Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lost in the City Already

I get off the bus at the appointed station, and start to walk with my bags in the direction indicated by the map on my ever-so smartphone. What a good phone I have that is willing to walk me and guide me to where I am going. It’s happy to show me the way, to keep me moving, to give me purpose. Thank you so much phone. I must think of an appropriate name for you, phone, because you are my boon companion in this troubling time.

My phone guides me to what I am convinced is the subway station on 42nd Street and Times Square. I look around, and no matter where I look I do not see the subway. Finally, being fearless, I ask a cop on the street. He points that I am literally in front of the subway doors. It didn’t look like a subway. I feel small and silly and green in the city suddenly. I smile and say thank you and head down to the subway to get a ticket. In the end a 30-day pass that should get me where I need to go and let me do everything I need to do for the time that I am in NYC.

With my pass I now need a train. My trusty phone has advised that I take the one train to get to the Chocolat Hostel. It says this is a direct shot and will be there in no time. My phone says go in the direction of Uptown and the Bronx. My phone is very clever and I will give it a cookie later. I find the correct platform and head down to it to be overwhelmed by the first-time experience in the oppressive heat of the subway.

Heat does not describe the subway tunnel; it is an overwhelming heavy humid wash of fire that just blasts at you. Surprisingly warm, considering that the streets are actually fairly cool and pleasant. I am surprised by the insane heat in the subway. I roll my bag out on to a platform at what I think will be the 1 train. It comes shortly after I hit the platform and I push my way on board with my bag and settle in for the ride uptown. As we get closer to 96th Street I hear an announcement that the train will not be stopping at 103rd and everyone who needs to should get off at 96th. I figure this is okay, as I don’t mind a little walk after four hours on a plane and an hour on the bus. I note the inconvenience as I will now have to talk back to 96th for the train back to downtown for my interview.

I pull my bag up the stairs and onto the street and consult again lovingly with my oracle of technology, sure in its ability to tell me not only where I am, but where I want to be, and to guide me on a path that will be wrought with few obstacles. I start walking. I managed to get to 103rd and everything is going swimmingly. I read the directions and turn right. I see a hostel, but I’m quite sure it is not the hostel I want. I consult the oracle again and she tells me that I must turn right. So I turn right and walk again. At this point, I see nothing but a dead end. So, again, I check and again it says turn right. On the fourth right turn I am feeling less guided by an oracle and more so by a stooge so I pick the opposite direction and start walking. After several turns on my own I end up back at the hostel that is not my hostel.

I decide to call the hostel, which at this point seemed like the best course of action.

“I’ve just gotten in from my flight and I’m trying to get to you but I seem to have taken a wrong turn from the subway.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m on 103rd.”

“No problem, you just walk to the river and it’s right there.” I look at my phone.

I look at my phone again.

“I just landed in New York. I have no idea where the river is.”

“Oh. Uh…”

See, even big-city folks can give directions that are random and mean nothing unless you live there. We manage to work out that I DO know where Broadway is and I can walk in the direction of that, cross it and keep walking until I get to the next street after Broadway were I will, no doubt, see the hostel. And sure enough, on the appointed road is the appointed chocolate brown sign that proclaims that I have indeed arrived at the Chocolat.

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