Jon and I got home very late Monday night after spending the day wandering around the Upper West Side taking pictures and suffocating the urge to punch and/or throttle several people in the service industry whom we were going to tip generously if only they hadn’t lifted their legs to pee on our shoes.
After taking a $90 car service to the airport (nine-zero, that is not a typo, although I did have to go back and delete a few juicy adjectives that preceded the dollar sign because I am painfully aware that my father is right now reading this paragraph, and had I just left “goat-fellating” sitting there in that sentence I could have jeopardized a very generous gift certificate to Target, hi Dad! see you Saturday!) we settled into two-square inches of seat on the plane and let out the most therapeutic sigh of our lives. New York had not killed us, although it had slapped us around and stuck its slimy middle finger in our ears.
Normally we would have hailed a cab and paid the flat $45 fare to JFK, but our experience with New York City cab drivers had been irreparably sullied on Saturday afternoon when we tried to move from one hotel to another with five pieces of luggage, two pieces more than normal as we wanted to have enough room to pack all the Christmas presents we planned to buy. I’m not sure that there could have been a more difficult time to switch hotels: 5 PM on the busiest Saturday afternoon of the year, just as many cab drivers were changing shifts, from one corner of Tourist Hell to the opposite corner of Tourist Hell. Basically, at Egregious o’clock, straight through the hairy nose of Impossible.
More than ten cab drivers asked us where we were going and then refused to let us into the cab. Lesson learned: “Eighth Avenue” is code for I INVITE YOU TO SPIT IN MY FACE. I had been told a few times by native New Yorkers that it is illegal for a cab driver to refuse a fare, and because I was raised in the middle of America where it is commonplace for your mother to beat you over the head with a purse if you so much as shoplift a stick of gum, I ignorantly assumed that these cab drivers wouldn’t violate a law like this one because surely their big city mothers were at home waiting to beat them over the head with a machine gun.
There was a moment there on the sidewalk as I looked up at the glowing facade of Rockefeller Center, surrounded by my sea of luggage, that I felt a sickening rush, like I had just snorted a line of righteous indignation. I couldn’t see clearly, my anger so intoxicating that it made me dizzy. It was in this fog that one cab driver said to me, “No way, you’re out of your mind,” and started to pull away. And I snapped. Erupted. Morphed into a maniacal Southern Cat Lady and kicked my spindly, toothpick leg into the air. Because such a movement would surely convince him that I was a very reasonable person.
And that’s when I lost my mind: I pulled out my tiny pink cell phone, waved it in his face, and told him I’d be calling the cops. Except, it wasn’t nearly as calm and straightforward as that sentence would make it seem, and if we’re being honest here I think it might have come out of my mouth sounding like this:
IMA CALL THE PO-LEEEEEEEEEECE!
Jon was standing about ten feet away looking at the sidewalk, practically willing it to come alive and swallow him whole. And if buildings and concrete could speak their feelings an entire block of 49th street would have groaned and rolled its eyes. And that made me act out worse, because you think that is ridiculous? WE HAVEN’T EVEN SCRATCHED THE SURFACE OF RIDICULOUS. I INVENTED RIDICULOUS.
So I started dialing the number as dramatically as I could, my noodle arms wildly waving up and down with each number, because I wanted him to know just how serious I was. Do you see how I just dialed that three? Have you ever seen anyone dial a three like that in your life? YOU HAVEN’T BECAUSE NO ONE EVER HAS.
I must have given a convincing performance because he immediately pulled his cab over to the curb, jumped out, locked the door and ran. He abandoned his cab. Poof. Gone. And because I wasn’t going anywhere I walked up to his locked door and stood there filing my complaint over the phone. Jon had pulled out a cigarette at this point, one of the six he will smoke this year, and was shaking his head at me, like, woman, I know that I agreed to spend the rest of my life with you, I just had no idea it would be this embarrassing. Now please come down from the hood of that cab.
After an hour of barking the most pathetic litany of grievances to a woman who couldn’t have cared less whether or not that cab driver had returned to run me over, I started to think that she wasn’t even paying attention. She was making it as hard as possible to report an infraction, asking things I couldn’t have possibly known about this driver, like where was he from? And what was his favorite color? Did he like sugar with his coffee? So I hung up on her, just like that, after I had invested 60 minutes of my life on the phone, because it seemed like an appropriate tantrum at the time. If I could have I would have thrown my body chest-down at her feet. And then refused to eat the lunch she had lovingly prepared.
Our only option at that point was to start walking, and so that’s what we did, past Park Avenue, through Rockefeller Center, right along the heart of Times Square. With all of our luggage. As millions and millions of people tried to knock us over. I have never in my life seen so many people. People who were pretty sure that they deserved that small square inch of sidewalk far more than we did, who tried to claim that space and were met with four bony elbows and one pointy chin that could impale an elephant. We eventually ended up in the middle of the street, and as cars honked hysterically at our backsides we just laughed and yelled so that our voices echoed between the buildings: YOU MADE US THIS WAY.
No telling what human fluid or living substance we rolled through on that walk, but once we were inside the new hotel room we poured two glasses of bourbon and toasted to the hour of fares I prevented that cab driver from collecting. I had finally made New York proud.