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Rubes in the Big Apple


 IRENE AND LARRY’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG CITY


     One of Irene’s birthday presents last spring was tickets to see “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She was pleased but a little concerned about how we would get in and out of Manhattan because she is not the speed walker she once was. “Not to worry,” said her portly husband.

     Early last week the aforementioned husband went to a limo service to price a trip to Manhattan and later was persuaded by his son Jack that an Uber car would be cheaper and just as efficient. (Before we move on with our story, let me dwell briefly on the word “aforementioned,” which Michael Kay, the New York Yankees TV announcer, mispronounces every game he does. Thank you.)

     Saturday arrives and around 11:25 a.m. I use my Uber app. (Does “Uber app” sound as dirty to you as it does to me? I mean, wouldn’t you run the risk of being punched if you walked up to a stranger and asked, “Want to see my Uber app”?) I got a quick response and the car arrived around 11:45 a.m., plenty of time we thought to make the 2 p.m. performance. 

     I had received at least three emails from Telecharge, stressing that the show started at 2 p.m. and late arrivals wouldn’t be seated. 

     We made good time and just before we got to the Midtown Tunnel we both had lunch in the back of the car, a bagel each and water. (Does Irene’s portly husband know how to show her a good time? Indeed.) 

     We were in Manhattan before 1 p.m., not to worry—we would get from the east side of Manhattan to 44th Street on the west side in plenty of time. In fact, I was hoping we would encounter a little traffic, so we wouldn’t be at the theater too early and have to wait in line outside. The bodies of 80+ year-old folks no longer tolerate standing for many minutes. Not to worry, portly husband, there would be no standing.

     There was apparently no way “to go west, young man” on Saturday, September 7th. You couldn’t even find a street where any cars had their hoods pointed west, and all of the traffic cops waving me, my bride and my Uber app to keep moving north had different versions of where it was that you could turn left in a westerly direction. 61st Street was suggested, then 66th Street, then 72nd street, then 79th and on and on. 

     We circled many museums and churches on the east side. Round and round we went. It became 1:20, then 1:40, then 1:55. Should we turn around and have the Uber driver take us back to Long Island?

     The driver was aces. Patient as a poet, searching for the perfect image. His phone rang once. It was his wife who had expected him to be back on Long Island by now. 

     While we were making one of our circles, I spotted what appeared to be a parade underway on the west side. Perhaps it was National Polka Dot Thong Day and celebrations were non-stop. 

     Somewhere in the 70s or 80s we were able to head west and then south to west 44th Street. We arrived at the Schubert Theater around 2:20 p.m. and, to our surprise and delight, we were told that we would be seated, although the play had started. This meant climbing two sets of stairs to the mezzanine. Irene who did a lot of acting during high school and college was in a theater again and was up to this challenge.     Twenty minutes after we sat down I remembered that in the rush to get to our seats I had not turned off my cellphone, the one with the Uber app. Not to worry, portly husband. Intermission came before I could embarrass myself and my bride.

     The play is terrific, though I was a little bothered by a script that early on sought and got laughs. And there’s one character who explains how Tom Robinson lost the use of his left hand and also denounces child labor, which I don’t remember from the movie but could be in the book. I have some research to do.

     When the play ended, we headed outside to make our way home. Even the Uber driver had suggested we take the Long Island Rail Road because Uber drivers headed from Manhattan to Long Island charge twice the rate he was getting for the trip in.

     On stepping on the sidewalk, the first thing I saw was a pedicab. We had never been in a pedicab. I didn’t see any taxis immediately, so why not ride in a pedicab? What a couple of rubes we were.

     Neither Jack, who had agreed to pick us up from the train station if we took the LIRR to Long Island, nor our daughter Julie know this part of the story, so mum’s the word.

     I’m not sure how much I thought it would cost to be taken the 12 blocks or so to Penn Station. Maybe $25 or $35, but it would be worth it to get to the station and figure out what train we could take, After we managed to climb aboard, I noticed other pedicabs were passing us. Several of them. Why were we going so slow? Have I mentioned being a rube?

     At 34th Street, I told the driver we were good. The station was across the street.

     “How much do I owe you?,” I asked at least twice.

     I saw the numbers 8 and 4 pop up on some device the driver had in his hand.

     “Eighty-four dollars,” he said.

     “You’re kidding,” was the best the portly husband could come up with.

The driver handed me a card that had been in a pocket near where we sat. The cost was $6.99 a minute. I could have argued, refused to pay that amount. I didn’t. I wanted to get home.

     I did not tip the driver. Now there’s a surprise.  

     In reliving this experience, I’m glad we declined the driver’s offer to take a picture of us in his pedicab. Would the picture have cost another $84? 

     Another thought is $84 is the fine levied by the City of New York when a cheapo takes his wife into Manhattan and expects her to be satisfied by a lunch of a bagel and water in the back of an Uber.

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(An apology. I have some sort of spacing problem that I can't figure out. I plan to ask the next pedicab driver I see what I'm doing wrong.)