Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"I am going to break the law now. It will be fine."

On Saturday, I got home from New York, where I spent hardly any time in the city at all, but I did spend one of the nicest mornings in recent memory in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (I heart graveyards). 

This trip was all about my brother, but aside from that it was notable for being my first jaunt into New York since 2007 where I flew into (and out of) the Newark airport.  In celebration of that, I wanted to share something I wrote about the last time I flew out of Newark... 

From MySpace, July 16, 2007 (excerpted from "Becky Does New York [Again], Part 2"):

I came home Sunday.  I had hired a private car to take me to the airport and I was flying out of Newark, New Jersey.  I'd never been to the Newark airport, but [my boss] told me that she would reimburse me for my transportation and suggested I take a cab.  I was informed by the front desk of my hotel that a car would be cheaper than a cab, so car it was. 
My driver, like many NYC drivers I’ve encountered over the years, started talking to me immediately.  He also, like many NYC drivers, had an accent.  And I have difficulty understanding accents.  I just do.  It’s like whatever portion of my brain is needed to discern English from an accented tongue is underdeveloped.  I always wind up panicking, thinking I’m offending the speaker with my inability to understand, and then I understand even less.
The driver kept rolling some foreign word off his tongue, which I interpreted as "ten minutes?" and then he would laugh and repeat himself and I would say, "ten minutes?" until finally I figured out he was saying "terminal?"  I didn't know which terminal I was flying out of but it was "no problem, no problem, miss."   He was of Middle Eastern origin but it was difficult to narrow it down past that because I’m American and lump all Middle Eastern peoples together, as I’ve been culturally programmed to do.  His car had a tape deck instead of a CD player and he feverishly switched out tapes until he settled on a static-y one with badly re-done American hip-hop sung in his native language.  He turned it up louder and louder at periodic increments, doing little to facilitate our broken conversation.  I generally just smiled and made noncommittal noises unless he somehow indicated via confused facial expressions that I had responded inappropriately. 
But when we pulled into the line to go into the Holland Tunnel (which would take us to New Jersey), I had no trouble making out the words, "Miss, watch me.  I am going to break the law now.  It will be fine." 
These are not words one wants to hear while at the mercy of a stranger in a moving vehicle.  Hoping he was joking, I laughed nervously and tried not to watch as he zoomed ahead of hundreds of patiently waiting cars and got us into several near accidents as he pushed his way in line.  As luck would have it, the entire event was witnessed by a police officer who refused to let him enter the tunnel once he got to the front of the line.  Instead of pulling ahead, my driver stopped traffic and got into an argument with the officer.
"Why, my friend?  Why?  Why would you do this to me?  I did nothing wrong.  I don't understand."  The police officer was in the process of writing a ticket before the guy finally decided to play by the rules and pull out into the intersection, which would have been fine if the light had been green, but it was not.  Miraculously avoiding his second ticket (and accident) in as many minutes, we finally got going once the light changed.
With the police officer no longer available to talk to, it was back to me.  "Did you see that?" he asked (I should point out that what I am recalling here is only the 2% of what he said that I was able to grasp).  "Did you see that man in that car?  I pulled ahead of him and he was mad!  He was trying to intimidate me!  Pulling up behind me.  But he does not know.  He has one car, yeah?  One car.  I have many cars!  If something happened, I would call and get another car, but he would be out of luck.  He is stupid.  I do not care but he would be out of luck.  It's okay, miss; I'll get you to the airport.  That police officer is terrible!  Why would he do that?  What did I do wrong?"  
I thought that was kind of a moot question considering he'd prefaced his actions by labeling them illegal, but I was sort of terrified for my life at that point, so I humored him with a good-natured, "It's ridiculous!"  I could have won an Oscar for my performance as "complacent passenger in the backseat of a car.”  But I seriously thought I might die.
"So much traffic!" he kept yelling, as he cut people off and shot dirty looks out the window, like it was the fault of the other drivers that they were on the road with him.  We finally made it into the tunnel and he said, "So much better!  It is better this way!  I go around and I get you here faster!"  Actually, I think it would have been faster if he had just sat in line like a law-abiding citizen, but I kept my mouth shut because the next words out of his mouth were, "It is illegal to change lanes in the tunnel.  Illegal!  So much traffic!  It is terrible."  I half-expected him to change lanes just for the hell of it but he managed to restrain himself.  When we got out of the tunnel, he cruised down the highway at 85 miles per hour while talking about gas prices ("It is terrible!") and got me to the airport way before my expected arrival, even with the unexpected detour.
He did not give me a receipt ("No, no, miss.  You get that at hotel.") so I hope to God I actually do get reimbursed for that portion of the journey because I'd rather not pay for sitting for 45 minutes in abject horror as I contemplated the many ways in which one can die on the road to New Jersey.
New York:  one of the few cities where the most adventurous part of your trip can be getting to the airport.


  1. Did you get your receipt??? O.O

    Great read :) Next time you better take a ferry from the terminal near brooklyn bridge to the other terminal near new jersey turnpike. and from there a cap via said turnpike. much more relaxing ;-)

    Annie Sasha

    1. I don't think I ever did get my receipt!! I did, however, get reimbursed for the money I spent on the ride. I guess my boss didn't think it was possible for me to make up such a story, and took it at face value when I told her how much it cost me. :D

      And yes, agreed that the private car option is not the best! Needless to say, I've never used a private car again... :)

  2. I'm so sorry you were terrified, but as a reader, that was hilarious :)
    (also with the knowledge that you were, in fact, fine in the end)

    Hope you had a good stay this time around!

    1. I had actually *completely* forgotten about this story until I recently ran across this entry. Yay for blogging about everything that's ever happened to me!! :D

      I had a very good stay, thank you. :) In fact, I kind of wish I was still there! It was a whirlwind trip, but thankfully there were no life-or-death car rides back and forth from the airport. :)