I used to drive for a limo service. It wasn’t a bad job: I picked the client up, drove him to the airport, waited patiently for the tip that never came, and drove back to the office wondering why I always expected a tip. Driving in New York and New Jersey? Sure, it sucks, but most jobs do. But I met a lot of interesting and even famous people…if by meant you mean them staring at my head for an hour or so, depending on traffic. Everything in the area depends on the traffic. And that’s where our story begins…
I picked up a client at the lovely and not at all obnoxious Newark Airport…I mean Liberty Airport, because freedom means free to stand in lines all day and wait infinity bazillion hours for your luggage (freedom’s just another word for no bags there to move…).
His hotel was in Flushing, Queens, not far from the also lovely and not at all obnoxious LaGuardia Airport. Why he didn’t book a hotel near Newark or fly into LaGuardia, I don’t know. He must’ve possessed some infinite wisdom beyond my tiny mind. The drive is normally about an hour for a 30 mile trip (welcome to New York, suckas!). There will come a day where the strength of traffic fails, but it was not this day.
Traffic was on epic difficulty. It was stop and go and stop and stop to the George Washington Bridge, and then the Harlem River Drive, and then the Triboro Bridge, and then the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I was mainlining coffee (the mainline being mug to mouth), and I had to pee. Have you even had to pee while stuck in traffic? I don’t recommend it. But this story isn’t about my bladder, or even about the annoyance of NY/NJ driving. It’s about control.
It took two hours just to get off the BQE for our exit. I felt my passenger getting frustrated and mad. Like, really felt it, waves of heat as he stared blazer beams through my skull. He fidgeted, he sulked, he sidgeted and fulked. And it got worse.
We got off the BQE and the road to his hotel was closed. This was an ancient time before Google Maps or anything nifty like that. I had to find my way on instinct alone. My passenger sidgeted and fulked some more. He mumbled curses under his breath. I thought that his head might explode Scanners style.
After another half hour of the impromptu tour of the beautiful, scenic, Flushing (“What do you thinking of Flushing, Queens?” “I think it’s a pretty good idea.”), we reached the hotel. I unloaded the car, and he grabbed the luggage from me, laid in a couple comments about my incompetence and how he was going to report me to my boss. Then he went on his sidegety way.
I sidegeted and fulked all the way back to the office. “I’m incompetent? Perhaps you didn’t see the unmoving parade (complete with a marching tune of car horns and brake screeches) surrounding us. But as I drove, (and found a place to pee) I started thinking from his POV.
The guy was helpless. He sat in the back of a stranger’s cab, doing nothing because nothing could be done. Any power or control over his life was stripped away. He was a prisoner, and the only thing he had power over was his rage and blazer beam stare (approximately 7.26 times stronger than the Care Bear Stare).
This is us. This is all of us. We’re all riding in someone else’s car, helpless as the world conspires to make our best laid plans often go awry. We’re all sitting in the backseat of life (though for some it might be a bucket seat with a butt warmer). We don’t get to drive.
No wonder everyone’s so angry. No wonder everyone is frustrated with life and society. No wonder everyone looks for someone else to blame and hate. But if he had just accepted that no one is in control, not even the drivers, he would’ve been a lot happier.
You can’t change traffic. You can only change how you react to it.
Enjoy the ride, because you don’t have a choice.
Psst…Hey…Check out my historical fantasy, The Watchmage of Old New York. It’s only 99 cents for another week, and available in paperback too! It’s not like anything you’ve ever read…well…it had words and pages, so a little like things you’ve read. But it’s still damn good, with a 4.8 star rating on Amazon (and unlike a lot of authors, I don’t pay for reviews).