Old School

I recently had to travel for work and unfortunately had to take a Sunday night red-eye home to New York. My company took pity on me and sprung for a car service from Newark Airport to my apartment in Williamsburg. This enabled me to avoid navigating Monday morning public transportation in a red-eye daze. I had been up for about 23 hours at that point and was not in the proper state of mind to deal with such a scene. The rain only complicated the matter.

So all was good. I could fall asleep (or at least zone out) in the car for the ride home and not have to worry about a thing. What I was not prepared for was the driver. An old school cat as miserable as they come. I believe he said his name was Bud, but I’m not entirely sure. Bud was sporting bright white hair, a giant bulbous nose and thick New York accent. He used local idioms like, “I’m just breaking shoes.”

Things got off to a bad start when my cell phone rang as I was cruising through the terminal. It was Bud, who asked me to meet him outside in the rain, instead of coming in and writing my name on a little sign. Once I found the car, he immediately began to complain that he was not used to driving all the way from Newark to Brooklyn and that we were absolutely going to hit rush hour traffic. Fair enough. For some reason I was compelled to apologize to the guy we were paying nearly $150 for. Even offered alternate routes that might make the ride a little smoother.

He decided to try a route that we were both unfamiliar with, relying on the GPS to illuminate the way. Within a minute we were in the seedy industrial complex of the Newark Airport area. Taking hard lefts and rights, trying to keep up with a GPS that must have been smoking at this point. Only one or two other cars in sight, we were dodging delivery trucks like they were Pacman ghosts. Bud coloring the car with a rush of language that would make Fiorello La Guardia blush.

Not wanting to enflame the situation any more, I treaded lightly. Opting for a joke…

“Well that got sketchy real fast.”

“Fucking Jesus Christ, these GPSs will take you everywhere but where you want to go.”

Down one more side street, in another moment we were back on the highway. Stuck in traffic.

He let out a giant gasp and said, “I’m gonna try to get over to the Verrazano.”

“No this is fine. Stick with the Holland please.” That stopped him in his tracks.

Along the way we passed not one, but three accidents. Cars were readily bumping into each other on this cold and rainy Monday morning. Each time, Bud would make a comment that people don’t know how to drive in rain. At one point there was a break in the monotony and we had some room to accelerate. To a fault I chose to mumble something under my breath, which caused Bud to turn around and ask what I had said. Of course at this very moment, I could see that more traffic was fast approaching and Bud was not slowing down.

“Look out!” I literally screamed “Look out!” Bud slammed on the brakes and we avoided being number four. My knuckles were blood red.

Traffic near the tunnel was abominable and Bud decided to get into an open lane that was heading off into Hoboken. Once he realized he was in the wrong lane, he attempted to merge back into a crowd of cars stymied by the bottleneck of the tunnel. They had just watched him pass them by and were not very forthcoming in letting us back in. Down aways was a traffic cop that was glaring up at us. Bud started preaching that this mother fucker better not give him a ticket.

We got in and passed the cop without incident. Bud looked at him through a closed window and said thank you, then muttered under his breath “Fuck you, hahaha” and after a brief condemnation of the merging habits of motorists, we were in the Holland Tunnel.

Getting across Manhattan was fairly easy as I was directing him the entire way. Though we did seem to hit every red light, which Bud surprisingly pointed out. When we got to the Williamsburg bridge, the left lane was closed and Bud made my favorite comment of the morning…

“They’ve been working on this road since the beginning of time.” I’d never noticed it, but maybe they have. It perfectly summed up my morning.

We drove right passed my apartment after I had told Bud it was right there at the light. Upon making a couple of lefts to get back, we found ourselves on a side street stuck behind a garbage truck. With no where to turn, I watched the truck completely annihilate a sofa that was left on the side of the road.

“Well Bud, this works for me. I hope the rest of your day goes a little smoother.” I grabbed my things and walked the block home. Bedtime.

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