Now and then every Internet Mega-Publisher is doomed to make a pilgrimage to the Big City for a face to face with the techie types. Even I, the enormously successful and exalted N.K.Wagner, am no exception. Let me tell you: there’s something one gains from looking into the mesmerizing black holes that are the eyes of the inky Mephistopheles who holds your entire corporate empire’s cyber-life in his hands. I think it’s called humility.
It seems all these uber-geeks gravitate to a regional Uberville. I’m convinced it’s because that’s where everything – and I do mean everything – can be ordered in. They never have to unplug. And with Bluetooth, I mean never. Makes me wonder if they’re not really individual cells in the collective Universal Consciousness. <Ahem> Never mind. What I want to tell you about is my epic journey to worship at the feet of, well, my web designer.
The flight from Greensboro, NC to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport normally takes around an hour and fifteen minutes. I’ve made the trip many times without incident to visit my … hummana hummana … uh, relatives. I’ve always taken the early flight out, at dawn, without incident. Not this time, no-o-o. This time Babs II booked a 10:20 AM shuttle. And after that raise I just gave her, too. <sigh>
I arrived at the airport having driven an hour on the Interstate with my eyeballs well-seared courtesy of an acres-too-small sun visor. The cavernous gloom of the longterm parking garage nearly masked the black spots dancing before my eyes. Ever try peering around sunspots to decipher your car’s parking space designation? An interesting exercise, but not beyond the purview of your intrepid editor. So far, so good.
I’m a responsible packer. I got that way from being responsible for carting my own luggage through airports all over the globe during my lean years. What lean years? If you’re as smart as I think you are, you won’t go there. Anyway, I planned to be away for five days, and my single suitcase tipped the check-in scale at a paltry twenty-nine pounds. The other thirty-five was crammed into my laptop carry-on bag. Well, a girl’s gotta have oodles of mad money and a few pounds of caviar, right?
Guess what! I got to try out the new body scanner at security. “Do I get a prize?” I joked with the TSA official.
“You sure do,” he replied, grinning evilly. “You get a random full body patdown.”
Sure…why not? A nice lady performed the cursory body search – she sneaked a peek under the shirt I had layered as a jacket. As she promised, the backrub part felt pretty nice. She could have done a more thorough job on my shoulders, though.
I should have seen disaster on the horizon. You see, my departure gate was only half-way down the Concourse. That never happens. A welcome change, I naively thought. Yep! Naïve. Must be a BYKS-ie hangover. With carry-ons and boarding pass in hand and less than an hour to departure time, I made myself comfortable, pulled out my laptop and began work on this week’s Writers’ Table essay.
I was breezing along from my notes on writing humor when an announcement came over the loudspeaker: Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you that Delta flight 1234 to La Guardia will be delayed one hour.
Okay, I thought. Enough time to get this essay drafted.
Eleven thirty neared.
Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you that Delta flight 1234 to LaGuardia is still on the ground in New York. At this time, we will be changing your departure location to Gate 34. We will inform you when your flight is in the air.
For the next three hours we were informed, updated … and moved. I could have used a Bloody Mary. I could have used a bloody sandwich, but they kept changing departure gates on us and I was afraid if I made the half-mile trek to the nearest food vendor, the departure gate would be deserted when I returned. And they wouldn’t have left a forwarding address.
Eventually, Delta Flight 1234 landed in Greensboro and boarding instructions commenced. We dragged our sitting-stiff bodies down the stairs, out onto the tarmac and up the six steps to our reluctant chariot. I had to duck my head to enter the Chautauqua Airlines three-seat-across toy disguised as a real Delta aircraft. In my experience, window seats are good on short flights, aisle seats on long flights. Bloody Marys are good on all flights.
I found my window seat a row behind the wing emergency exit. Interesting view. I settled in. My hips haven’t been held in that tight a grip since the last time BYKS-ie and I … well, never mind. My seatmate turned out to be a disgruntled businessman who spent the entire flight scribbling random notes on his boarding pass. I was kinda relieved he never said a word.
The Bloody Mary? It turned out to be an over-iced cup of Sprite Zero. Not the same thing at all.
At 2:55 PM we bounced down at LaGuardia. After a shuttle bus ride and mini-marathon I kissed my bag hello and found a taxi. I handed the Islands-accented driver a map and the written address of my destination in Washington Heights. Hey! I told you. Relatives.
“Yes, mom. I know whar dey is,” he assured me and flipped the map back at me.
We headed up the east side of Manhattan to avoid rush hour traffic. I made some calls, set up appointments. Recognizing Spanish Harlem, I returned to business. Next time I looked up, I saw two signs: “Westchester County” and “Yonkers”. We were no longer on Manhattan Island. The idiot was headed for Upstate New York!
“Sir, I believe you forgot to drop me off.” My fingers began to tap 9-1-…
“What? You said drive north.”
“On Ft. Washington Avenue. You know: Ft Tryon Park. Mother Cabrini High School. The George Washington Bridge!” The cabbie slapped off the meter. I could see he was shaken. I spoke soothingly. “Let’s turn around and go back to Manhattan the way we came.”
The way we came is called the Saw Mill Expressway, a pretty, park-lined highway. The cabbie turned off. He turned again. And again. He pulled a u-ey. He was lost.
“Why don’t you call your dispatcher for directions?” I suggested with all the sympathetic encouragement I could cram into my voice.
Instead, he glanced to his left, beeped his horn and rolled down his window. I gasped. Pulled up next to us was Divine Intervention in the form of a carload of pale gray habited nuns. I don’t know their Order, but it should be Our Lady of Perpetual Direction. The good sisters got us turned around and on our way back to New York City.
“Where to?” my cabbie asked sheepishly.
“The George Washington Bridge?” I ventured. “But don’t take us to Jersey!”
“Okay. I’m very sorry, mom.”
“It’s okay,” I said as Presbyterian Hospital appeared beyond the Bridge’s entrance. I directed him through the two turns. “Please. No more turns. Just drive until I tell you to stop,” I begged. Two-hundred-odd street numbers later I left my intrepid taxi-driver with a wave – and no tip – and buzzed my host’s apartment.
New York City, I have arrived. Don’t mess with me, cyber-gods!