St. Christopher to the red courtesy phone…

Okay, I have learned my lesson. Never, ever complain openly about the state of mass transit, for the Train Gods are jealous and quick to anger.

Pursuant to that revelation, a few small lessons I have learned this weekend:

1. There are no oxygen or defibrillator kits aboard Amtrak’s trains.

How did I come to learn this, you ask? Well, pretty much what you’d expect: just as the Acela was pulling out of Stamford station last night, an older gentlemen in my car proceeded to have a heart attack.

2. Pacemakers are not happy fun balls.

Like pretty much everyone who grew up watching television in the 70s and 80s, I had this vision of a pacemaker as a tiny little box that applied the microelectric version of the Magic Fingers to your heart whenever it started feeling a little tired. It was one of those little Miracles of Modern Science: grandma’s ticker is getting a little run down, she goes to the hospital for a tune-up, they put a pacemaker in, now she’s happy and smiling next to the doctor, fade out…We’re Beatrice.

This turns out not to be so much the case in real life, at least with your new-style pacemakers. What actually happens is that the pacemaker notices that your heart has gone into defib or afib rhythm, and promptly jolts you with approximately a kajillion amps of electricity. This is, as you would expect, incredibly painful. You will jerk around and make disturbing noises. Very loud disturbing noises.

3. EMTs are handy people to have around.

Luckily for the gentleman concerned, there were two EMTs in our car alone, including one sitting in the first chair forward from him, and they did a bangup job of handling the situation. In about 90 seconds, they’d gotten the train stopped, figured out all the pertinent details vis a vis the pacemaker/defibrillator, mostly gotten the guy breathing normally and managed to convince everyone else in the car to sit the hell down. They also then figured out that in the absence of an O2 or defib rig, there wasn’t a hell of a lot else that they could do until the train got back to Stamford station — nota bene to anyone riding Amtrak with elderly relatives.

4. There is no way to get a stretcher into an Amtrak car.

…and it’s also basically impossible to do a fireman’s carry down the aisle. The poor guy had to walk off mostly under his own power. On the other hand, he was conscious enough to walk, which probably bodes well for him.

5. You can shut down damn near the entire New York City subway system by merely throwing some nuts and bolts onto the rails.

So of course after being getting in about an hour late due to the heart attack, I sauntered into Penn Station and parked myself on the uptown “A” platform to wait for a train, only to be told, about ten minute later by the intercom, that there were no A trains running. Nor any C trains, E trains or F trains. None of the MTA personnel around seemed to have any idea what was going on, so I bagged it and took a cab home, and didn’t read about the details until this morning.

All self-obsessed whining about my personal inconvenience aside, it was actually a somewhat hair-raising set of circumstances, and I’m incredibly glad that no one in either incident appears to have been seriously harmed. Travel safe, kids.

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