When I told the assistant manager of the Fairfield bookstore where I work that I could use some additional hours to help me through the tough summer, she was kind enough to offer me some shifts at a bookstore the company manages in New Haven.
That store needs help with its "rush" period as college students return, and I started a one-month stint there on Monday.
In addition to working in a very different size store and meeting new co-workers, my short-term assignment presented me a choice I hadn't had in a long time -- driving or taking the train. My boss told me that if I took the train, there is a free bus that would drop me off right across from the bookstore
I had to drive Monday because of a business meeting in Westport, but on Tuesday, I embraced the opportunity to save the gas and hopped the train at Fairfield Metro Station. My wife dropped me off about 8:30 a.m. and, just assuming the next train was going to arrive very soon, I rushed across the overpass and paid the $4.50 round trip senior fare in the machine. My ticket had just printed out when the train arrived.
This reverse commute was my first ride on one of the new rail cars. The train was spotless and free of the stale, urine stench that I became so used to during my 12 years of commuting to Stamford.
Twenty-five pleasant minutes later I was at Union Station in New Haven. Sure, I saw the backs of a lot of dilapidated buildings along the way, but I also glimpsed the channel to the Sound, the Port Jefferson ferry, the Housatonic River feeding into the Sound, a couple of quiet inlets and the new West Haven train station.
The train was really crowded, which should not have been a surprise. After all, a lot of people commute to New Haven from the city, and from many Connecticut towns
In New Haven, there is a thriving business district along the town green. Yale-New Haven Hospital is like a medical city, employing a huge workforce from around the state, and Yale University, Gateway Community College, the Shubert Theater and businesses like IKEA have evidently reached outside of New Haven to hire. Of course, I had no idea where all these folks were going but 95 percent of them in my rail car got off in New Haven.
Once I'd arrived, my next step was to find the free shuttle bus and see how close I could get to the bookstore. I was pleasantly surprised. This wonderful little shuttle makes eight stops between the station and downtown. The stop at Orange and Crown streets is right across the street from building where the bookstore was located.
These free buses run about every 15 minutes, and for the return, I was picked up almost right outside the door. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the station.
These shuttles are wonderful. When I worked in Stamford and took the train, I rode a shuttle right to the entrance of my building, about 10 minutes from the station. It was great, especially in the snowy weather.
Once the green bus dropped me at Union Station, I found I had about a 30-minute wait for the next Metro-North train. The rest was easy. I just texted my wife with my arrival time, then walked leisurely to the track area to wait. When I got off the train at Fairfield Metro, she was right there.
The train commute was so great, I've decided that I'll ride the rails any time I can during my one-month New Haven assignment. The passengers were quiet and polite, my stress level was zero, I didn't have to concentrate on which drivers would be cutting me off and I was saving gas.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.