Anxiety Note:
Jamaica
13 April 2018

After a very wearing day, Kathleen called to say that she was leaving the office. Some time later, she called, sounding very different, to tell me that she was in Jamaica. My blood ran cold.

“I took the wrong train,” she said. Oh, that Jamaica. Still, while Jamaica, Queens is a lot closer to home than the Caribbean island, Kathleen’s being there was hardly more explicable, especially once I realized that only about half an hour had passed since her previous call. Because she sounded upset, I did not ask if she was  sure that she was in Jamaica; I simply concurred when she told me that she was going to catch the next train back to the city. I did ask, “Are you all right?” She said she was, but she didn’t sound it. 

What to do? There was nothing to do but sit and wait. How had Kathleen gotten to Jamaica in thirty minutes? Had she boarded some freak express train? How else could she have gone all the way out to Jamaica — just north of JFK, practically at the city line — without realizing that she had taken the wrong train?

Because I knew that Kathleen had had a very hard day, though, I was not altogether surprised that she was in Jamaica.

You must understand that Kathleen has never sojourned in Queens. She has been to both airports many times, but always via taxi. When Kathleen is in a car, she pays no attention to the exterior world. I found this out a long time ago. Way back in law school, thinking that she might drive more often if she had some experience — that she had a license at all was surprising — I suggested that we drive to her house after classes one day. She got behind the wheel, adjusted everything, and even started the engine. Then she said, “How do we get there?”

As it turned out, of course, Kathleen was never in or even near Jamaica. She was in Long Island City, the first stop across the river from Manhattan and, just like the Lexington Avenue station at 63rd Street, the second stop from her office at Rockefeller Center. Getting off the train at the second stop as she was supposed to do, but not recognizing it, she fastened on a sign that pointed one way to Jamaica and the other to Manhattan. Disconcerted, she took “Jamaica” to mean that she was there.

She took a Manhattan-bound E train and got off at the next stop, also called Lexington Avenue but a different line altogether, although both stations are far below ground. Most of the escalators were not working. Having had enough subway fun, Kathleen  decided to take a taxi, and she called me as soon as she got into it.

Wow Back from Jamaica in even less than half an hour!

After dinner (we ordered Chinese, which was about the only thing Kathleen wanted to eat after her tough day, and the only thing I wanted to serve, so to speak, after my own anxiety attack), I got out a Hagstrom map of the city to give her an idea of the distance between Jamaica and Long Island City (albeit both in Queens) — an idea, in other words, of why I was so relieved to see her, barely an hour after she left work. 

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