I worked a week in Long Island. Unless you are into “hookups”, which I am not, it is hard to meet and greet and foster new friendships when you keep leaving town. It is, I’ll admit, difficult for me to adjust to not having that nightly phone call, ending with an “I love you”, which, in the end, came forced, after an uncomfortable hesitation. On his part. That is what lead me here. The chaotic carnival ride called “rebound”. But, alone, in hotel room after hotel room, week after week, struggling for connections to new friends, I tend to think I might find solace in that extra glass of wine, that extra bottle of beer. Impaired judgment.
It was, perhaps, with impaired judgment, or maybe just a bit of a hangover, that I embarked on a mission to explore a part of New York I knew little about, on my last morning, before boarding a plane bound for home. Flying from LaGuardia, I had been informed, by more than one of my class participants that week, and in previous weeks, that there is very good food to be found in Astoria, near LGA (La Guardia). I had only a few hours, on a Saturday morning. I’d conducted some research on Google, Yelp, an app dedicated to experiencing “Queens”, and Open Table, and though I’d been told that 30th Street was the center of epicurean erotica, I found nothing that would be open the limited hours and time of day I had available. I broadened my search and ended up in quest of a bake shop a mile or so away form the legendary 30th Street. Astor Bake Shop; rave reviews, Zagat rated, many awards, seemed a sound decision to go.
My trusty navigator led me onto highways, off highways, onto other highways, then to the surface streets. At only a couple of miles from my hotel, this seemed a far more complex journey than I’d imagined. I’d kind of hoped it was within walking distance. Not. I found myself in an area of boarded up buildings, cyclone fences, razor wire, tall weeds, and graffiti on every vertical surface. I re-entered the address into my navigator, hoping I’d entered it incorrectly and that it would reroute me to an area I more imagined; bright shops and restaurants, a vibrant part of town, teeming with diners, shoppers, and sightseers. Nope. Here is where I was. I spotted the bake shop, a bright spot in the blight. The only bright spot in the blight. The only open business. Tidy, neat, welcoming. A refuge. And no parking for blocks.
I circled, and circled again, finally finding a legal parking spot a good three blocks away. And, with, perhaps, impaired judgment, I locked the rental car, with my suitcases and computer bag shielded only by the tint on the windows, and began to walk back towards the bake shop. Strangers on the street, all men, mostly, I’d assume to be homeless, greeted me with enthusiasm, toothless grins, the smell of stale alcohol, and “compliments”, as I walked. I felt like a bright spot amidst the blight, personified. I greeted them all back with a “good morning”, as I am not one to reserve a kind gesture from anyone. Karma is king. Judgment may be impaired.
I reached the bake shop unscathed and pulled the door open and was immediately glad for my impaired judgment. I had a delightful breakfast and understand, wholly, every good review and award received. I aim to return one day.
Upon leaving the Astor Bake Shop, rather than retrace my steps to where I knew, exactly, the car awaited me, I took the long way around un unknown and slightly irregular block. I took pictures of graffiti, row houses, Manhattan in the clear, blue distance, dilapidated church steeples against the brilliant sky. I did eventually find the car again, and made haste towards the airport, satisfied with my breakfast, my mini-adventure, and that the car was in one piece, the contents in tact.
I made my way to LaGuardia, intentionally a wee bit (okay, a couple of hours) early. Now that I fly Delta, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day I’d have enough time to try out their cool, vibin’, iPad, swipe and pay, food/shopping/bar venues. Impaired judgment. I found just what I was looking for, a Biergarten, and even though they were out of half of their beers and half of what remained was coming out warm, I managed to find three I couldn’t wait to try. Three. Three pints. Impaired judgment.
