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After Work: Lift A Glass To The Bar Car

…A noisy crowd gathered in the bar cars, shifting their weight, taking the slight turns in the track with a beer in hand, laughing about the day’s bond trades, the ad sales, the upward turn (or downward turn) in the market - with a beer in hand. Or a vodka and tonic. A gin and tonic. Nothing too complex. Like a Sea Breeze. Or Harvey Wallbanger…

Dona Gibbs is disturbed by the news that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority may ban bar cars on the its commuter rail lines.

Here’s some good advice. Pour yourself a gin and tonic (or anything else that takes your fancy), read Lift A Glass To The Bar Car, then click on After Work in the menu on this page and continue “sipping’’ Dona’s refreshing words.

I’ve just read that that there's a move afoot to ban booze on the New York Commuter line that I once rode for many years, or on any of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lines. That means no bar cars. No men with portable bars dispensing drinks at the gates.

Woe, oh woe, to the John Cheever picture of Westchester Country, New York.

John Cheever as you probably know was an American novelist, who wrote about the emptiness of middle class life with ironic humor. It should be noted in the interest of full disclosure, that he battled with alcoholism all his life.

The New York-New Haven line, my old twice-daily glimpse of purgatory, runs from Grand Central Station in the heart of New York City up to New Haven, home of Yale University, great pizza and Morry’s, ‘the dear old Temple Bar we loved so well” of Whiffenpoof fame.

It’s likely that such notables as Cab Calloway—remember Minnie the Moocher; Joan Rivers, the comedienne: Director An Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”, Baseball star Lou Gehrig; Golfer Tommy Armour all rode this line since they once lived, or in the case of An Lee, presently live in the bedroom communities the line serves.

And there are the hundreds of thousands of people who are famous only within the four walls of their own homes. They’re the ones balancing a cup of coffee and a newspaper in the morning and a beer or a soda on the return home.

Cheever rode another line –the Croton-Hudson--but it matters little. You probably have a mental picture.

For years and years, drinks have been served. A noisy crowd gathered in the bar cars, shifting their weight, taking the slight turns in the track with a beer in hand, laughing about the day’s bond trades, the ad sales, the upward turn (or downward turn) in the market - with a beer in hand. Or a vodka and tonic. A gin and tonic. Nothing too complex. Like a Sea Breeze. Or Harvey Wallbanger (even when the marketing guy next to you might have invented the drink back in the 60s to sell more Galliano.)

Back in the thirties, there was a famous bar car—one that train fans still talk about. It was called the V: XI-GBC. The V: XI stood for 5:11, the time the train pulled out of Grand Central Station.

Now I never stood in the bar car. That would have been unseemly. I, with a couple of women friends from work, huddled in a regular car, on facing benches that usually the card players occupied.

We were constantly struggling with what our roles should be in advertising. Should we be macho? Then we’d have vodka and tonics spilled into plastic cups by a smiling, and knowing, railroad concessionaire. It came with ice, glorious ice—a precious few cubes, which on more than one occasion, we all felt like digging out of our cups and dabbing across our brows. Maybe we should be ladylike, Ask for white wine, whatever that warm stuff was in the green bottles.

We were mentally exhausted. Too tired fighting what was thought to be the good fight.

Probably, if we chose to ponder the situation, it was the same one our husbands confronted. And their dads before them.

We were incredibly privileged. Education. Jobs. And the money those jobs brought. Although we always complained how little we as women made compared to the guys.

Ah, this was what it what it was to be a liberated woman in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. We softened the hard edges of a confusing, grueling workday with a chat over a while wine on the train.

If the task force studying the booze issue has their way there’ll be no more wine, no cold beers no g and t’s. And many commuters are outraged.

The furor isn’t really about booze. It’s about an authority, in this case the MTA, taking away small pleasures. Ones that help make up for the soul-nicking days of making trades, making deals, making ads, making books and magazines—all the ephemeral ways of making a living you could imagine. Checking and rechecking figures. Dealing with the impatient and the sour. Dealing with the vagaries of a twice-a-day commute. Earning money to support the family. And riding the 6:20, if you’re lucky to get out of the office so early.

These are railroad warriors, not frat boys. Not slatterns. Not boors. Not alcoholics—well, not most of them. They go to work. Work hard. And go home. And do it all over again the next day.

Give these guy and ladies a drink. And cheers.


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