It's only day 8 of my new job, so I am desperate to NOT be late, not at all, and besides which, lateness is my ultimate pet peeve - in myself, in others, in the mutherfuckin' MTA (more on that later), in food delivery and airplanes and dinner reservations. I hate being late more than just about anything else that doesn't actually cause physcial pain or discomfort. And as I said, it's day 8 of my new job, I had an 8:30 meeting this morning, and my preference - my intention - was to be sitting at my nice, quiet desk by 8:00 a.m., sipping on my coffee au lait.
Now, the other day a homeless person (or "vagrant," as termed by one of the local papers - not a word I thought we still used) set a fire in a shopping cart (trying to stay warm post-blizzard), inside a subway station, near the tracks and apparently also near a Very Important Room. The Very Important Room also burned, equally Important Signals were damaged, yadda yadda yadda, trains will be fucked for a long, long time. Not all trains - just the ones I rely on to get to work. In general I am big supporter of homeless people staying warm. But I am also a supporter of PLEASE MAKE THE TRAINS RUN FASTER. In the grand scheme of things, I'd much rather be delayed than have a homeless person freeze, but in the less-grand moments, I just wanna get where I need to be. Anyway, track fire, Very Important Room damaged, trains all a mess...just so we're caught up.
Me, in my hateful skirt and stupid brown tights and sweater badly in need of dry cleaning (apparently, I have just over one week's worth of appropriate work attire. Eight days is streching it. The sweater is dirty, the tights are snagged, the skirt doesn't fit right and still, I could not find a better outfit) clomp through dirty, lumpy, slippery snow piles en route to the Bergen Street stop. Where I wait 20 minutes with no sign of trains coming, people are grumbling. I've been to this party before. Knowing that even if the train came and ran smoothly, I'd still be late, I gambled and decided to say Screw it, and grab a cab -- something I hate doing because it costs a jillion dollars and I get carsick really easily and the whole gasBREAKgasBREAKgasBREAK experience makes me want to hurl. The whole "New York Cabs are CRRAAAZZZYYY" bit is overdone, so I won't try and make you laugh with anecdotes and observations (Whaaat is wiiiith the music? Whaaaaat is wiiiiith the "RIGHTSIDELEFTSIDE"? Whaaaaat is wiiiiith...) except to say that once, as my mother and I were running very late (HATE the lateness!) to an appointment to look at wedding dresses, our cab - in an effort to get us there faster - ran a red light and we got pulled over and stopped on Bowery by the Manhattan Bridge and the cabbie was shocked when we decided to GET OUT of his cab and try to find another. Which, of course, we couldn't. Not the funniest cab story you'll ever hear, but still...Whhhaat is wiiiith those crazy drivers??
I am here now to tell you that knowing you will be late while stuck in a cab is one of the worst feelings (again, in the non-physical harm arena. I'm sure food poisoning and being mugged and root canals are much worse). Yes, running late on the train (Option A this morning) is bad, but at least on the train, you are with your fellow man. And your fellow man will say all the nasty things you only think in your head, and there are lots of opportunities for sympathetic shrugs and eye rolls as the conductor announces red signals, lots of nodding and "Oh, I hear you..."'s. But running late in a cab sucks, because all you can do is think about being late. And nauseous. And then you look at your watch again, or maybe you check your voicemails, or maybe you reach for your phone to a) check your voicemail or b) check the time, and then you realize that you forgot your phone so you can’t call your boss and let her know you’re running late. You don’t know how late because you aren’t wearing a watch and you don’t have your phone and the radio is either off or playing a CD instead of 1010 WINS so you have no idea if it’s 7:45 or 8:10. And gasBREAKgasBREAKgasBREAK you think you might be sick, so you slouch down and hold your belly and check your lipstick in your compact one more time. You think about how you’d like to call your husband and somehow, blame him for the carsickness and the lateness and the lack of subway service and the snow and the bad outfit, but since you forgot your cell phone, you can do NOTHING other than sit and think about being late.
Knowing full well that I was losing $20 and taking a risk, I took a cab rather than stand, looking looking looking for the mutherfuckin’ F train and A train. I should have known it was a bad idea as soon as I got in the car and the driver was unsure about how to get to Manhattan. Uh…see all those tall shiny buildings? Right across the river? GO THERE, PLEASE. But I settled in and bucked my seat belt (I always do) and checked my lipstick and cursed myself for being so gadget-challenged (my phone is either in my handbag and uncharged or sitting in the charger-thingy on my desk, my digital camera always needs batteries, I can’t make the remote switch from DVD to TV without help) and willed no emergencies requiring making phone calls to happen. I was comforting myself by the thought that the driver might let me use his phone (going so far as to practice the best ways to ask him for his phone, just in case), when I suddenly noticed the music playing in the cab. It was the Backstreet Boys. And when I looked at the radio, I realized that it was not the Backstreet Boys on the radio, it was the Backstreet Boys CD. The driver was clearly well acquainted with the Boys, as he fast forwarded to his favorite songs. So while I was screaming silently in my head to TAKE THE WEST SIDE HIGHWAY TAKE THE HIGHWAY DO NOT TRY TO CUT CROSS TOWN LOOK OUT FOR THAT VAN GO FASTER FASTER JUST GET THERE, the driver bobbed his head along to the music and the Backstreet Boys sang that EEEEYYYYY Will LOOOOVVVEE You MOOORRRREE Than THAAAAAT, EEEEEYYYY Will TAAAAAYYYYKKKE Your Hand And SOOOOMMMEETHING SSOOMMETHING BAAACK.
Oh sweet Jesus, if I am late to my meeting on the 8th day of my new job, please, please PLEASE let me NOT have the Backstreet Boys stuck in my head as I slink into the conference room and try not to freak out.
The Backsteet Boys were just starting to break it down when the cab reached 33rd Street and I ducked out, landing ankle deep in frozen brown slush and darting through Chinese protestors picketing one of the news agencies that is in my building. I stopped at Starbuck’s for coffee, because I would rather lose two minutes time than get caught in a morning of meetings without any caffeine. Grande Skim Misto, I told the barrista, who was leaning on the counter. “ D’you want skim milk or whole milk with ‘dat?” he asked. With my Grande Skim Misto? Um, skim milk please, I told him.
Rushed upstairs, blew my dripping nose, logged on and checked the time. 8:21. Room to spare. At 8:25 I spilled coffee on my already dirty sweater and dashed to the bathroom to clean up. At 8:31 I went to the conference room and found it empty. At 8:35 I went back to my desk and checked emails. At 8:40 I decided that I wanted a donut but instead went to eonline.com. At 8:45, my boss came to my desk and told me the meeting was cancelled. And that it looked like I had spilled something on my sweater. Workin’ 9-to-5, what a way to make a living.