Thursday, December 21, 2006

Start Spreading The News....

I’m a big fan of Dooce’s web site. She’s a great writer and her humor rings so true with me. Dooce’s entry about her recent experience with a New York cab driver made me laugh hard because it was so familiar.

When I graduated from high school mom and dad gave me a trip to New York. I was beyond excited having never been there before, and I had so many romanticized images in my head of what New York would be like. Having only been out of Helena, Montana for two years, living in a suburb of Denver, I was pretty naïve and green as a gourd when it came to the big city and traveling.

Mom came with me. Landing at La Guardia was awesome, flying over Manhattan, seeing Central Park and the Statue of Liberty from the sky. I was so excited.

We somehow managed to find our way to one of the shuttles that took us from the airport to Grand Central Station. My memories of that shuttle ride over the bridge are kind of muddy because I was so excited as we arrived at the giant train station.

With the clarity of hindsight and experience now on my side, it’s easy to say that mom and I were so dumb. Dumb in that innocent, country-come-to-town kind of way. We knew that our hotel, the lovely St. Moritz, wasn’t too far away, but with all of our luggage, our general anxious excitement, and not being sure where we were, we thought it would be better to take a cab and just get settled in our room before adventuring out and walking the streets.

Outside we were immediately approached by Archie Bunker, the original Yat from Brooklyn, who basically grabbed our suitcases and told us his cab was “right over here” - he’d get us where we needed to go. As we approached his “cab” we saw that it was really an old, woodie station wagon like the Brady Bunch had. Hmmm… Mom and I sort of looked at each other with suspicion, but because those were the good old days when we were sweet and polite and our mid-western sensibilities would have precluded us from ever being rude to someone, we just got in.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Even WE knew that New York cabs were supposed to be yellow! But we got in Archie Bunker’s station wagon and headed off.

The guy was nice to us, acting as tour guide pointing out Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and other notable landmarks, for the 6 BLOCK RIDE to our hotel. Literally, we could have walked so easily, but who knew we were that close!

Archie Bunker pulls up ACROSS from the hotel entrance – not near the door like the YELLOW CABS were doing – but across the way, basically in the middle of the street. Then the guy says, ever so non-challantly, "that will be $40 A PIECE PLUS BAGS." What? It took a minute for this to soak in. We had only gone 6 blocks and this extortionist wanted $80 PLUS A TIP from us! And these were 1985 dollars! This was a virtual fortune and a huge portion of our fairly limited budget! I was panic stricken. Poor mom tried to protest, but Archie Bunker all of a sudden turned into JOHN GOTTI right before our eyes and repeated, less friendly this time, that it was $40 A PIECE PLUS BAGS. Mom sort of gulped hard, gave him the money, we jump out and had to pull our own bags out of the trunk as Archie Bunker SPED OFF back to rip off other poor, gullible saps who just stepped off the boat.

We had been had. We hadn't been in Manhattan 10 minutes and had already been ripped off!

There was a garbage collectors strike in the City during our visit, so we had to take our lives into our hands, cross the street with our bags, and work our way around the ENORMOUS pile of garbage in front of the door before finally getting inside. At long last, and what felt like $50 in tips later, we made it to our room and were so relieved to just be out of the hustle and bustle that we sat there kind of shell shocked for awhile.

Then the righteous indignation started to flow. I was SO MAD at that guy and I went over and over what I SHOULD have said to him and what I WOULD have said to him and how can he live with himself preying on innocent victims and what a jerk!

We eventually managed to let it go enough to venture out and start exploring the city. In the end, Mom and I really did have fun. We took in Broadway shows, we went to China town, we walked thousands of miles, we visited the iconic landmarks, we ate at a real New York deli, we bought trinkets that said “I heart NY”. And wherever we went, there were one million people there with us. Seriously, I have never been around so many people in my life. All pushing and yelling and honking and looking dour and rushing from here to there and the garbage piles stinking… It was a lot to soak in.

We knew it was time to head back to middle America when a very chic looking woman wearing all black and oversized sun glasses ran into mom, then told her to “watch it.” Poor June Cleaver, aka Alice Holliday, had reached her boiling point and could tolerate rudeness no longer, so she blurted out in her best Texas accent, “WELL SCREW YOU!” I was in convulsions laughing so hard because that was a very non-mom like thing to say.

I got off the plane wearing one of those Statue of Liberty hats that made everyone in the terminal laugh. I may have been the quintessential tourist but I learned a lot during that trip, and I would just DARE any Archie Bunker cabbies to try and screw me over now. I’ve traveled a long way into Bitterandjadedville since those days and I can definitely hold my own against the crustiest of New Yorkers. Maybe Dooce is right when she said it’s New York’s fault. YOU MADE ME THIS WAY!


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