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An ex-LIRR commuter's train of thought

Dorothy A. Jentz of Carle Place, who is

Dorothy A. Jentz of Carle Place, who is now retired, says that one of the best parts of her commute to her job in Manhattan was the daily trip on the Long Island Rail Road. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

After spending at least 16 years at home, being a wife and a mother of three daughters, I was offered the opportunity to work in a newly formed law firm at 40 Wall St. in New York City.

While I thought the situation was very promising, I did not admit at the time that I was extremely nervous about the whole process. However, I knew it would be a means to an end. I had been home for years raising my family, and I knew I wanted to go back to work. This position lasted exactly 11 years when I decided that, nearing 50 years of age, I should bring this long commute to an end and work closer to home.

One of the best parts of my commute was the daily trip on the Long Island Rail Road. It was fun to meet the other commuters from Carle Place who boarded the train I took at 8:25 a.m. every day. Then, every evening, I would return on the 6:36 train and meet some of my neighborhood commuters again.

I enjoyed the commute except for the times when there were significant delays. In the event of delays, I had a system. First, I would buy a beer at one of the kiosks in Penn Station. Then, I would get on a telephone line to call my daughters and tell them to watch the news because the train would be late.

It was always fun to observe other commuters. On a late trip home on a Friday evening, I noticed there was a card-playing group. Each participant entered the train at different times and different stations but still managed to hold their card game.

After an office party (too late and too tired), I missed my stop and ended up in Bay Shore and had to go back to Jamaica and did not arrive at the Carle Place stop until 4 the next morning. I definitely tried never to do that again.

My commute home would include riding with a group of lawyers. One lawyer bought a martini with eight olives so we could all share. We always played hangman and had a great time. Some of these folks have even left this good Earth. There was an occasion when I commuted with a younger group of folks, and one, an electrician, obtained tickets to great concerts at the Juilliard School.

The best part of commuting by train is that if the train was delayed, you could always blame your lateness on the LIRR. Besides, no one could bother me, as I was a captive of the railroad. We did not have cellphones then, so my children could not call, and my employer could not relate all of the coming days' events. I often would take a nap or just read newspapers and books. I eventually took a paralegal course and did all my homework on the train.

The worst times were when there was a significant snowstorm. If you left work early, all the workmen who took the earlier trains would almost knock you down, saying it was their train and asking what we were doing there. That was a little scary because I am a 5-foot-tall woman, and this could be very intimidating. Another equally uncomfortable situation was the inferno of heat in the summer on the platforms and the terrible cold in the winter. I think some of that has been eliminated with major improvements.

I remember riding with a group of well-heeled businessmen from the Gold Coast who got on the train at Cold Spring Harbor or Syosset. One gentleman owned racehorses in Ireland. As I recall, there was a very handsome ticket taker who seemed to flirt with every woman younger than 50 on the commute.

The negatives of the LIRR were its exorbitant cost and lateness due to inclement weather or vehicles that collided with the train. When this occurred, it usually took a long time to get the train back.

My story may not be exciting to some, but for me it was a great 11 years. When I finally retired from New York, I became employed only 10 minutes from home, and I would almost cry while driving to work all by myself.

Dorothy A. Jentz,
Carle Place

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