Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Aaaaand Vacation ends

That's right. The weekend ends with 1.5 mile walk to class through the rain.

Okay, the morning's trip was miserable, but the jaunt home was actually pleasant by comparison. It wasn't raining, and the walking warmed feet that had been damp for several hours. PLUS, the houses along park are gorgeous. I was so caught up in looking at them, critiquing the color choices, and generally falling over myself with admiration that the trip went by in a flash(and I ran into a tree branch). That's about the most interesting story I have from today, so here's half the story of our exodus from New York:

By Friday night we were all more than ready to take a break from the seemingly endless days filled with innumerable children. “Meet outside tomorrow at 9:45?” was the text I received from Christian, and I was on board with that. Living and working in New York is a far different experience from visiting it, and I would be completely happy if I could keep my future contact with the city limited to the latter. The next morning, I dragged all of my bags to the elevators, turned in my key and meal card to Neil, and knocked on Christian and Zach’s door. No response. “Good,” I thought. “This is starting off well.” I decided to send Christian a text letting him know I’d wait for them outside, but right as I reached the elevator, their door opened and Zach’s very bedraggled head appeared.

“Uh, we just woke up,” he said. “Oh, and there’s a boot on Christian’s car, so he has to call conference services about it.”
“Of course. Of course there’s a boot on his car,” I said. “Well, I’ll just wait outside, it’s nicer.”

Shortly thereafter, while I was eating one of the many Valencia oranges I had acquired that
week, Zach appeared with some of his luggage in tow. We started loading up Christian’s car,
and then milled around it, waiting for him to finish bargaining with the Conference Services. They came, removed the boot, we plugged the destination into the GPS, and we were on our way a mere hour behind schedule.

One thing I want to say about GPSes is that they don’t handle cities with lots of roads that converge and break away all at once very well. Our drive out of the Bronx went smoothly enough, until we made a slight wrong turn and our GPS started to get confused. It plotted a new course quickly enough, but it was one which unfortunately took us straight into stop and go traffic. And you may think you’ve been in bad traffic, but until it takes you over half an hour to move two blocks while you’re hungry enough to seriously weigh the pros and cons of eating the person next to you, then I don’t want to hear it. On a separate note, probably the only thing that saved Christian was the fact that if I ate him, I wouldn’t be able to drive home in his manual car. Which wasn’t sounding very excited about the stop and go traffic either. It growled and jerked every time Christian urged it closer to the tunnel which was the source of the backup; three lanes of traffic were attempting to merge into one to get into the tunnel just on our side of the street, so you can imagine the overall merging madness occurring all around us. Even so, the sight of the tunnel brought with it a hope of moving more than 5 mph and escape from the traffic hell. I was so relieved to be finally moving that I didn’t notice at first how bad Christian’s car sounded until Zach commented. As hard as he was trying, Christian couldn’t get it to move faster than about 10 mph, needles spinning up to 5, 6 rpm as he tried to accelerate. Cars sped past us in the Holland tunnel as we inched along, the Kia groaning angrily and emitting foul odors that smelled suspiciously like smoke into the car. That was when the car broke.
We rolled gently to a stop.

I can't remember the exact dialogue, but here's an approximation:
"Shit, the clutch won't move!" said Christian.
"Is it stuck?" asked Zach.
"It physically won't move. It's stuck up," replied Christian.
"Sounds like your transmission's dead. That's not good, dude," said Zach.
I said, "Shit."
"I guess I'll call the police," said Christian. "Hello? I've broken down in the middle of the Holland Tunnel. A white Kia. I think it's my transmission. You're sending someone? Great," Christian said, then hung up.
He turned the vents on high to cool off the engine, then thought the better of it as noxious gases started pouring in. He started to roll down the windows, then stopped and asked, "What do you think, is the air worse in here or out there?
"Better keep them up, man," replied Zach.

We waited.

"Man, I hope they come get us before we pass out from the fumes," said Zach.
"For real," I said, laughing a little nervously.

Cars continued to whiz angrily past, bleating their horns obnoxiously. Finally, we saw flashing lights behind us, and a cop car came around the bend and blocked off all traffic behind us about 40 feet away.

"Sooo, now what?" I asked, watching the cop car sit motionless behind us.
"I guess they have to set up a perimeter in case the car explodes, or something," said Zach.
Wondering privately if this was a likely event, I turned around and saw flashing lights ahead of us.
"Oh, I guess a tow truck is coming from the other way!"
But what came around the bend was not a tow truck. It was very short in length, but also as tall as the tunnel would allow. We stared at it in confusion as it pulled up beside us and rolled down the window.
"Hey there, what seems to be the problem?" asked the driver.
"My clutch is stuck. I can't get the car to move," said Christian.
"Okay, then what I'm going to do is go ahead and push you out of the tunnel. As soon as you're out, pull over to the left, off the street."

The odd vehicle drove past us, and we looked at each other.
"Did he say he say... push?"
We all craned around in time to see the compact truck pulling forward behind us.
"You good?" shouted the driver.
"Yeah!" said Christian, giving him a thumbs up.
And then we started moving. It was, hands down, the most ridiculous situation I have ever been in. The end of the tunnel appeared within a couple of seconds, and we all groaned about how close we had been to the end of it. As we emerged from the tunnel, the truck backed off and we coasted to a stop outside of a Shell station.

"Now what?" asked Christian as the truck drove off.
"I'll tell you one thing," I said. "I'm getting something to eat.

It was around 12:45 at that point.
Taken while being pushed out of the Holland Tunnel

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