Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

The Cab Ride

Most of you know my daughter has been living in New York City while attending grad school at NYU. I was able to take a few personal days to travel up there to attend the graduation ceremony for Steinhardt, her grad school. At first I was going up to the all school graduation which was held at Yankee Stadium, but my daughter asked me if I could change my plans and come up to her earlier one since the venue would be a tad bit more personal than Yankee Stadium. I wish I would have just taken the whole week off and went to both, as I had a wonderful substitute in place, so I didn’t have to worry about that while I was gone.

Since the last time I went to New York, the major airlines decided to quit flying directly from Pittsburgh to JFK. Jet Blue used to be pretty inexpensive, but now wanted to take me from Pittsburgh to Boston and then to New York and jacked up the price on me. Delta did have one direct flight, but it was now $709. Gee, thanks major airlines.

My options were driving to New York City (oh, hell no), taking the MegaBus (when I googled it, pictures of burning wrecked Megabuses came up that I just had to go and look at), and Amtrak. I took Amtrak before and although it takes several years to get to New York from Pittsburgh, I enjoyed the ride. So, I booked my trip with Amtrak. This time, however, to avoid sitting near a woman with 4 children who wanted to sleep while the children squirmed, fought, and tattled, I decided to see what the business class car might be like, and upgraded to business. Wow, what a difference.

It was worth the $30 upgrade. I really thought I was getting away with something as there were about 64 seats and no one had to share the other seat with anyone else. At each stop, the conductor would make an announcement, “Folks, we are going to have a full house today. Please keep personal items off the seat next to you so people will be able to find an open seat.” I would look around and see people spread out watching movies or sleeping. Business class was definitely worth the upgrade.

Nine hours later, I arrived at Penn Station. It was raining and of course I did not bring an umbrella. Penn Station is attached to Madison Square Garden, so I thought it would be better to catch a taxi if I was out front there, instead of a side street, and I did. I put my hand up in the air like Carrie Bradshaw did on Sex and the City and immediately a cab pulled over. Well, it pulled over because there were people getting out. I asked if I could use the cab, despite seeing about 10 other arms in the air nearby. I clearly pissed off people who were standing on the long street in front of Madison Square Garden. Remember, it was raining, not sprinkling.

I hopped in the back with my carry-on, laptop bag, and purse and off we went. But, it can’t be that simple for me. I had to go and say “Hello, good afternoon!” to the taxi driver. You wouldn’t think it was a big deal to talk to a taxi driver. But, Oh, Dear God, the conversation took a dramatic turn, or a comedic turn. I will go with comedic. Now you have to realize that traffic was heavy and I had to go up all the way to East 95th Street. Madison Garden is on West 33rd, so the following conversation is abbreviated somewhat.

“So, is this your first time in New York?”

“No, this is I believe my sixth time.” blah blah blah. Found out he has lived in the city for 19 years, from Bangladesh, he told me I should visit there, blah blah blah…more chatter. He started to talk about the April Bangladesh earthquake and handed me a flyer to look at while he talked about the disaster.

He asked what I did in West Virginia. I told him I was a teacher. He asked if I wanted to share half of his banana. No, thank you, I told him. I had eaten on the train.

Then, he went down the wrong road…not literally, being in a cab and all, but the wrong road, figuratively. I looked at the street sign and we were only at 59th. The traffic was bad. I was wishing I would have taken the subway and lugged everything up the subway steps.

“So, what does your husband do in West Virginia?” he said with his heavily broken English.

“I’m divorced.”

“How long you divorced?”

“4 years.”

“That is so sad.”

“No, I’m pretty happy about it.” I smiled. I was hoping there would be silence for the rest of the ride. Oh, hell no.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’ve had my share of goofy dates, though.” He looked at me strange. Maybe “goofy” was just a West Virginia word. Then he started.

“You know…. I believe in God….I love God….and I know God would want you to share your life with a man until you die.”

“You don’t think God would be okay that a person can be alone but happy for the rest of his or her life?”

“Maybe, but you should share your life with someone until you die.”

“Oh, you know, I am happy the way my life is.”

“Maybe………………..I’m going to fix you up with someone so you can share your life with him until you die.” I had to laugh.

“No, really. I’m ok. I am just going to get a cat.” I laughed, but he didn’t understand the whole cat lady scenario.

“You give me your phone number and I will have you meet someone.”

“No, I am only in New York for a few days, so I don’t have time to meet anyone, but that is so sweet of you to be worried about me since you don’t know me.”

“I can tell you are a wonderful person. You need to share your life with a man. God would want you to.”

