[Photo source: Google search]
It began as an ordinary rainy morning in Albany, New York. We stayed over at a Marriott to break the trip a little and to get a fresh start for the final leg. To Manhattan and drop off the Budget rent car, get to our hotel on W. 35th St., and then to head uptown to meet some friends for dinner.
Simple plan, right?
I’ve had many bad days in traffic in many cities. I’ve sat in New York State Thruway traffic for an entire afternoon in a blizzard. I’ve been in a car for hours trying to get across the Bourne Bridge to enjoy Cape Cod. I once pulled off I-95 just outside Stamford, CT and had to have dinner while the back-up on I-95 came down to only a ninety minute delay. I know traffic. I’m no novice and any man who says I am, well, I’ll meet them in the parking lot of the closest Dairy Queen and ‘discuss’ the issues.
But, nothing, nothing compares to what happened when we pulled off the West Side Highway in the West 50’s and headed to the rent car garage. It was located on W. 49th St. between 8th and 9th Ave.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Well, the break-down of sanity started with us in the middle of a Hells Kitchen Street Fair. Don’t get me wrong, I love Street Fairs, I bought many used CD’s and knife-sets at street fairs, but don’t hold one on the day I need to drop off a rent. And many cross-town streets were closed and traffic rather thick.
We had to get to the rent car place by 5:00pm. It was about 3:30. Was I worried? No, but Mariam, who grew up in the City and knew traffic better than I, was getting antsy. But, she made a fatal mistake. She told me to turn right at a point when I should have turned left.
So, of course traffic got worse. Did I mention that many of the cross-town streets were blocked. Why? One would need to go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, light a candle, and plead the question to the gods of the transit authority.
But, St. Pat’s may as well have been in Staten Island, considering the congestion.
It was 4:37 pm by now. and we were still only three blocks away. On a Saturday afternoon in NYC, with a Street Fair going on, being three blocks away was like being in New Hampshire. But, I still thought we’d make it.
We turned right onto 49th Street. We drove a block. We were between 8th and 9th Ave. We were as good as home, until I read her the address on a building to my left. It was at one or two digits different from the location of the garage.
At this point, all I knew for certain was that we were in the proper borough…Manhattan. I ‘asked’ her to call the place and ask where the h**l they were located. She did. The woman said something like: “Oh, you can just make the block.” Mariam told her there was no block to make. Traffic was at a standstill. Where was the drop-off place?
[Quiet Streets at 2:30 am]
It turns out we had drove past it, 3/4 of a block behind us. It was 4:47 pm. Mariam walked back a bit and found the place. Not clearly signed as a Budget rental facility. But, what were we to do at this point? I made a very male-like executive decision. I told her to get out of the car. Walk back on 49th Street and make hand signals to divert the traffic and make way for me to violate several traffic laws. I told her to wave everyone on this narrow one-way street to the left. That would enable me to back up almost an entire block to the garage. I can’t tell you how many traffic codes this action was going to defy, but I took solace in the fact that if I got arrested and cuffed, at least I would have access to a bathroom.
How the bathroom scene played out in the Budget Rental garage is a whole other story and a whole other blog.
So, we met out friends for dinner. And, last night (I’m writing this at 3:00 am on Monday), we had a great time visiting my son, Brian, his girlfriend, Kristin.
[Me, Mariam,Brian and Kristin]
The streets are quiet now.
On Tuesday afternoon, we fly to Paris. We’re going to get a taxi from De Gaulle Airport to our hotel in central Paris. I’m full of anticipation and excitement. Paris traffic, I understand, is a breeze.
But, do you want to know something?
I love New York.