Saturday, September 10, 2011

Change in Plans

"In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."
~T.S. Eliot~

As I gleefully mentioned a couple of days ago, the 26th annual Mushroom Festival is this weekend in Kennett Square, PA. After careful consideration, I've decided not to go. Perhaps you've heard, "flash flooding from the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee has forced the closure of dozens of highways and roads in Pennsylvania." The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for much of the region and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has issued this warning:

Due to extreme flooding over the eastern third of Pennsylvania, PennDOT and the PA Turnpike Commission urge motorists to avoid all travel in this section of the commonwealth unless absolutely necessary.

There isn't any major flooding going on in my neck of the woods. However, that's not to say there aren't problems in the surrounding areas. At this time, (I'm writing this on Thursday:) Bloomsburg, which is about 45 minutes away from me, is literally under water. I sure hope they can get it cleaned up before the Bloomsburg Fair in a few weeks. One of my favorite locally owned amusement parks, Knoebels is also under water. Would I like to visit The Mushroom Capital of the World for National Mushroom Month? Positively! Is it necessary? Absolutely not! The decision is made.

I consider myself to be a reasonably decisive person. On occasion, I have been known to waiver my decisions, such as this weekend, but in most instances, "good Lord willing and the creek don't freeze," I stick to my guns. Let me tell you about another time I had a change of plans; September 11, 2001.

For approximately 10 years, I commuted back and forth from New York to Pennsylvania on a regular basis before permanently moving to Pennsylvania nearly three years ago. Sometimes once a month, often times once a week, occasionally twice a week. That's 275 miles each way. When you consistently make a trek like that, you develop a routine. Mine was rather boring. Gas up, grab a coffee, drive. Every now and again, depending on time, I would stop for breakfast at either of two places; a diner in the Poconos or another in New Jersey. Boring, right? I think the most tiresome portion of the trip was getting up in the wee hours of the morning to begin the journey. You see, there's a certain amount of mathematics involved when timing your arrival at either destination.

East to West- New York to PA
When leaving Long Island, NY to drive to central PA, IMHO, it is best to leave after the morning traffic, which last time I checked, was between 9:30-10:00AM. Oh, I know everyone thinks its best to "get out of the city" by leaving in the wee hours of the morning but believe me, it is best to leave right at the tail end of the morning rush hour on the Long Island Expressway if time allows. If not, shoot for the wee hours but, you will probably get there in the same amount of time anyway.
West to East PA to New York
When leaving central PA to drive to Suffolk County, NY, IMHO, it is best to leave in the wee hours of the morning, which last time I checked, was between 3:30-4:00AM

While I'm issuing you "humble opinions," I may as well remind you of a trick I'm sure you also learned in your travels.

East-West North-South
In the numbering scheme, of the Interstate Highway System, east-west highways are assigned even numbers and north-south highways are assigned odd numbers. There are a few exceptions but when in doubt, go with this rule, IMHO, of course:)

The Saturday before September 11, 2001, I was home in Westhampton, NY, tidying up a few business related details. It had been a long week of tough negotiations and, quite frankly, I was pooped. From what I recall, it was a beautiful September day on the east end of Long Island and the perfect weather for stocking up on some obscure groceries to bring home to Pennsylvania. (obscure in PA not in NY:) Off I went to the vegetable stand and the butcher to get my "rations." My plan was to leave on Sunday morning and head back to PA. (when leaving New York on a Sunday to drive to central PA, there is yet another formula one may want to consider during the tourist season:) Since Labor Day was put to rest for yet another year, a leisurely hour in the morning is suitable enough, weather permitting. So, I packed my stuff, gas upped, grabbed a coffee and Sunday morning, not to bright and not to early, I headed to PA. I arrived back in PA before dark which for me, and my eyes, is always a good thing:)

Monday, September 10, 2001 was an uneventful morning. If memory serves me correctly, rain was in the forecast. I was still dragging from the previous week. No matter how many times I make that ride I still usually need at least two days to recuperate. (hey, I'm not as young as I use to be even today:) Around dinner time Monday evening, I received a phone call from my partner down in New York. In a nutshell, our lawyer had left a message that I was needed in New York to look over some papers which had to be signed, ASAP. I was not a happy camper. Remember what I said, When leaving central PA to drive to Suffolk County, NY, it is best to leave in the wee hours of the morning. The reason being, IMHO, if timed right, you will arrive at the toll booth of the George Washington Bridge at about 10AM. You will have missed the morning rush hour in New Jersey and most New York commuters are tucked in their offices in Manhattan and the rest of the city.

