December 22, 2005

Al Di Laaaaahhhhh

I figured out that I have travelled over twenty miles by foot in two days. Manhattan itself is only 13.4 miles long (and, at its widest point, only 2.3 miles across), so it's as if I've spent the last twenty four hours walking the length of Manhattan just about twice. Take that, you car-bound suburban dwellers! We New Yorkers can literally walk circles around you people.

My dad pointed out that, much like lab rats, monkeys and abused children, New Yorkers are quick to adapt; it doesn't take long for bad situations to become normal. So what if it took me an hour to get to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge this morning? It took a little longer the day before, so today wasn't bad by comparison. That's not to say that I can take much more of this - my blistered feet are about as angry at the TWU as Mayor Bloomberg is - but it's all relative. When I finally got in a cab at about 10:30 after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday morning, I shared it with a woman who had been travelling from the far reaches of Brooklyn since 7:30 and she still had about twenty blocks to go.

Our cab picked up one more passenger, a young woman, late twenties, wearing a long wool coat that probably cost more than my monthly rent, with a purse to cover my cable, gas, electric, phone and food bills, too. I had to go to 36th and 6th, the tired woman who had been in the cab before me had to go to 51st and Lexington and the newest addition had to go to 48th and Park. The driver, a kind man about my age by the name of Navin, explained that since we were already on 6th Avenue it made the most sense to go up 6th and drop me off first. Then he would continue up 6th, turn right on 52nd Street and drop the women off as close to their destinations as possible.

The woman who had just gotten in protested. "The traffic on Sixth is going to be terrible," she said. It was already starting to get a little thick as we headed north through the Village, but surely the traffic at this hour would be no different anywhere else approaching midtown.

Navin calmly replied, "It's getting bad all over the city."

"Why can't we go up Fifth Avenue?" asked the woman. "This traffic is terrible. I heard that Fifth is empty."

I laughed, but decided to let Navin knock this softball right out of the park. Had the woman not heard of New York One?

"Miss, there are two reasons why we can't take Fifth," said Navin as he steered the car in and out of traffic up the avenue. "Number one is that Fifth Avenue is closed to everything but emergency vehicles. Number two is that even if it were open, Fifth Avenue goes south."

It was a quiet ride after that.

After work, however, I skipped the cross-river walk home in favor of a kindly offered ride from a Brooklyn-bound friend and his coworker. Still, that involved meeting them about forty blocks south of where I was tonight, so I walked down Fifth Avenue - now open to traffic and busy with holiday shoppers, tourists and commute-weary New Yorkers - to meet them. We had a smooth ride home, and wisely took Seventh Avenue downtown before cutting across to the Brooklyn Bridge. (Traffic on the avenues on the East Side, including Broadway, was jammed.) Amazingly, we sailed onto the Brooklyn Bridge, and I could see people trudging across the walkway, carrying briefcases and backpacks, wearing hiking boots with suits and wintercoats. There but for the grace of friends went I. In fact, there went I just this morning.

When my friend's coworker dropped us off, we met his fiancée at Al Di La, a cozy Italian restaurant on Park Slope's Fifth Avenue, and my favorite eatery in the city. We shared war stories of our commutes, C relating a near-miss with a car while she rode her folding bike into Manhattan this afternoon and me asking J why he didn't simply sleep in the generous waiting area - flat panel TV, full kitchen, comfy couches - of his office. I probably should have gone home to go to sleep, but with so much happening in the city and with L out of town for work, it was good to share wine and break bread with friends.

The strike will continue today, but I will probably have a ride in to the city. How I'm getting home tonight, however, is another story. Stay tuned.

Posted by Doug at December 22, 2005 08:58 AM