flight into Newark International Airport had been delayed by 2 hours, and we landed after 1 AM – right after the rental car counter had closed.
Our plan was to go to New Jersey for the holidays, but first we’d take a mini vacay to New York City before facing our family. We rotated holding my 3-month-old niece, Andie, in her carrier. This was her first trip to the east coast.
I grew up in New Jersey and would often go out with my friends in Hoboken, then take the PATH train to New York City to do god knows what. Misty had already paid for the rental car, so I didn’t want to have to pay a ton of money for a cab into Manhattan.
I could get us into the city, I thought. I mean, how different could it be? The PATH is the PATH, right?
Misty and Travis were reluctant, but they followed my lead. We needed to take a bus from the airport to the PATH station. After talking to a few different airport employees, we made it onto the bus.
The first thing I noticed was that the bus driver was fully enclosed in bulletproof glass. There was a “no guns” sign displayed prominently.
The second thing I noticed was that there were no children. Everyone was staring at us.
Our bus ride was steely silent. By contrast, the train station we arrived to was complete chaos.
People lined the sidewalk along the train station, settling in for the night. Some people were talking loudly and playing games. Others were scantily dressed and sauntering up and down the sidewalk, stopping to talk to different men.
I’ll never forget the woman wearing the tube top. It had fallen down to reveal one of her breasts and she was screaming with her eyes rolling in the back of her head.
Misty had her 3-month old Andie hidden under her jacket. Travis was carrying the stroller and a bag. I was carrying the other bags.
We walked into the train station.
Inside there were even more people lining the walls. Some were screaming or mumbling. Others were staring at us.
There were no children. Anywhere.
I saw two cops standing in the center of the station, their eyes darting around to look at everything while at the same time looking at nothing at all.
We walked toward them quick, but tried to act casual. They wouldn’t look at us. Their eyes just kept darting around.
“What are you doing here,” one cop whispered harshly through strained teeth, still never making eye contact with us. The way he said it, it was more a statement than a question.
We mumbled something unmemorable.
Still without ever making eye contact, the cops escorted us to a train platform entrance that had been previously locked.
“Get on the train when it comes,” one curtly said as he unlocked it. “Don’t talk to anyone.”
At this point my sister was whispering to Andie, “Please don’t cry. I’m the worst mother. I’m the worst mother, please don’t cry.”
Travis was pale and hadn’t said a word the whole time. He had his tough guy face on.
I’m cursing myself for such a stupid idea, wondering where the hell the train was. I watched nervously as two people halfway down the platform stared at us whispering.
Please stay over there, I thought to myself.
The train finally came. We got on and took the empty train to Manhattan without a hitch.
But when we get to the subway entrance, the stroller didn’t fit through the turnstile.
Travis, silent up to this point, flipped his $hit and throws the stroller against the subway station wall.
It’s 4 AM so the subway station was extremely silent, except for the echo from the impact reverberating through the space.
Then out of nowhere, a woman came flying out of a two-way mirrored room we hadn’t noticed before, screaming at us.
“What the f&ck do you think you’re doing?! Who the f&ck are you?!“
We ignored her and walked on the subway train that was waiting there. It’s waiting for more passengers. Our anger was palatable, but it was late, our energy zapped.
Suddenly two cops came onto the train asking us what’s going on.
I was silent and avoided eye contact. Travis was also silent, looking down. My sister started crying and said something unintelligible about her baby and being a terrible mother.
The train leaves.
It was just about 5 AM when we stepped onto the New York City sidewalk. Of course it was snowing.
There were no cars on the street, so a cab wasn’t an option. Resolved to get to bed, we walked 20 blocks to the hotel in the snow.
At this point, I don’t think we even had the stroller anymore.
Of course, Travis’ suitcase handle broke off about 10 blocks in. He had to hold the suitcase the rest of the way.
It’s 6 AM when we finally collapse into bed with the hair dryer running because there wasn’t a fan and that’s how my niece fell asleep.
We were terrified at the time, but now Misty, Travis, and I think back on that story and laugh. We lost a bit of time in New York City because we slept in most of that first day, but the rest of the trip was actually a ton of fun.
Still, it taught me a few important lessons.
Here is what I learned*
- The PATH station in Newark closes at night. Because of this, we were never actually at the PATH station. We were at the Newark Train Station.
- In the evening, the Newark Train Station isn’t like the PATH station I used to take from Hoboken, NJ into the city.
- Because of this, people don’t go there with children.
- Correction, nobody goes there unless they plan to spend the night.
- I’m 100% convinced that the only reason we didn’t get hassled or possibly mugged is because my niece was there.
- Babies have an uncanny ability to sense fear and be quiet when needed.
- Don’t vandalize subway stations…even if it’s 4AM and it seems nobody is around.
* It was 2010 when this happened, so things could have changed.