approximately 400 miles of travel is the distance between boston and westhampton, so i had to plan for an arrival at least 6-7 hours ahead of time. i decided to catch the 12:00 fungwah leaving south station, hoping to arrive in the manhattan chinatown by 4:00, which gave me about 2 hours to find my way to the nearest LIRR station so i could get onboard the same train john was taking from the airport. i wasn't expecting a crowd by all the chinatown buses were packed. i accidentally dropped my contigo tumbler and dent the lid (still works, just cosmetic).
i knew there might be some traffic once we got close to new york city, but i figured 2 hours was enough time to make my next connection. however what i failed to anticipate was the weather element: although it forecast for boston was dry throughout the entire weekend, once we entered connecticut it began to rain. even an aggressive bus driver was no match for the highway congestion.
next to me sat a neat 40ish asian man wearing iron-pressed pants. "are you korean?" was the first thing he said to me. "no," i replied, and responded with a, "are you filipino?" "no, i'm vietnamese," he said. i told him i was chinese. we had a nice long chat. he's an old immigrant like me, having arrived in the US back in 1981 (for me it was 1980) when he was just 20 years old (so he's 51 now). originally from nha trang, he was surprised when i told him i've been to his hometown. he returns to vietnam every winter during the vietnamese/chinese new year, spends a lot of time in hanoi although all his family is still back in nha trang (mother, sister). he was going to new york to meet up with some hanoi friends visiting the US for the very first time on a grand 3 week tour that'll take them from the east coast (new york, washington) to the west coast (san francisco, las vegas).
next to us sat a mother with her 3-4 year old daughter. she smiled a few times, unintentionally eavesdropping on our conversation. her daughter must've had developmental issues because she wouldn't stop making noises during the entire trip, stopping only for an hour when she finally fell asleep. the incessant murmuring was annoying, but eventually melded with the other background noises.
instead of a normal rest stop, the driver exited off the highway and took us to an arby already crowded with passengers from 2 other buses. the wait for the bathroom was terrible, more so for the women, with a line outside more than a dozen long. the problem was there was only 2 toilets per bathroom, simply not enough for so many people. why the bus driver brought us here we'll never know.
we didn't arrive in chinatown until 5:30. at one point the driver took a crazy detour to pick up his replacement, much to the confusion of the passengers. "let me off, i live right there!" a cranky man shouted as he grabbed his bags and stepped off the bus. i was going to say good bye to my vietnamese bus mate but he left abruptly, walking away with a younger asian man we came to pick him up. i noticed he didn't have any bags, which was kind of suspicious.
i had less than 30 minutes to make it to the LIRR terminal at penn station; i opted instead to take a Z train to jamaica, the next LIRR hub, hoping to meet john directly (returning from an israeli business trip). my time was further reduced by a search for some snacks to bring to the party. by the time i got onboard a Z train it was already 5:50. it was a "Z train skipping stops" but i still wasn't sure how long it'd take to get to jamaica, although i had a feeling it'd be another half hour. i wasn't going to make.
when i finally made it to the LIRR station in jamaica, the late-running speonk-bound train had just left. it wasn't that big a deal since the next train was just another half hour later. unfortunately, having never taken the LIRR before and having never gone to westhampton by train, i wasn't sure which one i should take. i asked a woman at an info booth for a train heading to montauk and she said not until another hour. after studying the departure board i finally deciphered the code: i was to take the babylon train and switch to another speonk-bound train. i arrived at the platform just when the babylon train pulled into the station.
the train was an express that took us directly to babylon. the connecting speonk-bound train at the station already had a lot of passengers. even though this one was a double decker, it quickly filled up. i was lucky enough to get a seat before the aisle became packed. i noticed a lot of gay men, probably heading out to fire island for the weekend. with each stop there was less passengers until finally for the last few stops the train was pretty much empty.
i arrived at speonk exactly at the scheduled time of 8:27. there was a lot of happy exchanges as friends and family came to pick up their loved ones. after a few minutes though, the station (really more of a train platform next to a parking lot) was empty. i called john a few times but got his voicemail. i left a message and waited. he called back a little later apologizing, told me the cell phone reception at the house was awful, and he was coming right over to pick me up.
instead of john, it was deanna who came. instead of returning to the house, we made a short detour to pick up some pizza. there was a 25 minute wait, so deanna told me she could drive me back, but i told i could wait. we passed the time browsing the nearby rite aid.
back at the house, there was megan, and christine and her boyfriend mike. turns out they were also on the same train as john. will was already asleep, and so apparently was john, crashing after 26 hours of staying up. deanna's parents were also there, but left for their manhasset home to give us kids some weekend privacy. i was feeling a bit tired myself, so after some pizza, i took a shower and prepared for bed around 11:00. i shared the same first floor guest room with megan, reminiscent of the first time we ever met. i warned her about my potential snoring. she said she was prepared, and took out some earplugs.