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.
“How long you divorced?”
“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.”