July 17, 2008
I’ve finally calmed down enough to write this story. On July 1st we drove down to NYC to help Elizabeth pack up her stuff and move back to New England. The trip was a pretty typical New York horror story, and an expensive one at that, although the drive down to the city was uneventful. We spent the evening of the 1st helping with packing and cleaning. So far, so good.
The next morning, which was actually Elizabeth’s birthday, she and I went to pick up the U-Haul truck. The first surprise was the cost. The online reservation said $770 (outrageous enough in itself). This turned out to mean $900 at checkout. But there was nothing to be done. We needed the truck. It was too late to get one elsewhere.
Since Elizabeth was the one renting the truck, the people at the rental place needed to see her drive it off their lot. I followed her back to her apartment and parked my car. It was only 9:30 a.m. and we were ready to start loading the truck. I figured we’d be headed north by 1:30, 2:00 at the latest.
And indeed, the truck was just about loaded at 1:30, when a parking spot opened up right in front of Elizabeth’s apartment. I went to get the car while Marge stood in the parking space trying to convince other drivers not to take it.
After about five minutes, I was back. I couldn’t find the car. I had been so sure I’d parked just around the corner, but I suddenly wasn’t so sure. Elizabeth came with me and we took another look around the neighborhood. Nothing.
By then I was pretty sure once again that I’d parked where I thought I had. Suddenly Elizabeth remembered that her landlord had warned her about a spot around the corner that was the location of a pretty much secret crosswalk. She and I walked to the spot, and I suddenly knew that was where I had parked. The “crosswalk” was “marked” by a depression in the curb on the other side of the street! I wish I were making this up, but I’m not.
“You’ve been towed,” Elizabeth said. Great.
I can’t do justice to the part of this story that pertains to getting the car back because Marge took care of that. It took nearly three hours and cost $300. At the hands of the NYPD, Marge was subjected to rudeness, indifference, veiled threats, bullying and meanness of spirit (apparently for its own sake). It’s not so much that the behavior of New York’s “finest” was unprofessional as that it was subhuman.
For the five years that Elizabeth lived in NYC, I was willing to suspend judgment on the worst stereotypes of New Yorkers. The folks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, however, did their best to prove the stereotypes too kind and forgiving. Of course, they don’t care what I think. It will, however, be a long, long time before I visit NYC again for any reason, and I will never drive there again. The old rule applies here: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
The upshot of our being mugged and shaken down by the NYPD, of course, is that we didn’t actually head north until about 4:00. Rush hour traffic in New York has to be seen to be appreciated. Frankly, Boston drivers are considerably more aggressive than anything I ever saw in New York. But for temper tantrums and raw hatred of everyone else on the road coupled with an odd personal insecurity that just seems to make them angrier, New York drivers have no rival.
In fact, I once asked Elizabeth, who has driven a lot in both cities, what the difference was between Boston drivers and New York drivers. She thought for a minute and said this: “Boston drivers want to defeat you; they give you the finger and yell ‘F*ck you!’. New York drivers hate you, but they’re a little conflicted about it. They give you the finger and yell ‘F*ck you, awright?’ They need that little bit of affirmation, but no, it’s not all right.”
Anyway, as we left NYC, Elizabeth was at the wheel of my Maxima, leading the way out of the city. I was driving the UHaul behind her, sometimes having to follow her so closely that I couldn’t even see her brake lights. It was terrifying and exhausting.
As soon as we reached Co-op City, traffic began to slow down ominously. From there, it took two and a half hours to get to New Haven. Three hours after that, we reached the Massachusetts state line. Distance covered to this point: 140 miles. Time elapsed: six hours.
We finally got back to Portland at about 1:00 a.m. Total travel time: nine hours. Average speed for the entire trip: 34 mph. It was the longest time the drive from NYC to Portland ever took us. In the two weeks or so since that God-awful drive, I’ve come to a few conclusions, foremost of which is that if Elizabeth ever decides to live in NYC again she’s on her own. Dad already gave.