Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Escape from New York

This is inning #6 of our father-son baseball escapades.  You can review the last 5 posts to get up to speed.

DAY FOUR:  Escape from New York 
As we exited the stadium, I insisted that Thomas stop with me to use the restroom.  We were headed directly from the game to Saugerties, NY, approximately 90 minutes without traffic to the north.  Of course, he said that he didn’t need to go, but I knew that a 90 minute post-game ride could turn into a 3 hour horn honking gridlock nightmare, and finding a clean, safe restroom in the Bronx would be like winning the lottery – twice.  I made the correct call.

The misty cloud that had been our home for 9 innings had descended to field level, but it had not developed into an outright downpour, for which I was thankful.  We walked to the car, and found it still in the lot, still with all of our belongings inside, and still completely trapped by the dozens of cars that had arrived for the game after us.  The parking attendant would need to move 3 others cars before we could move, so the idea of the paying the extra $10 to be across the street and exiting onto the freeway more quickly was looking pretty good.  Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for, and we were forced to wait in exchange for our $10 savings.

Contrary to popular myth, not everyone takes the subway to Yankee games on a Friday night.  Traffic was at a near standstill when we were finally freed.  We inched along and passed the time listening to the Mets game on local radio.  Two days of baseball, and we needed more.  The slow pace of departure gave us ample time to debate our next move – to take the next exit or not to take the next exit.

Let me take a moment to praise Thomas for his excellent navigating skills throughout the entire trip.  He had the unenviable task of keeping us headed in the right direction in unfamiliar territory, and for that I am grateful.  He had to multitask inputs from the printed directions from MapQuest against the sometimes contradictory advice of our British GPS, ambiguous road signage, and my own crazy instincts to turn for the sake of turning.  On this night, I would put his judgment skills to the test.

Jill, our British GPS voice, and the written MapQuest directions wanted us to take an exit towards New Jersey.  That particular exit was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see.  If we did not take the exit, and instead continued straight, we would be following signs towards the NY Thruway (I-87 North).  There was NO traffic headed straight towards the Thruway, and both Jill (the GPS) and MapQuest had us eventually hooking up with I-87.  In fact, our hotel reservation in Saugerties was just off I-87 North.  So it was decision time.  Go straight towards I-87 North, with no traffic but against the wishes of all our directions, or follow our directions and crawl at 2 mph for God knows how long.

Go fast – no idea what might happen.
Go slow – with certainty, but could take twice as long.

I wanted to be bold.  I wanted to put pedal to the metal and head north as fast as possible.  I was done sitting in the Bronx at 11 PM.  Sure, my gut might be longer in miles, but it would surely be faster in time elapsed.  This was a man-cation.  We spend our lives playing it safe once we have families.  Live a little.  Follow your dreams and the signs to the NY Thruway.  Prove your manhood to the boy.  Directions are for sissies.  You have a full tank of gas and an empty bladder.  Jill, in her proper English accent, would correct any egregious mistakes.  We would eventually make it to Saugerties.  Man up.

We took the exit and sat.  I blame the decision on my instinct to protect my son from my childish impulses, but in point of fact, we will never know if I made the correct choice.  Following the NY Thruway sign from that point could have led to roadblocks, bridge construction, or detours into Connecticut.  I will never know, and not to kill the ending, we did ultimately make it to Saugerties the slow way.

Over the bridge and into NJ we rode, and speeds picked up after 15 minutes or so.  By the time we got to the entrance to the NY Thruway, the clouds had finally given up, and the rain fell freely.  Now that I was able to travel at 65 mph, it was raining, Thomas was asleep, it was dark and the windshield wipers had a distracting gap in effectiveness, directly in my field of vision.  Saugerties was 60 miles away, and I could not see anything except the occasional roadside sign warning of rocks and deer.  At least I could see the signs.  If the rocks and deer didn’t have reflective tape, I would surely crush them with this minivan.

While Thomas dozed, I listen to a Mets postgame show with the world’s most pompous commentator, not on Fox News channel.  My readers from NY must know this clown.  I can’t recall his name, but he called the Mets by their formal name every time he mentioned the team, the “Metropolitans”, in the same way a parent would use a child’s full name when scolding him.  He tried to sound like a modern Howard Cosell, throwing in big words and trite analogies to inflate his own ego, since I was certain that I was the only listener.  This guy was so bad, I was thinking to heading to Canton instead of Cooperstown.

Around 1 AM, I pulled into the Howard Johnson in Saugerties.  The rain had stopped.  It was mostly dark at the entrance, and I was struck with momentary panic.  What if no one was there to let us in?  We were in the kind of area where if one employee calls out sick, the hotel probably doesn’t open, or Norman Bates covers the shift.  Thomas lifted his head, and I told him to wait in the car while I checked in.

I pulled on the door to the lobby.  Locked.  I peered inside.  Dark.  Two hours from NYC, 2 hours yet until Cooperstown, and we were going to sleep in the van.  Profanity couldn’t begin to express how I felt at this moment.  HoJo’s has lost my business, that’s for sure.

Then I saw the handwritten sign.  “Hotel Lobby – Around the Corner.”  I was pulling on the door to the restaurant.  I felt like an idiot, but at 1 AM, we are all idiots, so I was at least in good company.  Around the corner, the innkeeper was standing at the door enjoying the night air and a Camel.  This was not the Ritz.  “Please Lord, no bedbugs,” I prayed.

I checked in, deposited Thomas into bed after he brushed his teeth, and eased myself under the blankets.  The room was musty and the carpet was worn, but none of that mattered.  We were tired.  What mattered to me was my fear of bedbugs.  I imagined tiny bugs biting me, using my legs as a host, following me home and infecting my life.  I felt tingly sensations on my legs like biting insects until I finally fell asleep and slept tight.  Under the covers at the Howard Johnson’s in Saugerties, NY, there were probably worse things on those sheets, but I only feared the bugs.  After all, Saugerties hosted Woodstock II.
Cooperstown next stop.

Next:  The Slow Road to Brigadoon

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