New Yawk, Part Two

Well, that was embarrassing. My wife felt like she had to write a blog for me ‘cuz I haven’t posted in so long. And worst of all she got positive feedback! So I’d better post a lot more frequently or she’s going to make me famous. If only she’d stick to painting pictures of children with big eyes.

So here is Part 2 of New Yawk -Our Adventures on The Island of Manhattan.

Previously on The Tesla & The Tent: We fear taking the expensive car into New York and leave it in Cheesequake *snort* State Park in NJ, bicycling to the train station where we realize that I’ve forgotten the bike locks, so we take the bikes on the train to NY Penn Station. We now join our brave travelers….

Penn Station was filled with a crush of people, none of them exhibiting the least amount of empathy for a couple of confused and frightened tourists toting folding bicycles. High stress! We had to get out of there and into the open! but first, a restroom. There is a large crowd of men 4 deep in a crescent around the entrance to the mens’ room. Women flow in and out of the other one. I join the crescent and wait. And wait. I can see nothing that would prevent the front row simply walking in, but I assume they must know more than I do. So I wait, heart heavy and bladder full. The longer I wait the more it seems to me that the wait must be over soon. 15 minutes later a somewhat dejected looking janitor-type comes out, speaks briefly to someone I must assume was The King of full-bladdered men, slowly shaking his head. The janitor goes back into the restroom, The King and everyone who was witness to the exchange moves away, the rest of the crowd shuffle forward and form a new, smaller crescent. I decide to find a public restroom out in the city.

(I realize I missed a real opportunity to hang around and see how a new king would be chosen)

As quickly and unobtrusively as possible we made our way to an escalator that we hoped would take us out for our first view of the streets of New York! Alas! It took us to another place of crushing crowds of people, none of whom exhibited the least amount of empathy for a couple of confused and frightened tourists. But we were, at last, on the streets of New York.

We unfolded our bicycles and looked around. I was barely able to tell the difference between the sidewalks and the streets. Normally I think of the sidewalk as the place near the cars where you don’t feel like you’re going to be run over. Now I found myself thinking of the road as the place near the cars where I didn’t feel like I was going to be run over by the mob on the sidewalk. We got going, and it did indeed feel safer to be moving with the crowd than just standing still waiting to be overwhelmed by it. We were wearing our bike helmets, though not actually riding the bikes. The anxiety of moving through the city’s crowds, bad as it was, seemed better than bicycling on the road, which looked positively sociopathic compared to the sidewalk’s relative safety of apparent lawlessness. I only wished I could hold Laura’s hand. No one else was holding anyone’s hand, and I worried a bit about calling attention to ourselves. Of course, no one else was wearing a helmet while wheeling an obvious commuter bike down the sidewalk, either, so in retrospect I think I worried a bit overmuch about fitting in. We talked about the situation and how to improve our chances of surviving and decided to make a beeline to Central Park and hope it had more of a Montana-esque environment that would provide a little comfort to our increasingly rattled nerves. 20 blocks away. That’s a long way under the circumstances, so I I kept my eyes out for sturdy experienced NYC bicyclists, hoping to learn by observation ‘how it was done’, and thus be able to confidently hop on and pedal quickly away from this maddening press of humanity and on to the park. There were far fewer than I’d thought there’d be, but did see enough to develop a theory of survival, “Just pedal faster than the cars”. This didn’t look as hard as it might seem, since the cars barely moved faster than the pedestrians, so I suggested to Laura that we try it. “You go ahead, wait at the end of the block and tell me how it went”.

A break in traffic presented by a red light allowed me to hop off the sidewalk and pedal furiously and fearfully to the end of the block, where I hopped back on and looked back the way I’d come, gleefully expecting to see Laura’s proud and smiling face. Horrors! She was nowhere to be seen!

I was lost and alone!

However, after a few seconds she showed up, unimpressed. I decided I’d table the idea of actually using the bikes and we kept walking, my bladder becoming louder and louder. I parked the bikes and left the sweetie to watch them outside a theater entrance while I went inside to relieve myself. Asking at the window if I could use the restroom, I was informed that this was allowed only if I bought a ticket. And waited until the doors opened at 5 PM. Tickets to the restroom were $60 and I didn’t think I could wait until 5 PM in any case, so she told me to try ‘downstairs in the Rockefeller Plaza’, door around to the left after I went out.

Rather a non descript door, opening onto a stairwell. Down I went to another world, a world of subterranean madness unsurpassed in my life, as long as you don’t count the streetlevel world of madness I had just left. I asked someone who looked like they might know and was told “Across the intersection! Down a ways and to the right!” he said, pointing down a hallway that was clearly not an intersection. I asked about that and was told, “The intersection is there!!”, pointing upward and to a wall.

I followed the directions as best I could, stopping to ask again when I felt that I must be at least a little closer than I had been. The answer I got must have involved some kind of New York ‘in’ joke because she laughed heartily the entire time. I was still unclear as to how to get to the restroom, except that at some point there was a south turn after a Starbucks and follow the signs. So I headed down the direction of the point and started asking people about where’s the Starbucks. This got less laughter and did, eventually, lead me to a Starbucks, whence I turned south and followed the signs. These led me to the most enormous men’s restroom I can imagine conceiving of. It was like something out of a Douglas Adams novel. I hiked past 50 hand blowers (notice I didn’t say hand dryers), then past 50 sinks, and finally got to the urinals. I could see in the fog of the distance that yonder lay stalls.

I really hope that I have adequately conveyed the vastness of the labyrinth beneath the streets.  I believe that the phrase ‘Rockefeller Plaza’ is simply what the locals call the entire first lower level of the city.  It really went on and on.

When I got back to Laura she said, “You’ve been gone forty minutes.”

To which I replied, “I know. I’ve kind of got to pee again.”.

Next time: Part 2 of Part two of New Yawk, in which I remember I have a camera.

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