Thursday, December 20, 2007
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.