When I was a sophomore in college, I planned a trip to visit a friend at the University of Rhode Island. I knew there was a train station in Kingston, so I figured the trek from Boston to South County would be an easy one.
Getting to South Station – Boston’s major subway hub – was allegedly my biggest obstacle. From Northeastern, I had to walk to the Huntington Avenue stop, take the Green line to Park, switch to the Red line and take that to South Station where the Amtrak trains would be waiting. In order for that plan to work and for me to get to URI at a decent hour, I had to leave campus around 2 p.m. Because the Red line runs infrequently, I overcompensated for travel time and arrived at South Station with an hour before my train to Rhode Island would leave. No sweat, I thought. It seemed a small price to pay for hours of fun at my hometown college.
I waited patiently for my train to arrive and boarded the commuter rail on time. Everything was going according to plan.
When the conductor came by to ask for my ticket, I handed over my $15 and just said, “Kingston.” He obliged, and punched a ticket for me, and I continued to read my social theory notes until he yelled out the town’s name an hour or so later. I dialed my friend’s number and leaped off the train, the sun still shining, ready for a night out.
“I’m right off the platform,” he said.
“I don’t see you...Can you see me?”
Friday afternoon commuters hustled to their cars. Soon enough, I was the only person left standing on the platform.
“How can you not see me? I’m the only one left.”
How come no one told me there was a Kingston, Massachusetts?
Far up north, past Cape Cod, the train schedules had betrayed me. I was way further away than when I had started, and as it turned out, Kingston is not a commonly serviced location.
I sat on that platform (no station, naturally) for over an hour waiting for the return train.
I got back to South Station and had to wait for another hour to catch a train that would bring me to Providence, because as it turned out, the Kingston, RI station could only be reached by Amtrak. From there, it was another 40 minutes in the car. I arrived at the University around 10 p.m. and was so tired from carrying my bags around that I was ready for bed as soon as I got there and my chauffeur was just as tired.
So what is the point of this column, you may ask?
Maybe I’m about to make a point – share how much I’ve grown in those years, joke about how foolish I was back then. Or maybe there’s a lesson to be had here about the importance of planning.
Those would be good points to make, after all. Columns are about taking your life experiences and applying them to your readers, finding a moral where possible.
Unfortunately, this is not one of those instances.
My column is largely inspired by my life outside of reporting, and on Thursday, I couldn’t help but remember my experience in Kingston #2.
I gave myself nearly 40 minutes to make a 20-minute trip to Providence’s First District Court for the ACLU hearing on the Cranston West prayer mural. Naturally, I got lost. I got lost as I do almost every time I venture outside of my Kent County comfort zone. Sometimes even when I’m in that comfort zone, I forget how to get to places I’ve been a dozen times. I once had to call my mom from the road and ask how to get to Garden City. It’s like I’m missing a whole portion of my brain that tells me where to go. I don’t recognize landmarks, I can’t follow directions based on street names and my gut always tells me to turn left when I’m supposed to go right. It doesn’t help that I try to avoid major highways no matter where I’m going. The fact is, I hate to drive (probably not helped by my inability to navigate), and I hate it even more when I’m driving at speeds that could kill someone. So when you add another 15 directions based on the backroads option, it doesn’t help the navigationally challenged.
In Providence Thursday, my 40-minute safety net quickly diminished, and I found myself arriving 10 minutes late, parking in the sketchiest lot in all of Providence, handing my keys over to the strange man running said parking scam and running four blocks to the courthouse.
Turns out the judge wanted to go on a field trip and I was a half hour early.