Back in the main concourse again, Dan felt undecided. The station was full of places to eat, some up here, overlooking the main floor, others in the food hall down below. He didn’t feel like sitting at a table by himself, but he didn’t feel like the usual grab and gulp lunch fare either. There was the “Oyster Bar” – “the only seafood restaurant with a train station” – a line Dan enjoyed now that he was, occasionally to his distress, in marketing. He could sit at the raw bar, or at one of those low stools at the serpentine counter. No problem for one, even at this hour, he thought. But last night’s dinner had been a little too rich: what he really felt like was just a salad. Dan headed toward one of the stairways leading down – the one with the big brass fork over the staircase landing at the west end of the main hall.
- - - -
Out in the middle of the hall was a food island, surrounded by rather peculiar, outward-facing, hard-leather easy chairs – mostly occupied. ... Dan walked through a gap in the chairs and looked at the small establishment. A round signboard, looking a bit like an upside down lampshade, rose from the middle. Caffe Pepe Rosso, it said in large, illuminated blue letters. Under that, in black script “tavola calda.”
- - - -
The woman pulled her briefcase up and began prowling around in it. Dan tried hard not to look.
Dan couldn’t believe his ears.
Fork in midair, he looked at her, hesitated slightly, and then asked what was wrong.
- - - -
Sheryl gazed down at him and hesitated, but only briefly.
“I think I’m very fortunate,” she said.
Turning back toward Grand Central, Dan noticed the MetLife building beyond.
Pan Am didn’t survive all that long beyond The 20th Century Limited and the Commodore, he thought. The heroic days of air travel were long over.
“This is the final boarding announcement for Pan American World Airways Flight One, AROUND THE WORLD.” It had a certain ring to it. Some people took the flight just to say they had done it.
Above the ticket window, all was explained: LaGuardia $12; JFK $15: physically disabled seniors, $5.50 and $6.50, respectively; students $8.50 to either airport, IDs required. Why the destination differential for full-fare passengers and the disabled elderly, but not for students? One of life’s many little mysteries.
He purchased a ticket for $15, put it in his wallet and walked out.
- - - -
Did one buy tickets on the bus? Dan couldn’t remember. Glancing about, he noticed a singularly grungy ticket office, occupying what used to be a rather grand entrance to the office building in which it was located. Anything but “purpose built,” Dan thought.
“So what are you up to, honey?” a woman said to a cellphone.