“No, thank you, really. I really don’t want to meet anyone right now. I was married for 25 years and really enjoy being by myself right now. If it happens,it happens….. I’m not going to go out searching for a man.” I nervously laughed.

“I sorry I bother you. I can tell because you talk to me that you are a good person. God would want you to be married until you die.”

I can’t tell you how long this conversation went on, but by 80th street I was ready to jump out of the moving cab and meet God without a man. I know the Bangladeshian meant well, but he was spending too much time looking through his mirror at me in the backseat and little time watching cars changing lanes and waiting until the last second to stop at a red light. I was ready for a nerve pill.

When he pulled up in front of my daughter’s apartment, I handed him cash and a few extra dollars as a tip. After all, he did offer half of his banana and wanted to play matchmaker for me.

“I’m sorry I bother you. I won’t fix you up. Have a good time in New York and I do hope….God hopes…that you find a man to share your life until you die.”

“Thank you for being so worried about me. I will be fine. Thank you!”

I walked up her steps and as I opened the door to her apartment building, I noticed that he was still parked at the curb, watching me. I couldn’t buzz in fast enough. My daughter came down the steps, and I didn’t want to turn around again, but out of the corner of my eye saw a hint of yellow go past. He was gone.

And all I could think of was that quote from Casablanca, altered a bit to fit my situation:

 

“Of all the taxi cabs, in all the towns, in all the world, I stepped into his.”

NYC Trip Report: Scoring tickets to the Colbert Report

I’ve been to New York City to visit my daughter several times, and let me tell you, it is exhausting. Every time I come home I am pissed at myself for being out of shape. And people, if you plan to visit New York City, you will walk. Oh, sure, there will be some of you who taxi from one place to the next. That is the smart thing to do. I am one of the stupid tourists.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had a great time in New York. I love New York. But, my daughter walked me all over the damn place. And I will admit that I need to lose weight. I was able to lose 22 pounds last year and did pretty well hoofing it around NYC last summer when we went apartment hunting. Oh, hell, that’s a lie. I was ready to have a stroke. Like I said, I’m not very smart. I picked 90+ degree weather to walk around the city. I’m beyond stupid. This year was the same.

My journey to NYC is not quick. First I have to drive two hours to Pittsburgh International Airport. I have to park in the extended long term parking lot, which is not close to the terminal. By the time I make it to the building, I really want to just stand on that people mover thingy. When I hear someone coming up behind me, I will start walking, but I don’t wanna.

After my nice flight with Jet Blue, I arrived at JFK airport. I like airports. Just thought I would mention that. I don’t know why taxi cab men scare me, but I feel like I am imposing on them. So, I head outside to the ground transportation area and buy a $15.50 ticket to ride the NYC Airporter bus. It takes a while to exit the airport, as the bus driver stops at each terminal.  I didn’t mind. As long as I didn’t have to drive through New York, I don’t care if I was on the back of a donkey. Again, quite a lie. I would care.

The bus dropped me off at Grand Central Station, where I have to find the 6 Local Uptown train. Again, it’s easy. Well, except that I found out while I was on the subway that the Local 6 was not working this particular day. What? I’m on the local 6. Well, apparently it is allowed to change to be called the Express 6 which bypasses my stop. Someone sitting next to me tells me that I can get off at 125 and then take the local 6 downtown to my stop. What?

So, I get off the stop and walk across to the train going in the other direction and hop on, hoping it is the right one. It was. I then walked a couple of blocks to where my daughter was meeting me for lunch. I could see her smiling at me. I know that smile. I am doing somethig stupid.

“Mom, you are such a tourist. You don’t need to look both ways when it is a one way street.”

We had a nice lunch and walked back to her apartment so I could drop off my carry-on. Our plan for the day was to head to the Brooklyn Bridge and then head over to High Line. We walked the several blocks up the hill to the subway. I had to stop several times on the way up. I am weak. We got off the subway on Chambers Street. I had never been this far south before. So, there was the Brooklyn Bridge. And it was all boarded up on the sides of the bridge for construction. I had no idea we were going to actually walk over to the other side. What?

My daughter on the Brooklyn Bridge

Well, we had to walk over to the other side. I don’t know why. Because everyone else was doing it? There was nothing to see for quite a while. We stopped and wrote our names on some plywood…because everyone else was doing it.

It took us forever to get to the other side. And it was 90 degrees and 2:00 in the afternoon. Where the hell are the clouds? I was complaining a lot. My daughter told me to stop. I stopped.

It’s a 1.3 mile walk, but it takes a long time to walk due to the amount of foot traffic….and baby strollers…..and people like me who take pictures along the way and complain about the heat and stop alot. But, I was glad I did it. Because when we got to the other side, there was a park. And that park had a water taxi. Oh, hell yeah, I was on that thing.

