I wouldn’t have believed it, but my ‘Flight delays‘ story kept on going after I stopped writing! That was Thursday afternoon, and I was settled in at a gate at EWR – the airport in Newark, New Jersey. I supposedly had only another two hours left of what was supposed to be a four-hour layover before flying the last leg to Charlotte. My sister was going to pick me up there, and we would drive the 70 miles back to Columbia, S.C. for my visit (flying directly into Columbia is a lot more expensive).
I believe I left off on that post with the idea of my following a pigeon that I saw wandering through the airport. How idyllic. What really happened (after the pigeon walked by) was that my flight got delayed from a 7:30 p.m. departure to a 9:30 p.m. departure…and then was cancelled after I waited seven hours. As it turned out, there had been thunderstorms all along the east coast,and a lot of flights were delayed. Before it was all over, the airline folks were yelling at each other, and there were a lot of people wandering around the Newark airport looking pretty lost.
I’ll just cut to the chase–at 11:15 p.m. I was on a bus headed for Port Authority in Manhattan. I paid for the bus…I paid for the hotel I managed to secure in Time Square (after the airlines ran out of hotels)…I paid for the new flight with a new airline (out of Laguardia) to get me to Columbia by midday Friday (after the airline said they couldn’t get me out of Newark until Saturday). I’m broke, but it’s now Friday night, and I’m at my sister’s house as I write this, so I guess I win.
Here’s where the new story starts. I walked up to the bus stop at the airport and was a bit confused, so I asked an elderly lady sitting there if this was where I could catch a bus to Time Square. She gave me a long up and down glance and decided, apparently, to take care of me. Now, this isn’t how I think of typical New Yorkers…I’ve probably watched too many movies. I was expecting a colder shoulder, but this old gal must have figured I looked a bit out of place and decided to help me out. She nodded and replied, “Yeah…that’s where I’m goin’…my highah powah willing,” in a heavy Brooklyn accent.
I didn’t catch this lady’s name, so we’ll call her Delores. She had wildish gray hair, wore strange, longish, gaucho-style black pants that may have originally been from 1977, and she carried a suitcase and a multi-colored plastic shopping bag. She was pretty much perfect.
After the bus driver opened the door, Delores motioned for me to follow her. The driver helped her up the steps and then took her bags. She seemed surprised as she said, “What a nice man! You…come sit with me.” She found a seat about midway through the bus and I sat down on the seat in front of her, keeping myself angled toward her.
“So where are ya stayin?” she asked. I told her that I found a reasonably priced hotel room in Time Square…right across from the huge Port Authority bus terminal. Her eyes got wide and she warned me to “…be SURE you lock yah door tonight!” I put on my most serious face and nodded that I would.
“So where are ya’s from?”
I told her a bit about my long day of travel from Portland. “Oh…I’ve never been to OryGONE! And did ya notice how nice that drivah was?”
We chatted for a bit. She asked me how I got to Oregon, and I gave her a bit of the story of my exodus to the Northwest. She told me that she grew up in Brooklyn but now lived on 90th in Manhattan, had worked with drug addicts and alcoholics for 30 years…and that the bus driver was such a nice man.
About that time, the bus got redirected due to some road construction. “Ah nah…what are they doing to us? Aw geez, this trip is nevah so long! They’re tryin’ ta kill me!”
The detour seemed really trivial, but she went on about it for a while. As we finally entered the Lincoln Tunnel she tapped my shoulder and said, “Now yah gonna be under the Hudson Rivah for a while…then we’ll be in Manhattan! You stick with me!”
I figured, well…yeah…where am I going?
When we got to our stop, Delores got up and I followed her like a puppy. I carried her plastic shopping bag and she thanked the driver again as we left the bus. Once on the sidewalk, (before dismissing me) she gave me very exact directions to my hotel…”Don’t cross the street at that cornah…go down the block first!” I thanked my new friend and wanted badly to hug her, but I could tell that doing so might spoil the moment. It’s funny how some things burn a place in your memories…Delores has a permanent spot etched in mine.
I turned and started walking, taking note of the incredibly surreal surroundings. I wasn’t supposed to be in Time Square that night, I certainly wasn’t expecting an encounter with such a fascinating character. I was a long way away from my home, no where near my sister’s home and…thankfully…getting farther by the moment from the Newark airport! I knew I could land on my feet just about anywhere, but I felt so damn lucky to have had such an entertaining tour guide. And such a nice drivah!