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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Driving in Super Mario Land

Driving in New York has to be one of the most thrilling and frightening experiences. I liken it to a real life Super Mario game - you dodge potholes and double-parked cars, you defend yourself against aggressive or lazy cab drivers who fail to signal or cut you off. You watch for signs, lights, cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, dogs on leashes and strollers.

Driving in New York is not for anyone with heart or nervous problems, whether you're steering the car or along for the ride. I've been strapping myself into cabs, after hearing that a coworker's cousin had her teeth knocked out in an accident (she'd been thrown into the dividing wall behind the front seat).

Today Mark and I decided to take a new route from my place in Park Slope to his place in Greenpoint, which led to a disaster. We found ourselves headed onto the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan, with no way out.

'Oh no...What?!?! NOOOOO!!!! [Furious chain of expletives].'

Mark was quite unhappy.

We puttered behind cars queued on the bridge, roped around the FDR and through the Lower East Side until we reached the Williamsburg bridge. So, it was Park Slope to Greenpoint via Manhattan. Hm.

The thing about driving in New York is that everyone thinks that they're right. Everyone. The dogs, the drivers, the pedestrians, the cyclists. We nearly hit a guy sauntering down the middle of Delancey today. Mark gave him the horn and the guy turned and gave us the finger. More yelling and gesturing ensued.

I've been on both sides and I know the feeling. On the cold days, standing on the sidewalk while cars whizz by, belting everyone with freezing puddles, you can't help but send hateful vibes their way. How dare they? They're warm in their cars! Can't they see I'm out here freezing my butt off??!

And then behind the wheel with all the lights and distractions, it's the other way around. I want to roll down the window and say 'What are you people doing?! Can't you see it's dark out and you're all wearing black?! Are you trying to get yourselves killed?!'

I have a bunch of driving in New York stories that I'll have to unleash here (aren't you all lucky?). One took place a couple years ago. I'd worked late and cabbed it to Mark's place, after picking up a (delicious) pizza from Lombardi's.

'Greenpoint. Take the Williamsburg Bridge to McGuinness.'

It was late, and I was tired. I was zoning out but realized on the BQE that the driver was going exceptionally fast. I've been in many reckless cabs but the ride felt especially reckless. When we swerved to make the McGuinness exit, I had a premonition. I saw an impact on the passenger's side and glass shattering. Somehow I just knew there'd be an accident.

The cab raced down McGuinness Boulevard, a dangerously fast, six-lane road with a concrete median. The lights seemed strangely bright that night. I was strapped in, but I was nervous, and gripped the seatbelt with both hands.

'Take a left at the Hess station,' I said.

And he did. Only the cab driver anticipated the oncoming traffic across the median and anticipated wrongly.


The oncoming car crashed right into the cab in mid-turn, on the passenger's side. There was no shattering of glass, but it was serious a hit.

'Are you trying to kill people?!' I yelled. 'You're a reckless driver!'

And by sheer reflex, I paid him the fare with a tip. (Oh, how it pains me to admit this. How I wish I'd walked away righteously without paying!)

Both drivers had pulled over to wait for the police. The other driver had come over to yell at the cabbie, and I decided not to stick around. I walked the mile or so to Mark's place carrying the pizza, in a complete daze.

Photo by myself, on the Upper West Side.


Spandrel Studios said...

How awful to have been in a car accident, pretty much anticipating it all the way! That driver sounds like such a menace!

Ever since a NY cabbie slammed on his brakes, throwing me to the floor as he narrowly escaped being hit, I've been pretty vigilant about buckling up in cabs.

But your story, along with the one with the teeth? Well, that pretty much guarantees I will never ride unbuckled in a cab ever again!

Anonymous said...

I had to smile at this. Excellent story. I can't imagine driving in New York City. I came close once when I was twenty and got "lost" somewhere near New York City on my way to Virginia Beach. Totally nerve racking. Heck I get nervous driving in Montreal, Canada...which isn't even as big as New York. Way to stressful. Give me the country commute any day.
Really nice photography BTW.
Take care.

Anonymous said...

oooh I love driving in big cities although I have never driven in NY or in Rome which I think is quite scary. But I often drive in London (not very scary these days - it's all buses and taxis).

I am disappearing from blogworld whilst the multitudes are here. So have a lovely Christmas, Kitty. Thank you for your good wishes chez moi. And yeah, the King is - well, the King is the King!

Tammy said...

Are you okay? I could never drive in NY, heck I can't even drive in Saint John. Take care and yell at the next cabbie for me that tries to kill you.

mama's got moxie said...

i totally understand what you mean. i feel the same way about driving on the beltway here in the dc area. i went to school in ny (f.i.t. holla!!!! hahaha...), but i kept my car at home. having a car in manhattan would've just been too nuts for me!!

kitty said...

I'm fine Tammy, thanks! It was a while ago and I walked back, unhurt. Just a little spooked that my premonition came true!

I called my parents later and my dad said it wasn't a premonition, it was a feeling based on how bad a driver the guy was.

thanks for the kind words, guys