The water taxi cost $25 and takes people around the statue of Liberty, past Ellis Island and Battery Park and up the Hudson. It makes stops along the way for those who want to get off in a different stop. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was pretty cool. The taxi was huge and besides those who just wanted to look from inside the air conditioned lounge area, there was an upper berth and lower outside viewing areas. It was nice. We opted to get off at one of the piers on the Hudson, Christopher St., Pier 45 on West 10th Street.

This is also Grenwich Village, which was pretty darn cool. We walked past a Bareburger, where we had an early dinner. After that, my daughter wanted to take me to High Line Park. We had to walk again.  I thought she was taking me to a normal park. Boy, was I surprised when I saw High Line. High Line is a park built on an elevated freight line railway. The freight line wasn’t in use since the early 1980’s. It was slated for demolition as it became an eyesore for those who lived in the neighborhood. One man’s crusade led to the development by the city of New York to create this elevated park. It is magnificient. We walked along the park until a storm hit us. That’s not the best place to be when a thunderstorm approaches you. Luckily, there were places for all of us to hide. We then hailed a taxi and headed back to the apartment. We had great aspirations for the next day. We were going to wake up early and head to the local bagel shop for breakfast and then rent bikes in Central Park. However, we ate a huge breakfast and opted to go back to bed for a little bit. We then showered and headed via subway down to visit the Top of the Rock.  I’ve always wanted to visit Rockefeller Center and see the ice skating rink and the NBC Studios. It didn’t disappoint. Several blocks are pedestrian only, and it is just a really neat area. We finally found the place where we were to buy tickets to the Top of the Rock. I wanted to see Central Park from the top of this building. It was great.

After we left Rockefeller Center, I looked at my watch. We were late. My daughter wanted to go to the Colbert Report Studios to see if we could get standby tickets to that night’s show. We were supposed to be there by 2:30. So, we started walking. We had to go to 54th Street. We were on 50th Street. The Colbert Report was filmed on 54th Street. We had to hurry. Oh, but wait. We got to 54th Street. Alex asked a doorman and he told her it was about four blocks to the west. What? Four long ass blocks. We walked some more. And walked some more. We passed by where The Letterman Show was filmed. Nope. We kept walking. I was ready to give up. We had to be there in ten minutes. Not going to happen. I really thought she got the address wrong. We were headed into a less commerical area, one that had auto repairs and……nothing else. My daughter was laughing at me. Finally, we found it.

It was 2:40. We didn’t make it. Alex walked up the steps and a guy stepped out of the office. He told her that we needed to go stand by that garbage can. He pointed to….a garbage can. Someone would be out at 4:00 and hand out stand- by tickets if there were any to give out. It was a slight chance that we would get tickets and we had to discuss this.

Well, right by the garbage can was a narrow covered alley and there was a guy sitting there eating lunch. He told us he was in line for tickets. Except he had tickets. Oh. So, we were screwed. We stood there talking to another couple who came to stand in line. They too had tickets, but came to stand in line, because if wasn’t a certainty even with tickets that you could get in. I was ready to give up when the couple told us they had 2 extra tickets that we could have. What? Omg.

So, we sat and stood in line from 2:40 until they came out at 4:00 and took our information from our driver’s license and then left. Now there were two lines…one for ticket holders and one who were stand-by’s.

We were now full fledged ticket holders. They let us go into the studio at 5:50. We had to go through a metal detector and hang out in the lobby for a long time. We took pictures.

So, we got to watch the Colbert Report being filmed. Since, we got there so early, and they took us in after the VIP people, Alex and I were #7 and 8 to be seated. It was great. By the time we got out, it was time to hail a taxi and head to a Thai restaurant in Upper East Side. We then walked to her apartment. I was one tired tourist/mom.

 I left early the next morning. I hope to return in the fall sometime when the weather is a bit cooler. I’d like to see the 911 Memorial this time…and Central Park again. I missed it this visit.

I just love visiting my daughter.

Travels with Atticus the Cat

I just got back from taking my son to the Dulles airport. I wrote earlier that Adam was moving to Tbilisi, Georgia, which is pretty far from West Virginia. And he decided to take his cat, Atticus, with him.

This wasn’t an easy feat. First Adam had to make a flight arrangement with an airline carrier that would permit a cat on board as carry-on. I guess some frown on letting a mewing cat hang out under a seat. Turkish Airlines would let Atticus travel with them. But, hold on. They looked through the reservations, as they only permitted one cat or dog per flight. I guess that makes sense. I wouldn’t want to travel with five barking dogs on one flight. But, as my son pointed out, crying babies are just as bad. So true, Adam, and they don’t have to be put into a carrier and shoved under the seat. Not yet.

