I was in New York last week. No, that isn’t the story. Just the start. I had this meeting way down at 8th street. Or is that way up? No idea which way is up and which way is down when I am there. Who knows? Who cares? Anyway… My meeting finished way before my flight was to leave and I decided the day before to try something new. Take the bus back to the airport. I had more than enough time to get there – about 5 hours. How difficult can it be…
Well. More difficult than it seems. Especially if you have my navigational abilities. And street savvy…
Wait. Let’s just take a step back for a moment. I had this all planned out. I planned my whole trip the day before – back at the office. Printed out a map of the city. Marked the spot where I should catch my first bus. Where I should get off. Where I should catch the bus to the airport. And how long it should take to get to the airport. Everything was ready for me to fly off on a new adventure! I was prepared…
But I got home realizing that I left my whole stack of maps, directions and info back at the office. Right where I put them so I won’t forget them. Next to my bag… But hey! I can remember all the details right? What can possibly go wrong?
Now back to NY.
I said my goodbyes and left the building (AA has left the building.) I just flipped on my hat on and off I went… I jumped on a bus heading toward the direction where I should catch my bus to LaGuardia. Damn. Didn’t have the right change on me. And they only take coins. I got kicked off the bus by the bus driver. He could have been friendlier, but no problem. I’ll just grab a few coins from the shop. I bought some gum and a packet and off I went. Back on the next bus. Handed over my coins and settled in on my seat.
Bloody hell. It stops at every single block! And I am on 8th Street. I only have to get off at 95th. Or was that 116th? Maybe 125th? Anyway, I’ll sort that out later. But really. It is taking forever. And people aren’t that friendly either. I get a few stares. But I don’t mind. I got my iPod playing so don’t give a damn. But no “Love is in the air” from them. Grumpy bus people.
The ride took about an hour! It stopped for every single soul in NY and bloody everywhere. And people got on. And on. And a handful got off. I got up a few times to make way for pregnant women, women with kids, old ladies and gentlemen, and anyone who looked like they could do with a seat a little more than me. But hardly a smile or a thank you. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. They just sat there with their Yankee hats on and stared at me. The only one who gave me a smile was a Muslim woman who was visiting NY and didn’t speak English at all. New Yorkers? No sirree. Not a smile or a nod of the head. I just shrugged and did my own thing. Who will ever understand these people from the Big (Rotten) Apple?
But now I was struggling with another problem. What street should I get off at? I couldn’t remember if it was 95th or 116th or 125th. Don’t ask me how I got these three numbers stuck in my head. But I did. So the plan was that I’ll get off at 95th and then walk up to 125th. My bus to the airport will be around there somewhere. I think. Easy plan right? Yeah, right…
So I got off at 95th and started walking up towards 125th. On the same day that they had a huge event with McCain and Obama and Clinton and everyone speaking at Columbia about volunteering or national service or something. Whatever. It just meant that there was cops everywhere. And no taxi’s… But hey. I was going to catch the bus right? I can swear I see the right road just ahead…
An hour later I realized that I am hopelessly lost. I had no clue where I was. I knew that there was not a bus in site anywhere. And I passed 125th a long, long time ago. I have been walking and walking with no luck. And 116th didn’t look like anything where buses would use for a major stop. 125th didn’t make sense either. Maybe it’s just ahead. Morningside Heights have come and gone. Let’s go to Plan B. Catch a cab. Now that should be easy right? And I still have about 3 hours left. No problem…
But there wasn’t any cabs around. Cars yes. But not a single bloody cab. No problem. I must have picked the only spot in NY that is not covered by yellow cabs. But I know where I am. I think. I’ll just turn right and walk until I start hitting the main sections of Manhattan. Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it. So I turned right. Towards cabby land.
Mmm. Still no cabs. Let’s see. Where am I? Check out a few names of shops. Harlem. Cool. Never been to Harlem. But this isn’t a visit. It’s a mission. Get a cab and get to the airport. So I made another right turn down the main street of Harlem. Wazap my heavies! That’s to the dudes at the Hip Hop store. Lookin good! With the Yankee caps and hoodies. Lookin smooth bother! Hope they didn’t hear me listening to Enrique singing Hero… And why do the people give me the beady eye? What? What did I do dude? Is there something in my teeth?
Where the hell are the taxi’s? Oh wait there is one. Flagging down taxi! I am going to the airport!
He slows down as if he was ready to pick me up and then… Zoom! He hits the gas and off he goes. WTF? He didn’t have anyone in the cab! Oh well. It’s just one cab. And I still have loads of time…
Two hours later…
And I am still stuck in Harlem. Completely lost. Cabs refuse to pick me up. They slow down and then hit the gas. Some even flipped me a finger. I stopped guys at the traffic lights. But they just wave their finger at me and shake their head. Can you believe it! I stopped guys at a gas station filling up. And still nothing. They mumbled something about “Sorry sir… time… off” and other bull. I got into a taxi who dropped someone off and he turned around and his face just dropped when he saw me. Told me to get out the cab as he had some other business to do. Bloody rude cab driver! Everyone just ignored me or showed rude signs. And this went on for almost two bloody hours!
I started to panic. I am going to miss my plane back to Boston. I had just over an hour to get to the airport before my plane leaves! I gave up. I just stood on a corner seeing cabs everywhere but no one to pick me up. I just stood there. The iPod wasn’t even playing anymore. Head down. Shoulders hanging. And then the dude showed up.
“Looking for a cab?” I looked up. It was one of the hip hop guys. He was smiling. An odd smile. The smile you give to someone you want to laugh at but you know the person is really lost in so many ways. “Yeah, please”, was all I could say with a whimper. He shook his head and turned to a cabby on the other side, “Hey! Come here!” The cabby drove over and I got it. I looked at the dude that just saved me and said, “Man. Thank you so much for that. No one wanted to pick me up! You saved my life.” He just smiled, shook his head, and slapped the roof for the driver to take me.
The driver didn’t speak. I said, “LaGuardia please. My flight leaves in an hour and I still have to check in.” He just nodded. And then stopped to put some gas in. Well, after he drove on the wrong side of the road to take a shortcut to the gas station.
And he drove slower than Miss Daisy on a Sunday afternoon leisurely drive. And never spoke a word. Just looked at me every now and again with his Yankee hat on and gave me a rude stare. Like all New Yorkers did that day.
But thank God I made it in time. I got there in 30 minutes, checked in and got on the plane. I was tired from all the walking and just pulled my hat over my eyes and slept all the way to Boston. Ready to catch a cab home.
This time I didn’t have a problem. It was an easy ride home. Had a chat to the cabbie about Haiti where he is originally from. Got home and said goodbye. Walked into the house and took off my hat. Well, my hat… That’s it! My bloody hat I always wear when I travel!
My bloody Boston Red Sox hat! I had it on the whole time. The whole day. Everywhere I went in NY. The bus. The streets. Harlem. The cabbies. You name it. No wonder the Yankee loving bastards glared at me and refused to give me a lift.
Oh man. They hate the Red Sox. Especially now. They lost out to the Red Sox and didn’t make it to the playoffs. Back when they refused to give me a ride it was still a close contest. Now it’s over. We won. You’re out. You Yankee loving bastards. I got the final revenge. Go eat this Yankee! I win. You lose! Red Sox Nation 1 : 0 Yankee Losers. Revenge is sweet.
Note: To those “Souf Efrikans” reading this. The Red Sox and Yankees is like Province vs. Blue Bulls in rugby, South Africa vs. Aussies in cricket and Chiefs vs. Pirates in soccer. I’m the Province type of guy.