My meetings were over. All I have to do is get from Park Ave & 68th Street in New York City, back to Indianapolis. Simple, right?
As I step into the street it is as though someone has poured out a bucket of water from the window above me onto my head. It is pouring rain. I’m in a suit, with another suit in a hanging bag over my shoulder, and my laptop bag containing one night’s worth of travel gear, but no umbrella.
I cross the street, it looks like it might be easier to catch a Taxi from there to the airport. On the street, it is as if someone has just opened a sluice gate and a river of water appears out of nowhere and rushes over each of my ankles and into both of my shoes. Standing in water in my shoes, under a tree, I wave in the customary way to the Taxis. Each one is either off duty, has a fare, or is perhaps worried their cab might melt in the rain if they stop to pick me up. I have no luck. Eventually I am waving like a mad air traffic controller at them, because by this point I am soaking wet.
I try moving to another block; no matter what I do I can’t get a taxi. Waving wet $50 bills in the air isn’t going to stop these blurry yellow vehicles. I talk a bellhop into calling the car services he knows—their lines are all busy. Apparently at 5pm in a rainstorm New York becomes impossible to leave. In fact, on this day I realized that the movie Escape from New York was not a post-apocalyptic dystopian future staring Kurt Russell. It was, I believe, merely filmed on a normal New York Wednesday at 5pm during Russell’s commute—a day like today. Determined to escape from New York, I affix my “Snake” eye patch and start off for the subway.
Of course, my flight is leaving LaGuardia International Airport. As New Yorkers know, while LaGuardia is indeed an international airport, it is easier to get there from another country than from Manhattan. LaGuardia is a mere 3 miles from the end of the “N-Train” subway line, but instead you have to go the long way around.
I enter the subway station, happy to at least be underground and not being poured on. I purchase an MTA ticket from booth. The workers inside stare out of their glass hut, laughing at me and the puddle forming at my feet as I stood in my soaked suit.
I then ask for help. Outsiders might think that New Yorkers aren’t helpful when you ask for directions. On the contrary, this creates a unique New York experience: I ask the attendant for how to get to LaGuardia & 3 people answer, then two other bystanders argue back with other options. An incredible argument starts spontaneously. I back away slowly from this verbal Mexican standoff. They continue to argue, but I leave with the first option in mind: the 6 train to the M60 bus to LGA.
I forget which train goes to 125th, however. A man with a shaved head is in front of me. I ask him, “Excuse me, is it uptown or downtown to 125th?” He turns around with stiff shoulders and neck slowly revealing a chiseled chin, a scar on his forehead, and one perfectly white and creepy glass eye. He spoke perfect English but in a very thick Russian accent. “Well, of course, this is 68th street, so 125th is uptown.” He rolled his eye, and then continued to stare at me as I processed this, and I wet my already wet pants as I had flashbacks to every Cold War movie I ever saw.
Once I step on the train I had that great subway exhale: “I am no longer in charge.” I’ve always liked subways in any city—even places like Boston where they are somewhat convoluted. On a subway I just sit back and do nothing—I just have to pay attention to when my stop is coming.
I get off at 125th. It is pouring even more here, and there were busses on each corner… but no M60 bus, which is my ride. I wait and wait in the rain, now certain that not only the suit on my back, but also the suit in my bag are both soaked through. It’s raining so hard my glasses are steamed up and covered with rain—and I have nothing dry to wipe them off with. I’m panicking that I’m not going to see my bus number when it rolls up because the sweat on my brow and the rain are mixing and stinging my eyes and I’m constantly rubbing them.
I just want to get home!
TO BE CONTINUED…