Picture some barely there, vintage (would it be anything but?) smockish type item floating over a white tank top, extra-large beaded necklace resembling cherries strung together clanking against protruding collar bones, wide leather belt encircling the whole top, bare legs making a brief but skinny appearance before disappearing into the tops of brand spanking new cowboy boots (meant to look old like Sienna Miller's, of course).. and that's just the men!
No seriously though.. the men are even bigger dandies if you can imagine it. Super slim trust funders vaselined into tight Diesel jeans, hair strategically placed to appear unkept, strut down the streets with ipods attached to heads, most likely blaring Interpol, or some other such band that paid Viacom execs millions for a shot at TRL stardom.
I throw on my "sooo last season" flared jeans, flip-flops and my favorite black T-shirt and dodge past the throng of hipsters crowding the subway stairs. There I stand, on the hotter than hell subway platform, ball bearings of sweat slipping down my back and legs. The L train to Manhattan is the turtle of hares in the subway world. Sometimes I don't mind the wait, the people watching on the subway is generally better than a Spielberg summer blockbuster. An ash colored black man wearing headphones, shouts into his walkman, pretending it's a cell phone.
"Whatchoo goin' on about man?!? You know jesus lives! I be talkin' to him jes da other day."
His eyes slide right and left to see if any of us are paying him mind. I chuckle to myself. Not much different than the Mormon missionaries I'm used to.. He's just got his own style, that's all. The next person of interest is a pint sized girl in a sequined top and what appears to be no pants. Upon closer inspection I notice a pair of so-tight-they-look-painted-on jean cut-offs intermittenly peeking from the bottom of the sparkling blouse. Her bleached mohawk salutes me as she minces by. That's when I notice that SHE is actually a HE. I think. These are the fun ones. When I can't figure out the sex. I can pass at least five endless waiting-for-the-subway-minutes speculating, each new gesture of the person in question a clue to their hidden gender. This particular case leaves me stumped.
Just when my interest in my commuting companions begins to wane the subway intercom crackles to life and what sounds like a woman, but I can't be sure, proceeds to bleet into a microphone, like a cashier at a Mcdonalds drive-thru. I catch snippets of words.."signal problems"... "working on it".. I look at the sweat dappled faces around me to see if anyone has a better interpretation of the announcement. I see shrugged shoulders, hear a few groans, but everone seems determined to wait out the problem. Not me. Last time this happened I stood around in tropical temperatures, sweating through my clothing, only to be told a half hour later that the train wasn't coming. Feeling ever so savvy I cast a disparaging glance at the bedraggled commuter wannabes around me and importantly weave through the crowd for the stairs.
Once I'm back on the street I walk briskly toward the car service. My smug aren't-I-a-clever-New-Yorker melts right off my face as I see at least 15 people lining up for cabs into Manhattan. Well! I snatch my cell phone from my purse for a time check. 2:30. Exactly thirty minutes to get my late ass to Manhattan, over to the 1 train, and uptown.. Fuck!
I flip open the phone and call another car service I know around the block. I translate my location to the Egyptian man on the other end of the line, he barks "three minutes!" and hangs up. Satisfied, I cop a squat on the corner and proceed to wait. Proceed to wait. What a funny thing to do. Hurry up and wait!
Ten minutes later, my makeup has slid to my chin and I have giant underarm and underboob rings of sweat, but no cab. I ring the guy again and am promptly put on hold. Fuckity Fuck! Now I'm debating the merit of my decision to abandon the subway. Maybe I would have been dodging crowds in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn by now if I'd just been patient. Nah.. A glance at subway stairs spitting red faced commuters into the sunlight confirms the train is still down and more people are following my lead. Finally someone rescues me from hold hell.
"Metro cabs, where you at?" The sitar solo that had been assaulting my ears via cell phone is abruptly replaced by Egyptian shouts.
"I ordered a cab nearly 20 minutes ago, and you said three minutes!"
"One minute!" Again he bangs down the phone, leaving me wondering how he knew who I was and if a car would really be arriving in a minute.
To my great surprise, a twilight colored sedan screeches to a halt beside me and I jump in. Growing up driving my own vehicle, I still feel strange being chauffered around town.. I must admit, it gives me a small case of moviestar-itis. There I am, nestled in leather seats as the car speeds across the Williamsburg bridge, gazing out at the Manhattan skyline.. Granted, the leather is cracked and peeling, and ominous gray clouds all but obscure the skyline.. but still. I'm enjoying the breeze when the cab driver slams on the breaks. I find myself halfway in the front seat, my hair hangs in a tangled mess across my face.
"Close one.. Almost wreck". The Pakistani driver chuckles nervously and glances at me in the rearview mirror, revealing a row of small, yellow, corn kernal teeth.
I peer out the dirty windshield and to my horror see an endless parade of cars stretched out in front of me. Off in the distance, the winking lights of an ambulance or police car signal some kind of crash.
Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck! Not on the bridge! Anywhere but the bridge! Caught in traffic on the bridge is tantamount to prison. You ain't goin' no place anytime soon. I try to focus on the radio station jabber to calm myself. It takes me more than a minute to realize it's in a different language. You ever done that? It happens to me a lot in New York. I'll be listening to something, or reading a sign, not comprehending.. it takes me more time than it should to realize it's in a foreign language.
I send out a few random text messages, hoping someone will bite. Texting while on line at the post office or the bank always seems to grease the minutes.. But nobody responds, leaving me to my own devices.
After nearly a half hour of the stomach churning, lurching stop-start of gridlock we ease past a seemingly minor fender bender. Dammit! I want to see some carnage for a damn near 45 minute wait! I want crumpled cars hanging dangerously off bridges as emergency crews hover anxiously nearby, strategizing the rescue effort.. But this, this fender bender! That does nothing to justify the wait. A dead body or two would at least remind me I'm lucky to be alive.
After some impressive maneuvering up 5th avenue and across 14th street the driver brakes near the 1 uptown train.
"15 dollars please."
Yes, that's right, you read correctly. Fifteen dollars! That's how much a car service from Brooklyn to Manhattan'll run you. I toss a twenty at him, ask for two dollars change and jump out of the car.
The heat hits me like a hairdryer, and only gets hotter as I descend into the bowels of the subway. A toe-tapping five minutes later the 1 train whooshes in.. and the air conditioned subway, an amenity that never ceases to surprise me, whisks me uptown to the building where I work.
Work was...well, work.. More Hurricane Katrina.. When I get home, Max had managed to shed another small dog on the living room floor. I sweep the black hairs into a pile that would indeed, bury Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell and dump the whole mess into the trash.
Thank God The Surge loves to cook. He's got his famous stir fry well underway, singing mournful, made-up country songs as his chicken pops and sizzles in a delightful, mouthwatering fashion.. I smile to myself as I crack open my tenth diet coke of the day and collapse onto the couch.