Tampa In Three Topics

We spent last weekend in Tampa. Previously, I’ve posted about our visit to MOSI and to Tarpon Springs. For everyone’s convenience, I have broken down some other parts our brief vacation into a handful of topics. For no reason at all, let us start with …

Books.

We had no car (see Planes), so for a couple of mornings, we had to wait for Vince or Rachel to return before heading out for brunch. It was almost sinful to sit around for two mornings straight with little to do but drink coffee and read. We could’ve turned on the television, but it felt so much better to just sink into a book for awhile.

I made it through two books over the course of our vacation. Both books were recommended by the Best Teen-brarian in Roswell. The first was The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, an unexpectedly uplifting tragedy about the little crimes that a young girl commits in order to cope with a disintegrating world at war. The less said about this imaginative book, the better. The imagery is rich and the story rewarding, so why spoil it? The second was Peeps, a vampire tale by Scott Westerberg. You would imagine that all of the vampire stories have been written, and you’d be right, but there is something fun and engaging about the speed and attitude of Westerberg’s take on this too-often tilled soil. And the fun persists, right up to the point where the reins are pulled back for a “cue end credits – wait for the sequel” finale.

Planes.

It seems ridiculous to consider, but it was cheaper to hop on a plane than it would’ve been to drive. Neither of us have cars that are built for endurance, what with two decades between them. If we go on a longer vacation, someplace a few hours or more away, we rent a car with unlimited mileage and look at the whole weekend as an extended test drive of whatever we’re issued. But the price of gasoline is just too high. So we left the driving to Delta.

The flight down was fair, even with the hour-long wait on the tarmac between gate and takeoff. It might’ve gone down as the most matter-of-fact flight ever, if it hadn’t been for the ten minutes of WTF that arrived when my left ear refused to pop just outside of Tampa. My hearing went from everyday stereo to mono. And it hurt. Not fun.

The trip back was uneventful and was over before we knew it, apart from the half-hour or so of taxi-ing it took to find an available receiving gate. The more interesting part of the journey home was to come later …

Trains.

Like a good pair of suburbanites, we hitched our airport-bound fortunes to almighty MARTA. And MARTA delivered us dutifully from its northern-most reaches to Hartsfield-Jackson with plenty of time to spare. But the return trip days later was another tale altogether. It was a bit before nine PM when we plucked our baggage from Delta Claim #7 and strode out and through the turnstiles for MARTA Due North.

Perhaps it should’ve been an omen, that unlit train on the eastern side of the platform. An appointed shouter told us that any train on the east side was going to be out-of-service, so we all needed to get on the other train. Doraville-bound? North Springs? Didn’t matter which of the two possible north-end stations we wanted, because this one train was the only way. So we got on-board and crammed into a seat, suitcases and all.

Things were not quite right, but we tried to ignore the lack of air conditioning and the Frankenstein flickering of the fluorescents. Both of us had books to read. So we read our way north through a few stations until we got to Oakland City. For one thing, the stay went on for longer than usual. For another, the lights flickered all the way off, then partially back on. For yet another, some people on the platform were giving our train the shifty-eye — you know it when you see it, trust me. Some of our people started getting up and hopping off, but none of us really moved until an off-duty TSA worker stepped in and told the rest of us that we’d better get off. Why? Looked like somebody’d jumped on the tracks, he said. Oh.

So we shuffled off and before long, an official MARTA person — official by uniform and official by walkie-talkie — had called for everyone’s attention. From the center of the platform, she asked us to be patient, but then admonished us a bit. This is a tragedy, she said. That’s somebody’s relative under the train, she reminded us. And so, she assured us that usually — usually? — MARTA would be putting everyone on buses, but that whatever was going to happen, we would be waiting for a minute. Or so.

After a few moments more, she stood up on another platform bench and asked us to carefully make our way downstairs and into the station and could we just take our time. About this time, the same advice was echoed, only much louder and harsher. The police had arrived and were making their way down the platform, toward us, commanding us all to get off the platform. Now.

Which we did. We got as far as the split, the decision point between heading out to Lee Street and getting a bus transfer to wherever. But nobody was forthcoming about the mentioned shuttles and neither of us have a clue as to the bus-mechanics of the MARTA system, so we went no further. Nobody was panicking, which was a plus. To be honest, neither were we. There was never a concern about safety, just an uncertainty about when we’d ever get home. With that in mind, Nikki and I figured we should call somebody. So we did, then stepped through the Lee Street turnstyles.

While we waited on the sidewalk, emergency vehicles just kept arriving. Two from Grady. A fire truck. A big vehicle with Georgia Search & Rescue printed on the side. Several cop cars. A lot of municipal support for a single victim, I thought.

About fifteen minutes or so later, our heroes (Rusty and Amber) plucked us from Oakland City and took us to North Avenue Station, a point we were told was far enough north to still be viable for northbound station-to-station travel. After buying another pair of Breeze Passes (a couple of one-ways, please), we went a few stations further north to Lindbergh, then switched from a Doraville train to a North Springs train.

Three hours after first stepping into the Airport MARTA station, we were back in my long-term parked car and on our way home.

It turns out, the jumper (or the faller) on the MARTA track survived. Happy endings for everyone, I suppose.

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  • Tim

    So THAT’s what was delaying my commute that day. Hope the holiday was nice.

  • Hey! Thanks for the super awesome shout out. Although, I thought I was the best TeenBrarian in the WORLD, not just Roswell. But it’s cool…whatevs.