My sister Stephanie, a 41-years-young Ph.D. and mother of two, who is prepping for a go at the "Big One" in November, was one of the brave ones.
Leaving my apartment in Hoboken at 8 a.m., the plan was to head to Coney Island and meet up with the rest of my family, where we're going to cheer my crazy sister on as she crossed the finish line.
That was our plan. Unbeknownst to me, the city had plans of its own.
Coming off the BQE, I merge onto the Prospect Expressway. I couldn't have gone more than half a mile when life as I knew it came to a DEAD STOP.
It's definitely not a good sign when 20 minutes pass and you realize you're still sitting in the exact spot you stopped in. It's now 8:45 and I decide to call my bro-in-law, Michael, and let him know something's amiss. It's at this point he tells me the city has apparently closed the Prospect Expressway due to the marathon.
My first thought is, "Holy Shit." My next is, "WTF, Mr. Mayor??!!"
It seems the city has apparently decided to close 95 percent of a major Brooklyn thoroughfare while still leaving the first 5 percent open, so unsuspecting motorists can drift helplessly into the Death Star's gravitational pull, and be left there to rot for the better part of the next two hours.
You want to talk about an unbelievable lapse in judgement? How about the guy at the D.O.T. whose job it was to close the expressway and who, when asked by a co-worker if they should put a sign on the BQE to alert approaching motorists of the trouble dead ahead, went, "Nah."
Where else but in New York would you find a highway completely closed, except for the on-ramp?
They can take 100 barrels and mark off five miles of interstate for one guy with a jackhammer, but when they decide to close an entire stretch of highway, not one of these rocket scientists has the presence of mind to grab a Magic Marker and post a sign?!
I called the D.O.T.'s press office and was greeted by a man who obviously spent the better part of his adult life drinking Night Train. According to him, traffic was moving fine, and if I wanted to speak to someone more important than he, I was to give him my number so he could "email it" to the relevant department. Even in my moment of despair, the irony of a municipal office having to communicate with each other by carrier pigeon was not lost.
I then phoned WCBS (880am) and tried to remain calm. It didn't work, as a minute later, over the air, I hear:
Well, there seem to be some very aggravated drivers on the Prospect Expressway this morning. It's apparently closed in both directions due to the Marathon. Thanks to David for the tip.
Having now sat in the same place for an hour and a half, I'm about to abandon the vehicle when, low and behold, the cars in front of me start moving.
It takes about another half hour to exit. It's now 10:30 a.m. It's taken me two hours to go a quarter of a mile. The worst part is, all of this utter nonsense could have been avoided with just a simple sign.
The streets look like the automotive version of The Walking Dead; hundreds of vehicles desperate to avoid additional delays looking for a clear street to freedom.
When I finally get to the boardwalk, I go to call Michael and share the joy: Nothing. Okay, try again. Nothing. Try again. Dropped. What in the heck is going on now?
I try my mom. Once. Twice. Thrice. No dice. I'll just text them. Guess not. Okay, now I'm getting pissed. I spend the better part of the last two hours sitting on a closed highway and now Verizon is playing f'n games? Double parked, I put my hazards on and walk straight into the mob. I walk up and down each street trying to make a call. It's useless.
Some guy approaches me and asks to use my phone. I turn and look around me... there are hundreds of us. Now, literally, The Talking Dead, looking for our lost family members in the throngs of runners and by-standers, all with no means of communication.
I spot two cops standing by the Nathan's and ask to use one of their cells. "Ours don't work either. Cell signal is really bad out here. Wait a bit and try later."
"Try later?" I've now been standing here for half an hour! And the sunny 70 degree day we were supposed to have has turned into a blustery 50 degree one. And now, it starts to rain. I feel like Dan Aykroyd in the Santa suit in Trading Places. I figure, any moment now, a dog's going to pee on my leg.
After about an hour standing in the freezing wind and rain, a text comes through from Michael;
Are you here? he asks, nonchalantly.
WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! I calmly reply.
Apparently, he and my mother have had quite the time themselves. They got off at the wrong subway stop and had to lift the babies and their strollers up a few massive staircases, only to find themselves trapped on all sides by a huge apartment complex. Had it not been for the kindness of a neighbor, who let them through a locked gate, they would have had a half-mile walk to cross the street. As it was, they ended up missing my sister at the finish line and spent the last half hour trying to find her.
Upon finally finding each other, it turns out Stephanie, whose phone didn't work, either, asked a guy in a "Counter-Terrorism" T-shirt what was going on. "They shut down all cell phones in the area," he replied. "Everywhere??" she asked. "Yup."
No announcement. No warning. No notice of this minor issue to the runners in the bag of instructions each entrant is given before the race. And, judging by the response of the two cops, the police weren't told either. They just shut 'em down, leaving thousands wandering aimlessly in the rain, trying to find their friends and family.
If you're going to shut off phone service to half a borough at the time of a major event, how about a slip of paper, or a radio announcement, alerting people of the changes?
In an instant, the highway closing without a sign became amateur hour.
Is this a sign of things to come? Thousands of people at sporting events in big cities nationwide are now to be subjected to the same random acts of disruption and government-caused chaos as the T.S.A.?
Are we now all to be punished at every public gathering from now until the end of time for the acts of two misguided idiots in Boston? I'm surprised they didn't make the runners take their shoes off before approaching the finish line.
In the end, a pathetic and total failure by all parties involved in organizing this disaster of a day.
When I finally calmed down, I said to my sister; "I don't care if you go on to be the first woman to walk on Mars. If you land in the waters off Coney Island, I'm watching it on T.V."
I can't wait for November.