Volume 39,  Issue 11,  November 2004

Issue @ Hand

Guardian’s Angel, Part II

“5 o’clock lady, I got it,” he sighed wearily.

He was annoyed with me. I could sense it. 

“First we get the other lady at MacArthur Airport at 3:15, then we get you. We gotta be in the city by 5 o’clock. I know. I know. I got it. We ain’t gonna fugedabowdjoo,” he said with that very familiar Long Island dialect I’d grown up with. (It’s not a dialect, really, but it is rather distinctive. My own personal theory is that New Yorkers in general and Long Islanders in particular, loathe to waste even one second of time even speaking, hence the speed and the dropping of entire syllables. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

True, I had called him three times in two days, but I felt it was warranted. I had a chance to make a long standing wish come true and nothing was going to stand in my way. Gayle Joseph of Guardian Industries had arranged for me to meet and have a short interview with Mr. William Davidson (see October 2004, USGlass, page 8). It was the answer to a 22-year prayer and all I had to do was get myself to the Rainbow Room in Manhattan by 5:15 p.m. on September 22.

The plan had been to arrive in New York the night before, spend the evening at my parent’s home, meet up with our associate publisher, Lisa Naugle, and head on to the dinner given by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in honor of Guardian. Gayle had promised me ten minutes or so for an interview—an interview I’d lusted after for more than two decades. My behavior was beginning to mimic Martin Short’s Ed Grimley right before he found out he was going to be on Wheel of Fortune. I was pumped.
Now at this point, if you know New York, you might ask me why I didn’t just plan to take the train. The Guardian event was a black tie affair and I didn’t relishing shlepping (another New York word that means just what it sounds like it means) a camera, my notebook and various other tools of the trade in a formal on the train in mid-afternoon. So I’d called a few car services, and their cost was prohibitive (let me just say I could have flown to the West Coast and back for what they wanted for a 17-mile trip). Then I remembered the local cab company. I’d used them many times to get to the airport. They’d always been pleasant and on time. They quoted me a price about half of everyone else’s. They were local. We were set.

I called and confirmed two days prior. I spoke with a nice young man named Jason who said everything was set. The only thing they’d have to do is charge my credit card beforehand because it was a “set aside” run. I called again the next day to double-check. Finally, on the morning of the event, I called a third time to make sure everything was on schedule. It was this third call that had prompted the snippy response of the dispatcher, whom I could tell was sick of talking to me.

I expected Lisa at 3:45. I had even built in an extra hour in case of traffic. I was looking out the window for the cab when Lisa called at 3:40 p.m.

“He’s still not here.” I felt my heart rate double as I started dialing. Suffice it to say that in the same ten calls that followed among us, it was determined that the driver was not even close to Lisa. I was trying to stay calm, but part of me still couldn’t believe that this was happening despite my preparation overkill.

“Look,” I said to the dispatcher on my last call. “It’s too late now to go with the original plan. Have the driver meeting Lisa take her right in to the city. You’ll have to send someone else over for me. It’s the only way I’ll make it now.” This was all going on as my Mom was frantically looking up the Long Island Railroad schedule (too late now anyway). 

Then the dispatcher uttered the following immortal words: “OK, lady, I can send someone over for you. But I’ll have to charge you twice as it’s two runs now.”

Now I’d like to say I was calm. I’d like to say that. I didn’t scream because I couldn’t make any sound. I think I hissed actually. “What do you mean you have to charge me again? This is your fault. You need to fix this.”

“Sorry,” he said. “No can do.” 

“Hey, I own a business. If you do something wrong, you fix it,” I said, at the same time realizing I should just shut up and worry about the fee later because I needed to get into the city stat and I was totally out of options.

He wasn’t done though. “Look, lady, I don’t know who quoted you this run, but he took it too cheap. I was already losing money on it.” 

“Hey, buddy,” I shot back, “Go talk to Jason. Ask him if I bargained with him or anything. I called. He gave me a price. I accepted. I didn’t tell you what to charge.”

“OK, I am sending a cab, but I’m going to charge your credit card,” he said in a singsong voice a child would use to taunt an adult.

I was quiet. 

Lisa’s driver finally arrived at 4:10—almost a full hour late. Mine arrived about the same time. At least the driver was nice.

“Hey, I’m sorry that happened,” he said, “That’s just not right. We shouldn’t treat people like that. Steve, the dispatcher, is … uh ... pretty new … actually he’s a relative of the owner … brother-n-law I think … none of us like him … he doesn’t treat people right … Why are you so worried about the time so much? What’s so important?”

I thought about telling him about Mr. Davidson and why I admired him. I thought about explaining my lifelong quest. Instead, all I could say was “I’ve got to interview a really important person and this is my only opportunity to do it.”

We got into the city at exactly 5:00 p.m. Then everything stopped. Nothing moved. We sat through light after light. The driver turned on the radio. Seems President Bush was in Manhattan and they’d closed most of the streets. He was “in transit” so no one else was. After an interminable five minutes, we started to move again.

In retrospect, I think the driver then sensed my state of anxiety, made the judgment that he was not going to get me there in time and didn’t want a meltdown in his cab.

“We’re here,” he said. “It’s right over there, up half a block. It’ll take me too long to turn around. Just get out here. It’s right there.”

“Right there” was actually more than ten blocks away. It wasn’t easily found. A number of rush hour New Yorkers found themselves accosted by a distressed tourist-looking woman in a formal asking directions. At one point, I pulled out my cell to call for directions and my notebook flew from my purse and ended up in a great big New York puddle.

Now in my defense I’d like to say I grew up in New York and can get around the “city” pretty well. But I hadn’t really paid attention to where I was going or where he dropped me off, and so was a little disoriented.

Finally, a women working in a store with a French name took pity on me and sprinted me right over to One Rockefeller Plaza. I looked at my watch as I ran in. I was huffing, hair flying, notebook gone. 

It was exactly 5:15 p.m.                                                                                     —Deb

Next month: Meeting Mr. D.


USG

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