NYC Diaries Episode 1: The Driver
The moment I saw him, I knew he was my driver.
“Why?” you ask.
Because, dear reader, he entered the airport’s ground transportation centre in uniform, staggering and swaying like a drunk man possessed by a Shakespearian nymph, and almost falling over as he high-fived the various reluctant desk clerks.
Please, I said. Please don’t let him be my driver. Please don’t let him be my driver. But deep inside, I knew there was no way out.
He was my driver.
And so, he – let’s call him Captain Crazy (believe me, this is being polite, given that my first choice to christen him was Captain Crack) – abruptly ordered us newly arrived tourists into the shuttle bus, threw our bags in the back, leaned in, turned the keys in the ignition so we had air conditioning and then without a word, strutted straight back down the street and into the terminal, leaving us all sitting there in the running van. For AGES. I felt like an abandoned kid at the casino, wondering when Mummy will make it big on the pokies so we can just go home.
Some seventeen minutes later he emerged, sauntering casually down the footpath with one other little lady, whereupon they both got into the van and miracle of miracles, we started driving.
Now, you know when you want something really, really badly and then you finally get it and are all “oh, why did I think I even wanted that? That was the worst thing EVER!” Like when you want a huge piece of chocolate cake only then you get it and there are lumps of bi-carb soda throughout?
Driving with him was just like that.
For said Captain proceeded to:
– run directly through two red lights;
– of the lights he actually stopped at, he entertained himself by tapping his foot on and off the breaks so that our van “bounced” along on the spot;
– text message his dealer somebody.
I found myself feeling pretty cheesed off and having conversations with God something along the lines of:
Me: “Dear God, if you knew I was gonna die today then I do wish you’d have taken me out BEFORE I went through two long-haul flights.”
God: “But you did get to watch some good movies.”
Me: “Point taken.”
God: “Anyway, it could be worse.”
Me: “True, I could be going out to Christina Agueleira on the radio.”
God: “See? The long haul flights aren’t so bad after all.”
Me: “But, if I’d known this was gonna be the end, I would have splurged on the plane and ordered more alcohol.”
God: “Point taken.”
It was around here that our divine conversation was interrupted by a beeping sound in the van.
What? I thought. WHAT? Don’t tell me he’s running out of petrol! Well, I guess that would make sense, I mean, that’s what HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR PASSENGERS IN THE CAR WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING FOR A QUARTER OF AN HOUR!
Suddenly and again without a word, he swerved the van off our highway and onto an exit marked “Return to Airport.”
It as all I could do to stop from yelling out a slow motion Hollywood NOOOOOOO!!!!!
Sure enough, ten minutes later and we were back at the airport, back outside a terminal entrance and again – with not even so much a sound uttered from his lovely swaying lips – Captain Crazy jumped out and left us in the running vehicle. YET AGAIN.
And there we were again, casino kids – only now on a jackpot crawl across Vegas.
Upon which, my fellow passengers started whispering in impassioned German, while I grabbed my journal from my bag and commenced my survival strategy i.e. Operation Note-Take.
Some ten minutes later and Captain was back. An older lady was loaded into the car and we were on our way again.
Only this time he turned on the radio and I swear, playing on the radio – pretty promise with a cherry on top SWEAR I am not making this up – Christina Freaking Agueilera.
God: “That wasn’t me.”
But it’s okay. I’m forgiving. And I’m taking notes. And most importantly, we’re moving.
Or so I think.
For driving past the next terminal, we stop AGAIN.
And this is where I say, “Hello, old friend!” for this is the exact point we started out at. That’s right. We’re 45 minutes into our trip and we haven’t even made it more than a metre.
He asks my German friends in the back seat to move over so they can fit another person in.
“But one of the seatbelts is broken,” says the mother.
“Move across,” he says.
“But this seatbelt won’t work,” she says. “We are not riding without a seatbelt.”
“Oh my GOD!” he says. “It works! It’s a new van, alright? All the seatbelts work!”
“Then show us how to do it,” she says calmly.
“It works, you just have to plug it in, it’s a new van, now move over!” The Captain is getting seriously peeved, like we’re the greatest inconvenience to the shuttle-bus industry since logic.
“But it doesn’t work,” she says.
“Okay,” he points a finger at her, “this is a new van, all of the seatbelts work, if you won’t move over, then I’m going to have to ask you to get out.”
“We have no problem moving over,” she says, “but we are not riding without a seatbelt.”
“Can’t you just show them?” I ask. I’m getting pissed now too, everybody is, I’m half tempted to just screw it, jump out and grab a cab.
But my stubbornness kicks in: I’ve come this far…
With a muttering of “Jeezus Christ,” he jumps up, leans over and tries to do up the seatbelt and, much to the satisfaction I believe, of everybody present, CAN’T DO IT.
I soooo wanna mutter something about contacting the manufacturer to claim his “new van’s” warrantee, and while he’s at it, ask them about the fraying fabric on the seats, but of course, will save the best retorts for where they are less likely to resort in being stranded in a foreign country.
Captain ends up ordering the Germans out of the van and swapping their seats with the four new (and apparently, less safety-conscious) guests: possibly because they hadn’t yet been privy to the wonders of his driving.
And with that, we’re off.
Til inexplicably, on the HIGHWAY, he pulls over. AGAIN.
I swear to you again, I am not making a word of this up.
He jumps out, heavens knows where to, and a couple of minutes later, jumps in and drives on as if nothing has happened.
And with that, we drove, we conquered and we entered the magic of Manhattan.
She’s a beautiful sight at night-time – indeed, at anytime – but the magic of the city lights as we drove over the bridge was enough to lift my heart and take my mind completely off the ridiculousness that had been our road journey here. In fact, my awe helps me realize that the fact it took the better part of an hour just to get out of the airport itself, probably gave Captain Crazy time to sober the heck up.
It’s okay. I’m alive. I’m here. And Captain is doing alright.
When, in the greatest epilogue to an adventure since Return of the Jedi, Captain Crazy decides to squeeze in just one last gesture of insanity. Apparently unwilling to wait the whole thirty seconds it would take until the traffic lane clears, (I mean, heavens, we are running LATE now, you know!) Captain decides to overtake, squeezing between the footpath and the cars, and in doing so, hits the side of a fellow shuttle van.
But Captain is well versed in this. He’s experienced y’all. While we passengers look in shock and bewildered sympathy at the other van’s driver, who is beeping and gesturing at us, while finally shrugging (he is both blocked in traffic and only an employee, after all) Captain simply displays again his complete and utter genius at blazing his own path.
Yes, dear readers, in his grand tradition, he simply drives on as though nothing has happened – never uttering a sound.
And as I sit there, marveling at his complete lack of empathy with the outside world, I realize that there can be something drawn from this.
That it is possible to stay focused on your goals, doing it your own way, stopping when you need to and pressing on without any reference to any other person.
But if you do so, you’re gonna eventually be surrounded by people who hate you.
Or at least are gonna blog about it.