The Diaries: before the road again, it starts with a stop
Redrik, a friend and colleague who’ll be helping out during part 2, flew in Saturday. This marks the unofficial beginning of Part 2, though we are still in New York. I’ve also been talking to other team members about possibly joining for the second half of the itinerary.
The initial challenges are the following:
- leave whenever possible and make it to the Northwest
We’re in the midst of preparations, there’s a lot to to do before we get on the road, and things have already taken their sour turn!
How’s one to write, after the fact, the diary of a long period of time?
The ups, downs, linger on… the days and nights spent in the daze of routine and habit are forgotten, or washed off like a smooth moistness on the skin, permeable, out of time as after a dream, real only at the moment they are felt…
Been working. Not working. Sleeping. Little eating.
Enjoyable company, though sporadic, friends, S.
My stay at 173rd was fruitful though, and enjoyable. My roommates, S and H, were easygoing and fun, the cohabitation and social dynamics interestingly original (they admitted themselves there would be ample sitcom material here – perhaps these stories could eventually be elaborated).
Got locked out two consecutive days:
The first time, as I greeted a friend in the stairwell, the draft closed the door shut. Knocked at the neighbor’s door on the floor above, and after a difficult negotiation and explanation due to language barriers, they kindly let me in through their apartment, to the fire escape. Luckily the window below was open.
The second ordeal was more challenging. This time I’d forgotten my keys, and realized this coming home. I called my roommates to no avail. They must be at work.
The previous day’s stratagem didn’t work: nobody would let me through.
Descended to the street, climbed on a fence then hitched the wall, grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder of the fire escape, hoisted myself to its other side, then up – discreetly if possible, nobody likes getting arrested for breaking into their own home.
Please tell me they didn’t lock the windows since yesterday. My fingers curl under the plastic of the window frame. A nudge: it lifts up. I slip a leg in, push aside the curtain and stumble into the living room on H, donned in a bathrobe, calmly sitting in the couch and looking at the list of missed calls on her cell phone.
Unfortunately didn’t feel like I spent much time ‘living in the city’, then again, the aim of this stay was really to wrap up some work before hitting the road again. I’ll be back in New York…
Moved to a friend’s house who’s currently traveling a week ago, and Redrik flew in two days later. We began the driving lessons on the very next day, a sunny Sunday, in the lot of a Burger King.
Rear, turn, right, drive, brake, brake! Left, turn, rear, drive, right, brake!
Etc. Started driving around in the quiet streets of Jackson Heights. Blinker, mirror, side mirror, blind spot, turn, overturn, brake, gas, you missed the blind spot, killed a cyclist, again, right…
The first day ended with no particular complication. Redrik was psyched. It’s always a beautiful feeling to learn something entirely new…
The second day we did the same, two-lane roads, some basic parallel parking – things got smoother, confidence built up, awareness remained for the most part.
And then came the traditional hubris leading to peripeteia and anagnorisis but no catharsis.
Came the evening, we decided to go out again on our way to a friend’s, a bit further out, and on a more populated street. We got greedy. There was no need really.
Redrik calmly maneuvered, keeping eyes open for opening doors, cyclists, kids, the whole thing. It was Presidents’ Day, a holiday. A day for people to go out and enjoy some time off work, especially with such beautiful weather.
But dusk was settling in.
“Should I stop?”
“There’s a cop.”
I didn’t see anything, so focused had I been on the road and what was going in front. In the rearview mirror, a police officer on foot was pacing after the car, waving his arms.
A few things: At this point Redrik didn’t have his learner’s permit on him, which he was to retrieve the following day (DMV being closed on a holiday.)
In addition to that, and it’s possible we had been aware of it, it turns out that Fanta, the dearest who trucked on through part 1, hauling her bones and your humble narrator through the first itinerary, was in dire straits.
Redrik pulled over to the side. This being his second day behind the wheel, and his first time getting pulled over, it wasn’t to be expected that he’d have the right reaction: he unbuckled his seat belt.
“Put it back on. Last thing we need is for them to think your seatbelt wasn’t on.” He clicked it back swiftly.
The police officer came to the window. I explained I was teaching my friend how to drive.
“And don’t you think this vehicle is a bit unsafe to drive?”
I contrapted a contorted face of not-so-surprised, if-only-could-be-indignant, apathy. It didn’t get us any brownie points.
“You think it’s safe to drive with a cracked windshield?”
There are times when rhetorical questions are more unnecessary than others…
Please don’t see the cracked side-view mirror, or the broken front lights… or any of the other things which I’d rather not hear about.
“Insurance and license please.”
So they found out about the learner’s permit, or lack thereof, and I fumbled through my insurance papers only to discover I had no slip attesting of its current validity.
“Both of your brake lights are out.”
We left with four tickets, four yellow slips. But there were ways to cancel some of them out. I suppose it’s better safe than sorry, sooner than later, and yiddi-yadda.
Ah, but our woes had not begun…
The next morning we awoke ready to solve the issues raised. Redrik went downtown to the DMV, I planned to take the car in to fix the brake lights. A small fix I figured. Only, as I checked the lights, I noticed something which hadn’t yet caught my attention: neither of the front turn signals seemed to work. Well, might as well have it all checked. How much can it be to fix a light?
Got to the Nissan dealership on Northern: a Time Dealer of the year nominee, according to one plate hung on the wall. The service manager who took my keys seemed helpful: he’d give me a call in an hour with the estimate (which was $120 to start out with).
“Thanks, in that case I guess I’ll go and have some coffee.”
After an hour and half, having heard nothing, I returned:
“I should be getting the technician’s report very soon,” repeated the manager.
“I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”
Four hours had gone by with me standing in the lobby statuesque-ly, in front of the Time dealer of the year nominee frame. Four hours had gone by as the crowds of other customers flocked by, and cleaners came by one after the other to mop the table, reorder the brochures in a colorful circle, dusted the couches, all to insure the pristine appearance of this plight hole of blight.
One cooks a customer slowly. The service manager finally emerged with a piece of paper and the hypocritical face of compassion commonly devised by salesmen whose hearts pound with the excitement of anticipated ecstasy.
He had not started the run-down that I pointed out the figure in the top-right corner: $1137.
The service manager couldn’t suppress a smirk of satisfaction at the sudden mention of the result of this four-hour cookwork, though disappointed he hadn’t been able to build it up.
I will pass the list of problems that he found. The end result: pressured to fix the situation about the brake lights to solve the yellow slips, I agreed to some fixes, which were already far beyond what I had ever planned to spend on Fanta now to ‘fix it up’ – and which didn’t address any of the issues predicted.
I’m starting to see a pattern (part 1? Philly and Delaware).
The earliest road-test might be as late as March 7th. I am not pleased by the news. For various reasons, including the photo project, it is important that we reach the Northwest sooner than later.
We should be retrieving the car later on today. I have no idea what to expect. The brake lights should be fixed. Other problems may remain, poor Fanta… could anything else be done? will this be the end of her? I cannot here expand – let’s just say we’re going to have to be very careful. Very.
Share the road!