I was living in Bellefonte at the time and, I had the most wonderful neighbors. As a matter of fact, they often drop by the house to visit to this day. They were also my mail caretakers. So, knock, knock, knock at the door that evening (Monday) there stood Jo with a packet of mail addressed to me. Naturally, I invited her in. I brewed some tea and we sat down to enjoy a cup with her "famous" peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. (She also makes the very best peanut butter fudge EVER!) We chatted and we chatted and we chatted and before we knew it, it was 10:30PM. Jo was in no rush to get home, first because, she lived in the condo next door and second because her husband was in Ohio visiting his brother. I informed Jo that I was off to New York in the morning but that she didn't need to worry about the mail because I would be back before the week's end. We said our good-byes and after setting the alarm for 3:00AM, I headed for bed. I could not sleep for the life of me. It may have been the tea. It could have been the double doses of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies but more likely, I was just plain ol' out of whack! Did I tell you there was no wine in the house? In New York yes, but not in PA. You know that desperate feeling that comes over you when you know you must get up on time no matter what? You turn off the TV thinking it's distracting you. You turn on the TV because you require the noise? You toss, you turn, you pace. I'm thankful it doesn't happen often but boy oh boy when it does, it's just awful! A change of plans was necessary...

The alarming ring of the phone that fateful morning startled me. However, nothing had prepared me for Jo's quivering words at the other end of the phone..."I'm so glad you're still home, something terrible has happened in New York City. A plane has crashed into The World Center."

from Entertaining with Style; Recipes from Great American Restaurants ©1980


  1. i got goosebumps reading your post. meanwhile, i've driven in rush hour traffic in dc, and it's a night. mare. i can only imagine how much worse it is up north!
    on a brighter note, that souffle looks awesome!

  2. That was a moving post, Louise. Thank you for sharing.

    By the way, you mentioned Kennett Square and made me homesick! I spend so much of my growing up in that area, around Brookhaven, Aston, Parkside and always eating hoagies everywhere we went. I will always miss Pensylvania. *sniff, sniff*

  3. I'm glad that all those piled up coincidences and so on conspired to give us this post instead one on mushrooms! Let the mushrooms wait.

  4. Thank goodness you had a change of plans...

  5. Much as I hate to miss your report from the mushroom festival, I think it is right to trust those instincts, Louise. I once celebrated a milestone birthday at Windows on the World - it was a lovely night, and I'll never forget the memory.

  6. It was a horrifying day...just horrifying.

    So glad you're dry after the storms. We fared just fine, but Tunkhannock (10 miles west) and Wilkes Barre (35 miles south) were under water. A friend in Binghamton, NY (50 miles north) had to flee when his yard ended up in 5 feet of water, and he nearly lost his dog in the current. We took him in for a few days. It was very strange weather indeed.

  7. hi louise, i also happened to read some stories on 911 couple of days back and how some people had a change of their plans, missed the bus, missed the alarm clock and that how these little things have saved their lives. it was indeed a truly blessing for you!

  8. Louise, I have goose bumps reading this story. What always amazes me is the what might have been, what if I went left rather than right. Wow, so glad you shared your story.

  9. Thank you for all your kind words everyone. Perhaps, next year...

  10. I'd have to agree with you leaving early to beat the morning traffic. When my family and I were still in Australia and had to go to Sydney from Canberra on land, we had to leave at 4am in the morning so we wouldn't be struck in traffic.

  11. Oh I know the routine well, Eleanor. Since moving to Pennsylvania, I can honestly say the one thing I don't miss is traffic. (I do miss the abundance of seafood available in New York though:) Thanks for dropping by...


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise