Last weekend, I flew to New Jersey for my friend‘s sister’s wedding. While I was very glad that I got the chance to go see friends and their families again, it was an adventure to say the least.
The ride to the airport is uneventful. It is the only uneventful portion of this trip. In Terminal B, Gate 15, I struck up a conversation with Kacey, a 6 foot varsity volleyball college student attending Colorado School of Mines, “Mines” for short. She was going to Virginia to interview with Radford University, attempting to transfer for their better bioengineering department. She’s premed.
My flight is at 3:30 pm, connecting in Charlotte, NC. Final destination in Newark, NJ, touches down at midnight, Eastern time. Must get a cab to my hotel in Parsippany, NJ. Some eager cabby prowling the Jersey airport terminal saves me from the huge airport cab line.
The cab driver’s name is Si!irish Shah. Yes, there is an exclamation point in the middle of his first name, so says his business card. I have no idea why. But as it turns out, Mr. Shah is a pretty nice guy, maybe in his late 40s. He’s married, has two kids. His religion, “Jin” (although I doubt I have the spelling right), is very obscure he says. He was a medical lab technician in a former life (a figure of speech, not reincarnation), but left it over some undisclosed legal problem. Now he’s been a cabby for the past 15 years. When Mr. Shah learns of my age and marital status, he recommends that I settle down soon:
“When you find a good woman, marry her! As long as you both are done with the college, then yes… you should marry her. And have babies.”
After the 40 minute cab drive, I arrive at the Holiday Inn. It is 1:30 am.
Being the absent-minding guy that I am, I did not properly account for how fatigued I would be when I arrived as late as I did. Losing two hours of sleep time certainly didn’t help either. Additionally, given the late hour that I arrived at the hotel, I forgot to ask for a wake up call. On top of all that, I am a deep sleeper. My little cell phone alarm was not up to the task of waking me Saturday morning.
I slowly opened my eyes around 10 am.
A rush of panic wracked my body. When was the wedding? 11 am, I was sure. How could I be such an idiot?! How could I let this happen? To come all this way and miss the wedding. I looked at my cell phone and, naturally, there was one missed call and voice mail. It was Mini in a calm voice, explaining to me that the shuttle would be at the hotel to pick everyone up at 10:15 am.
15 minutes. From now.
You have likely never seen a man shave, bathe, and dress so fast. I know I have not. And yet behold the speed with which we can move under extreme duress! I was in the lobby at 10:15 am. In fact, I was early. I even beat Mini down there!
The wedding was very nice and small. Observing from the point of view of a Caucasian male, it was fascinating to see the rich blend of both Indian fashion and cuisine with Western religion. Lenny and Reena are now husband and wife, and they looked very, very happy.
It is 4 pm.
Knowing that my flight the next morning was at 8 am, I planned to just turn in early and kill some time reading in my room. However, Mini’s cousin Jay would have none of that. He lives in Jersey and demanded that I see New York City with him that night. Reluctantly, I agreed. It’s not every day I see NY, is it? But as geriatric as it might sound, I gave Jay a tour guide curfew of 12 am just to avoid another incident like this morning.
Two things for which I did not give proper consideration before leaving the hotel for our NY whirlwind tour:
- …the amount of coffee I had been drinking earlier at Reena’s wedding reception was near alarming. A simple and painless Little Boys’ Room break would have been prudent.
- …the amount of time such a trip from Parsippany, NJ, to downtown NYC takes. Complicating the issue was the fact that we drove to NYC. We didn’t take a bus or the subway (not that I would know the first thing about these alternate transient systems). The density that is NY traffic is insane. This trip of no more than 27 miles took us nearly 2 hours!
These two facts that I regrettably disregarded compounded to produce a rather pressing bladder emergency. Ever the one to “keep his cool”, I began exercising a modified form of lamaze breathing: in-out, in-out, big in, hold it, clench both calves, squint, let it out, repeat.
At about this time, I noticed Jay begin to feverishly bounce his knee. I recognized the early signs of his pee-pee dance build to a frenzied tic. Like a tea kettle, he blurted out all of a sudden, “Man, I have to piss bad!”
Nearly simultaneously I exhaled, “I’m glad I’m not the only one!” Fact number 3 that I really didn’t give much thought:
- There is precious little parking in New York City.
All the gags on Seinfeld that involve parking (George’s obsession with finding the perfect open spot, for instance) are painfully true. And at this point, I do mean painful.
Swallowing the rest of my dwindling pride, I confessed to Jay that he should call me when he found a spot. Yes, I intended to abandon him. Like a sailor jumping overboard, fleeing the burning ship, I could no longer take the pain. Fending for myself for the very fist time in this vast jungle of a city was much more appealing in my present condition than remaining in Jay’s rather expensive Nissan 350Z. Besides, if I remained a minute more, upholstery stain removal would have filled the rest of the evening.
At the next light, I leapt from the vehicle and rushed into the first bar I could find. Apparently they’re the only places that even have bathrooms according to Jay. Mama’s Bar resembled more of a coffee shop than a bar with its quiet mood lighting. It could have been worse, that’s for sure.
After meeting back up with Jay, we walked to a favorite restaurant of his, Le Souk. Le Souk is a Moroccan joint, apparently so hip that there’s no sign on the front facade. For all I knew, we were heading into a crime scene. Inside was a different story.
Le Souk is very posh and trendy. All manner of beautiful metropolitan people packed the place. Bear in mind that this is a Moroccan restaurant; hence in keeping with the ethnic decor, there were various (I assume) Moroccan staples.
- For instance, the lighting was very dim with candles everywhere.
- There was, um… a belly dancer with castanets. And it was hard not to notice the dollar bills protruding from her waistline.
- There were “hookahs“. A hookah is a bong-like tobacco smoking apparatus. Ours had no tobacco though, but an apple-flavored incense. From a non-smoker, I can tell you that it was a very smooth experience. And let me state for the record that there were no lingering after effects.
- There were fish heads! I ordered the fish and that’s precisely what I got, head and all.
Would you believe we made it back to the hotel by 12 am after all?
3:30 am, I awake. Can’t sleep. Anxiety with oversleeping is keeping me awake.
5:10 am, I give up and start packing. I call Mr. Shah to come pick me up. He says he can’t do it. I call another cab and they’re on their way. It’s snowing hard in Jersey.
6:15 am, the cab finally arrives. The guy is a true New Yorker, kind of loud but good-natured. He’s a Ditto-head (Rush Limbaugh fan) and a foul-mouthed eschatologist. It was quite a surreal experience to hear him talk about the End Times and finding happiness in Jesus, but pausing to cuss out the idiot drivers passing us in the heavy snowfall!
My cabby almost turned down this “job” because of the treacherous road conditions. I don’t blame him. At our airport exit, he lost control of the car and we spun into a guard rail. Undeterred, he charged ahead.
Needless to say, my flight was delayed due to the snow. I sat on the boarded plane for an hour and a half waiting for the de-icing truck to hose us down. Finally arriving in Charlotte at noon, I missed my connection. Next flight out to Denver? 5 pm.
5 hours to kill.
About 3 hours later that day, I was walking aimlessly through one of Charlotte’s several terminals, iPod earphones in place, completely oblivious to the passersby. A pilot passed me. About 10 seconds later, that same pilot tracked me down with a question.
“Are you Rob Lund?”
Shocked, it took a few seconds to register. He turned out to be an old college dorm buddy! It was such a chance meeting, I just couldn’t believe it. We sat at a Starbucks and talked for an hour before his next flight, catching up with our respective lives. Shannon is married now, with two boys. He has a lovely family.
All things being equal, I’m really glad I was delayed. Though I had plans for Sunday, everything turned out nicely. The weekend was truly one to remember. I met so many interesting people, visited so many strange places completely foreign to me. I wouldn’t want it any other way. And besides, I had the privilege of bearing witness to a very dear friend’s wedding. And I wish Reena the best that married life can offer.