There are too many reports about animal deaths and loss after being checked as baggage. I would have let Atticus stay with me if Adam couldn’t keep him on the airplane. Most cargo compartments are kept unventilated. Delta Airlines doesn’t permit animals in the cargo area during the summer or winter months. Sometimes dogs or cats get loose somehow during transit. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 224 dogs were lost, injured, or killed during airline travel between 2005 and 2009.  Airlines currently do not have to report the deaths, so that number could be much higher. So, checking Atticus as baggage was out of the question.

So, Adam was able to book a flight for he and his cat for June 19. Well, that was easy. Oh, but Adam had only started. There were so many procedures that Adam had to follow:

1. Quarantine or No Quarantine- Each country has a different protocol for pets entering their country. Adam had to first find out if Atticus would be warmly welcomed or thrown in the slammer for a certain amount of time. Adam found out that Georgia would welcome Atticus with no problem, whatsoever. But, he also had to make sure that since he had a layover in Turkey that Atticus would not be taken into custody and thrown into a Turkish kitty cat quarantine for a while. Adam had to have the vet examine Atticus, however, and sign the proper health certificate that he was a healthy cat. It was his passport, so to speak. He also had to have a USDA endorsement on the health certificate, I think.

2. Vaccinations and shit- While Atticus was at the vet’s office, he also had to have entry-required vaccinations that were quite expensive. I am sure one was the rabies vaccination and another may have been a feline shot. Throw in a prescription for kitty cat Xanax, and he was on his way.

3.. Pet carrier- Adam couldn’t just shove Atticus into the carrier that most people use. You know, the metal white carrier with the door and bars on the front.

No, Atticus had to have an expensive one that could be put under the seat on the plane.

I really liked the pet carrier Adam purchased. There was also a zippered compartment where he could put Atticus’s leash and Xanax..

4. I can not stress the Xanax enough. The vet wrote a prescription for Atticus. It was a “real people” Xanax that would calm Atticus down. Because, he had quite the adventure ahead. First of all, we had to travel by car for four house from West Virginia to  Dulles Airport, outside of Washington, D.C. Adam told the vet that Atticus freaked out in the car just to get to the vet’s office. After the drive, there would be a 2 1/2 hour wait for his international flight. The fight was then twelve hours to Istanbul, Turkey. There was going to be a seven hour layover before boarding again for another 1 1/2 hour flight and then the drive to the university. So, yeah, Atticus needed to be knocked out, or at least given an anti-anxiety drug. Hell, I would need to be knocked out for an itinerary like that.

5.  Pretty blue harness- Atticus could not wear just any collar. He would be able to slip right out of  a collar. Some people have their pet microchipped. That probably would have been a good idea for Atticus. I don’t think he had any identification on his body whatsoever. That probably wasn’t a good idea.

5. Animal diapers- Oh yes, Atticus was going to have to wear a diaper. It was going to be a long day. Adam quit feeding him right before we left for the airport and gave him 1/2 of a Xanax right before we left.

Ok, so we were ready to head to Dulles. Atticus was given a Xanax and Adam put the blue harness on him. He had a hard time walking with it on, and I have no idea why. We put the kitty litter box in the far back of the car since we were going to let Atticus hang out inside the car. I was going to drive while Adam played baby sitter to his cat.

Well, he was fantastic. The Xanax just made him mellow out and he sat on Adam’s lap the entire trip, listening to music and letting the air conditioner hit his face. He really enjoyed the air. When we pulled into the parking lot, Adam put a diaper on him, which was hysterical, because Atticus just lay on his back and let Adam put the damn thing on him. There was a hole for his tail. It was too small, so I am sure it came off during the flight.

Adam put Atticus in the cat carrier and we were on our way into the airport. I left as soon as he checked in with his airline and he was headed to security.

I drove the four hours home and while I was driving, got a text from Adam. I pulled over to read it, and smiled. Adam had to take Atticus out of the carrier and lead him through the x-ray machine at the security check-point, diaper and all. I hope someone was amused. Adam said the cat was excellent.

Adam has arrived in Tbilisi and sent me a Facebook message that they got in safe and sound and that Atticus did great. Of course, I read where there were only two pieces waiting at the baggage claim for Adam, instead of three. I sure hope it isn’t lost forever.

Because it could have been the suitcase that had Atticus’s kitty litter box and food.

In the end, if your pet must travel with you, make sure he will be comfortable. There is no way that Atticus could have gotten through everything that he had to go through if he was not doped up. Just sayin.

You tore up my couch and terrorized my cat, but I’m going to miss you, you little shit.

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