Who among the vast swath of greasy humanity does NOT know that, on an airplane, your seat doubles as a flotation device??? In case your airplane crashdives smoothly into a body of water and mysteriously floats long enough for you to remove the seat and walk outside? Well, it appears I shared a plane with that one person whose ears never heard and brain never retained that crucial and useless detail. After an uneventful car trip from my hometown to the airport with KPdaddy and KPstepmommy, I plunk down in a tiny commuter plane for my trip to New York Shitty as LB so neutrally calls it. A middle-aged woman behind me calls out to the stewardess who’s standing at the opposite end of the plane: “Where’s my flotation device? Where’s my flotation device? I can’t remember!!” She’s so panicked that I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull my oxygen mask down and service myself before helping her. The stewar–sorry, flight attendant saunters down the isle. She’s hovering around 55 and has long dyed orange hair and is chewing nicotine gum (at least it’s nicotine gum in my fantasy). You just know she takes aerobic pole-dancing classes for fun with her girlfriends. Anyhooters, I digress. The flight attendant saunters up to the panicked passenger and says rather tersely with a New York accent: “You’re sitting on it, sweetie, but we ain’t gonna need it.” Well, that’s just cocky (and accurate) enough that I look around for some wood to knock but airplanes are no longer made of wood it seems, so I just knock my number 2 pencil against my inner thigh. Mostly because it feels good. But that’s another (albeit titillating) digression. After reading an entertaining, but outdated, but still accurate essay about how Britney Spears is the perfect symbol of Americanness in Chuck Klosterman’s Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade Of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas, I look up and I’m in NYShitty.
Because I’m a badass traveler I walk off the plane with my one tightly packed backpack which contains all my belongings and some key handy travel implements: a fork, a knife, a coffee mug, 8 pairs of sexy underwear, a water bottle, and some shiny trinkets to trade with the natives. In mere seconds, I’m out the front door of Laguardia and immediately a woman surrenders her taxi to me. I know it probably just looked like she was already getting out of the taxi to go into the airport, but I’m sure she was intentionally surrendering it because I’m rather physically imposing. They don’t call me the KP for nothing.
I get in and the cabdriver sounds and appears to be from somewhere in Africa, though I don’t manage to find out where because I’m never sure when he’s talking to me, to himself, another driver, the taxi HQ, or to his Bluetooth earpiece. I awkwardly start and then abort a half-dozen conversations when it becomes apparent he’s talking to one of the other parties. He’s never not talking. He mentions as soon as I get in that the taxidrivers are on strike. As he’s driving away. The fact that he’s driving and apparently on strike confuses my brain so much, which is already a little muddled from the high-altitude depressurization process, that I smile and nod. I ask him what the strike is about, and he says “I’ll see you later.” I realize he’s talking to someone on Bluetooth, but he hangs up and says, “The city of New York wants to require us to have GPS and credit card machines in our cars. That way, the city can calculate its taxes exactly. I have no problem with the GPS because I have nothing to hide. I do have a problem with the drivers having to pay the 5% transaction fees on the credit cards.” I do not understand why he’s driving today and not striking, despite my best efforts to clarify. His accent is very thick and all the windows are down. He’s agitated at the stalled traffic on the expressway because he has to be in “motherfucking Bronx at one thirty.”
Just then a car pulls alongside us and a man looks across at my cab driver, waves his fist and says “Shame on you! Shame on you!” My cab driver looks across at him, laughs, and says “What? What? No speak English– What?” The man who appears to be Middle-Eastern continues to shout “Shame on you” until my cabdriver shouts back to him with the nastiest delight, “If we’d had GPS in Boston your brother Mohammed Atta would never have gotten that bomb.”
Huh??? Here I am witnessing the sort of outrageously racist, nonsensical thinking that is no doubt responsible for the endgame state of our civilization. Then my cabdriver says to me, “Those Arabs just don’t want the GPS because they’re all cheating, sharing medallion numbers because they all look the same. If they don’t like the new way, why don’t they just do something else?” Wow. I had no idea there are African immigrants in the neo-conservative movement. Here I am, a white DAR, in the middle of the sort of open conflict I’d only read about. And what the fuck do I know about what either of these guys has to deal with on a daily basis being from Africa and the Middle East. I found myself definitely siding with the striking Middle Eastern cabdriver, but the African cabdriver held my life in his hands so I said nothing more. He even got lost trying to deliver me to my friends’ apartment in Williamsburg and seemed angry at me for not knowing where the neighborhood was more specifically. Even though I told him I’m not from here and I’ve never been there.
Hooper Street in Williamsburg is pretty gritty and working class and, thankfully, not hip or clean or fully gentrified. I’m sure it will be in about 3 months. Come enjoy those colorful ethnic Dominicans while you can!
Okay, I’ve now spent the better part of an afternoon of my vacation writing about my vacation. I’d better get off the computer and back out there vacating so I have something to write about later. Miss you, LB and IC and OneStarWatt and Caved and ….