We had scheduled to bring EXIST to a media conference in NYC last night. Chris was already in the city for the day, so I worked at dLife and then hopped the train to New York.
The train dumped me off at Grand Central Station and I made my merry way to the concourse, happy that I at least knew what direction to go in. It was 6:19 pm and the conference started at 6:30. I was right on track to be fashionably late.
Texted Chris: I’m here. Just getting a cab and I’ll be to you in 20 minutes.
Walked out onto the bustling sidewalk. Roads were closed due to the UN summit, so there were even more people spilling out than usual. Horns beeping. A man dressed as a piece of pizza shoved a flyer in my hand and hollered (to no one in particular), “Everybody loves pizza, man!” I walked towards the corner of the street, heels clicking, fashionably late … very Mary Tyler Moore of me. Started humming “You’re gonna make it after all.” Raised my arm to hail a cab, for the first time in my 27 years.
No one stopped.
Maybe I wasn’t out far enough. Maybe they couldn’t see me. Raised my hand again as a trio of cabs ripped by.
Hmmm. I am clearly doing something wrong here.
There was a police officer standing about 30 feet away from me. I walked over to her, keeping my eyes locked on the gridlock for an empty cab.
“Excuse me?” The cop turned around. “Excuse me. I need to catch a cab. Would I have more luck on another street, because of the roads being closed?”
The cop looked me up and down.
“Would have helped if you wore a skirt.”
“A skirt. A skirt would help. Next time wear a skirt. But good luck finding a cab tonight – roads are closed, it’s rush hour, and everyone is looking for a cab. Cross your fingers, miss.”
Feeling more and more like a country mouse, I stepped back to the curb and scanned the road for cabs. A man with luggage and a cell phone walked up beside me.
“Waiting for a cab?”
“Good luck with that. It’s crazy in this town. I’m just in from San Francisco and I’ve been waiting for ½ an hour for a cab to stop.” My eyes widened. I heard a bell ring.
“Hey lady! You need to get somewhere fast?” A voice called from the street. Out of seemingly nowhere, a bicycle cab/rickshaw peeled out next to me and a tall, skinny man leaned off his bicycle and shot me a craggy grin.
Oh for crying out loud.
“Yes, yes I do. Can you get me to The Puck Building? Off Lafayette?”
“No problem. 52 blocks from here. Gonna cost you $60. Hop in.”
It didn’t look safe. It was an updated version of a horse-and-buggy outfit, only instead of a horse pulling the cart down a country road, it was a skinny guy with an almost-beard toddling through Manhattan traffic. I shouldn’t do it. And sixty bucks? I definitely shouldn’t do it.
“Okay.” I climbed in. He buckled me in like it was the Scrambler at the fair and off we plunged into the sea of buses, town cars, and cabs that didn’t want me as a patron.
Texted Chris: I’m on my way. I’m in an f@*&ing bicycle rickshaw. This is my life. $60.
I have never been so scared in my life. This skinny man rode like he was rally driving, weaving in and out of traffic, skimming by the sides of buses, pitching wildly in potholes, and occasionally pointing out the scenery.
“Lady. That?” He pointed, taking both hands off of the handlebars and causing my heart to almost stop. “That’s a very beautiful art exhibit. It’s so nice. I like art.” We came about six inches from rear-ending a Mercedes. “You like art, lady? You been to the city before?”
The wind blew through my hair and I clutched the side of the seat for dear life. “NO!” I yelled, hoping these words wouldn’t be my last. “BUT I LOVE ART! I REALLY LOVE ART! AND LIFE! I LOVE LIFE, TOO!”
Texted Chris: I may die in this thing. I love you. Don’t forget to feed the cats.
“Hey lady! I take pictures. You like pictures?” He didn’t wait for a response. “I would like to take your picture. I have a nice, Polaroid camera. You like to have pictures taken?”
“NO THANK YOU, SIR! I WOULD JUST LIKE TO GET TO THE PUCK BUILDING, THANKS.”
“Okay. I take good pictures, though.”
Life continued on for 30 harrowing minutes. We finally turned on to Lafayette. My hair was enormous. My cheeks were wind-whipped. My knuckles were white from hanging on for dear life as he pedaled furiously down Manhattan streets.
He cut through a gas station, crossed between three buses and another bicycle cab, and drove up the sidewalk, to the very base of the Puck Building. People were staring. We skidded to a stop.
He rang the bell.
I unbuckled myself from the cab and he took my hand, helping me from the cart as though I were some sort of Disney royalty. It was 7:15.
“Thank you very much, sir. Here’s your money.”
“No charge, lady.”
“No charge. You can’t look that scared when you’re waiting for a ride, though. Someone might take advantage of you! You seem nice, lady. Where I am from, we are nice to our women and we make sure they are safe. No charge.”
I handed him a twenty dollar bill and shook his hand.
“Thank you very much, sir. It’s been quite an experience.”
He jerked the bike back onto the street. “The subway is probably more scary than this. I see you next time, okay?” And off he went, towards some semblance of a sunset, but most likely within two inches of the bumper of a bus.
Texted Chris: I’m here. My hair looks a fright. People in New York aren’t as mean as I thought. I may make it after all.