This country mouse has arrived back home, and despite the rather jarring sight of coming around the corner and seeing a gigantic FOR SALE sign in my yard, I’ve never been so delighted to be back.
Oh my holy heck, it is so LOUD in New York City. I swear that by the time I left, I could feel my brain vibrating. One more day in Manhattan and I feel certain that I would’ve developed a nervous twitch.
There’s so much about the trip that I will share tomorrow—from the conference itself to my baby-snatching propensity—but tonight I have to tell you about the trip back home.
I am not a good traveler. This is already documented fact. My navigational skills are poor, first of all, and while preparedness is my middle name, I always seem to come up short somehow when it comes to trips. Furthermore, I just have really rotten karma when it comes to venturing outside of my normal routine.
Perhaps I once ran over a tourist in a former life. I don’t know.
Anyway, today Chris and I decided to squeeze in what random enjoyment of the city we could, while aiming to be back to Grand Central by 3:00 or so. That way we’d still get home at a reasonable time; the train back would take about an hour, and my drive from there about three hours. This would also get me home before dark, which is useful because (in addition to my navigational deficiency, and needing to consult directions and a map) my night vision isn’t great.
[Why yes, I AM 90 years old. My night vision is poor because I keep forgetting to take my Geritol, no doubt.]
Well, we probably could’ve predicted that between the two of us we’d never actually stick to our schedule. Our arrival at Grand Central Station was closer to 4:00, which, no problem! Only an hour late! Still plenty of time to get back out to Connecticut and get home earlyish!
There were two problems we hadn’t anticipated. First of all, the train we took INTO the city pretty much just, I don’t know, DROVE INTO THE CITY. It may have stopped somewhere before we got there… maybe once or twice. And this train we took OUT of the city? It stopped fifty-seven places before our station. And that brings us to to the second problem, which was that half of those stations were under construction and could only be stopped at either before or after the normal platform area, and then they only opened the doors to two of the train cars. This meant that every station was actually TWO stops (before and after) and everyone was very confused.
It also meant that hordes of people kept crowding into the car we were riding in, because we had one of the magical sets of opening doors.
It also meant that people kept buzzing the buzzer (why is there a buzzer on a commuter train, anyway?) and rattling our eardrums and causing the conductor to snap over the loudspeaker “PLEASE STOP USING THE BUZZER, WE ARE ALREADY STOPPING.”
So the ride which had taken about an hour, inbound, took almost two hours, outbound.
But! Then we arrived! And Chris and I trundled off the train with our luggage, walked up the street to the parking garage, and bid each other farewell on the third floor. I was about to drive away when Chris returned to report that she couldn’t remember where she’d parked. So then we had a nice tour of the parking garage together. (Eventually we found Chris’ car on the second floor.)
I drove up to the ticket booth and handed over my ticket and my Discover card.
“Oh, cash only!” declared the attendant, pointing at the SIX signs on the glass that said CASH ONLY.
“Uhhhhh…” I answered, digging madly in my purse for cash. “Um, do you have any of those ‘cash only’ signs on the entrance side?” I asked while I dug. “Because I’m sure I didn’t see that on my way in.”
“No. We have the signs right here.”
“Well, yes, that’s nice, but if I’d known on the way IN that I needed cash to get OUT, I would’ve gotten money before I came back.” At this point I realized 1) I didn’t have enough cash and 2) he was charging me roughly twice what I’d thought it would cost. I briefly wondered what it would be like to have to spend the night in jail in Bridgeport. “Hang on a sec, I don’t have enough cash and my friend is coming right down. Let me ask her if she has extra cash.” He nodded and we waited for Chris to come down the ramp.
I got out and walked back to her car. “How much cash do you have?”
Chris had enough money to get out (lucky her) but not enough for both of us. She did, however, start yelling at the attendant when I told her how much he was charging me. “$10 a day!” she yelled to him. “It’s supposed to be $10 a day!”
“Yes, that’s the commuter rate,” he said, glaring at ME, now. “You commuter? You have to TELL me.”
“Yes, commuter rate. We took the train,” I answered. What the hell? Do people often park in the Holiday Inn parking garage for three days just for sport? I have to TELL him I took the train? Because there’s so much to do in beautiful downtown BRIDGEPORT that people sometimes just hang out there for days on end?
Now another car pulled up behind Chris. I was blocking the exit, and I couldn’t pay the guy. So he told me to pull around the corner and park and go to the ATM. I did that, grumbling the entire time (Chris pulled up to ask me if I wanted her to wait, and I waved her on, because there was no sense in BOTH of us being detained), and finally got the cash I needed and returned to the man in the booth.
“Here you go,” I said, handing him crisp-from-the-ATM bills. “I need a receipt, please.”
“You have to TELL me,” he said again, all exasperation. “I can’t generate one for you now, you have to tell me at the start.”
At this point I had been trying to get out of this stupid garage for about half an hour, all told. I leveled a look through the booth’s window that I imagined might melt his face off if he met my gaze. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Come on. I could’ve driven around the corner and LEFT. Just write it on a slip for me. Please? I just want to go home.”
He sighed and wrote me out a receipt. I thanked him and headed back to my car.
Aaaaand then I couldn’t find the highway. Of course.
I did find a policeman, though. He gave me directions. And then I got on the highway and thought, Okay! Here we go! Easy sailing from here on out!
It was starting to get dark, but I knew (more or less) where I was, and it’s an easy drive, so I still figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.
About half an hour after I got on the highway, it started to rain. Of course. I checked my thermometer. 46 degrees. Well, I told myself smugly, at least it’s not snowing.
I watched the temperature drop for another half an hour, and when it got to 36 degrees, the rain turned to snow. Of course.
But it’s all fine. I drove a little slower than usual and the trip took a little bit longer, but I stopped along the Mass Pike to gas up and get a snack, and there was an Auntie Anne’s at the rest stop. Due to my stressful trip home, I felt completely entitled to a butter-drenched pretzel to go along with my cup of coffee. (You know, at Auntie Anne’s the product is actually just lovely crunchy butter, and the pretzel dough is an afterthought to make the butter more portable. It’s sort of like getting a straw to drink your soda with.)
I also did the entire drive in silence, with no music. Generally on a ride of that length I need my tunes, but today my ears were grateful for the rest.
And now I’m going to have a lovely sleep in my own bed, in complete silence, in the DARK.
New York City: It’s a nice place to visit, but I sure am glad I don’t live there. (Bridgeport: It’s a sucky place to visit and I hope you brought wads of cash and don’t need a receipt.)