Thursday, May 27, 2010

So long, nightmare highway

I'm in the throes of packing and my apartment is such a mess that I decided to write a post on my blog before diving in to more work. I had a disastrous day yesterday. It started out fine and I was getting my car ready to be picked up. The trucker, Arthur, who was coming to get it, is the same one who brought it to New Mexico last year and also brought it back here. He lives in Brooklyn and we've kind of gotten to know each other and I trust him, so I've tried to work my schedule around his. He has a new rig and brings cars back and forth between New York and California, back and forth.

I live near a major New York highway, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. It's officially Interstate 278 but everyone calls it the BQE. It is truly the most hideous road ever. Always jammed up, big trucks spewing exhaust, crazy vans cutting in from one lane to the other. It's woefully inadequate for today's traffic, twisting and turning with lanes coming and going, connecting with the Brooklyn Bridge and with the Verrazano to New Jersey. The photos on that page I linked show it probably at four in the morning when there was no traffic. The BQE was one of the projects pushed through by Robert Moses who probably did more damage to the five boroughs than anyone has since the Dutch bought the place from the Native Americans. The highway cut right into Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with the force of a cosmic cleaver- these neighborhoods have never recovered and have to live with the highway and its noise forever. You can imagine having a giant freeway put in in front of your nice little row house. And to get from one side of the neighborhood to the other you have to walk under this giant monster highway- a psychological barrier that stops a great deal of interaction within the same few blocks. It's interesting that Brooklyn Heights, with its more involved and wealthier residents, managed to get the highway pushed away and under the promenade, leaving the neighborhood intact and lovely.

So Arthur was to meet me right by the BQE, which would be easy for me and I could walk the couple of blocks home. He was to come around 2, but was driving from New Jersey so I told him to call me when he got to our meeting spot. Then I did a stupid thing. I decided to put my printer in the car and I was running late with him coming soon, so I just started pulling plugs out, then took the printer to the car and continued packing without paying much attention to the plugs. But it turned out I had pulled out the plug to the phone. So Arthur, who only had my home number programmed into his phone, called and called and no one answered, and finally left. Around 3 I wondered what happened so I called him and that's when I realized my phone was off. I called on my cell and he asked me had something happened to me because he'd been trying to call and had been parked illegally for 40 minutes trying to get me and now he was on the BQE on his way to somewhere else.

And that's how I found myself, in the midst of everything else I had to do, driving on the dreaded BQE. When he told me where he was going, which was the Mercedes dealer in Bay Ridge, I looked on Mapquest and tears came to my eyes. So very far. I knew it was doable, that I could get there and then take the train home (somehow) but the thought of it almost threw me into a severe panic attack. I grabbed my purse and a bottle of water and jumped in the car and went to meet him.

The other little tidbit of this story is that it was 95 degrees in New York yesterday and on the highway it reached 100 degrees in parts. I watched this on the thermometer on my dashboard. I had to take the BQE to the Belt Parkway which connects with south Brooklyn. It was a 14 mile drive. Actually once I got on the Belt, it was pretty. You go along the water and pass the Verrazano. So I got more philosophical about it. I met up with Arthur and he said Donna how can you make such a mistake on a hot day like this? He got in the car with me to do the paperwork. At this point Arthur once again told me how many times he had called me and showed me on his cell phone all the calls he made. He said he ran down the battery on his phone making calls. Wise guy. Then he asked me if I could give him a little piece of art, something I "might throw away anyway." Because his daughter wants to be an artist (this is a whole other part of the story with Arthur, how I went to his house to get my car last time and met his wife, and looked at his daughter's paintings) and he said he wants something to remember me by although he thinks I'll be calling him again. In my mind, I thought, oy, never again, but you never know, maybe he's right. And I didn't say, Arthur, people pay for my work, you want to give me a discount? But I didn't. I was too worried about how I was going to get home. Which required a very long walk to a very long subway ride, but at least it was airconditioned, and above ground, so I could sightsee some more until after we went over the Manhattan bridge and down into the darkness.