Well, apparently, I made it to my gate, on the plane and to Minneapolis, where I had a few more hours to kill. Impaired judgment. Bored, and a bit lonely, I decided it would be fun to chat with people, perhaps, in airports I am passing through. I like people. And, I know, there is an app for that. I downloaded Blendr, as I understood it, Blendr was like Grindr, but for the rest of us. Within a half a second, I had a page full of thumbnails of questionable faces with green, glowing dots noting they’re online, all leering at me, messages in various forms of mutilated English are popping up, but no one at all interesting, and (thankfully) no one actually in the airport. Apparently, I misunderstood this app completely. The difference between Tinder and Blendr? The fact that a letter is omitted from the word “blender” is some insight into the English usage and grammar capabilities of the site’s membership. And those are the least of the offenses of the membership. When one guy asked what a “nice girl like me” was doing on Blendr, I feel a little sick, and a little scared. Ick. I actually feel violated and wished I could take a shower.
Instead, I headed to Delta’s cool, vibin’, iPad, swipe and pay, food/shopping/bar venue and bellied up, once again, to the bar. Impaired judgment. I, at first, sat and marveled at the fact that I was the only female at the bar, then I marveled at the fact that every male around me was crying about not being able to pay with cash and having to order a la iPad and pay a la credit card swipey thing next to the iPad. I’ve got it mastered, but I tend to be an early adopter of new technology. I was on my second beer, and, after much deliberation, and trepidation, I ordered a salad for nutritional sustenance. Impaired judgment, again.
I like people, except the ones on Blendr, but, generally speaking, I like people. I love talking to people, watching people, looking for common ground, or sharing uncommon ground. I found myself in a long conversation with the man seated next to me. I usually do. Not always with men, sometimes with women, but, truth, more often with men. We chatted about what all travelers chat about; airlines, airline mergers, TSA, airports, and airport amenities. Eventually, with all travel topics exhausted, the conversation turned to livelihood and other interests. It turns out, I’ve been engrossed in conversation with a carny. I’m not one to judge, but, in my long and rather colorful life, I’ve never actually spoken more than three words (“no thank you”) to a carny. This one knew, now, where I live and the highlights of the last ten years of my life. As I now knew his. Carnies aren’t bad people, by nature of their profession. I don’t really know why people judge them so. Okay, so this guy next to me requested fries in place of the green salad that was to accompany his entrée, but that didn’t mean he was inherently “bad”. Just had impaired judgment. And, he tried to plan his layovers in airports with “in terminal smoking rooms”, like SLC, while I plan mine around bars with purse hangers and power outlets. Those behaviors, in themselves, do not equate a bad person, just choices I’d not make. No judgment, though, mine may have been impaired. I have another beer (six pints, now, for the day).
We talked about carnival rides and I admitted, the Zipper and the Rock-O-Plane are my favorite rides. He smiled broadly and recounted the glories of the Rock-O-Plane, he said, “you won’t find many of those around anymore.” I pointed out that one still exists at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. He knew. And, he knew, the reason I like both those rides; the lever. The lever gives you some control over the way the cage spins and I am an absolute master at “the lever”. I remember with some pride, and a little remorse, how I made a guy in high school sick on the Rock-O-Plane once. Carny guy said I like the rides because I like to be in control. Thought provoking.
We chatted about boarding zones, how we have to board only when our zone is called, and how, if like me, you’re in “Zone 3”, you’re going to spend the whole flight with all your luggage at your feet and your legs cramped. I have a (rather large) computer backpack and a larger than life leopard print handbag. I count on that overhead space, and, I am usually boarding Zone 2. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve the demotion. Carny guy was boarding Zone 1. He kidded around how I could board “with him”. Typically, for travelers traveling together; family, friends, lovers, they can all board when the party with the earliest boarding zone boards. He ordered another beer and I made my way to the gate so I’d be the very first in line for Zone 3 boarding. I have a tried and true strategy for being the very first of my boarding zone to board. I am not proud of my tactics, but I am committed.
As I am stood there, oozing with impaired judgment, I noticed a cute, but tough looking guy. He was standing with another man who wasn’t half bad looking. The not half bad looking guy and I exchanged small talk. Cute, tough-looking guy just kept “making eyes” with me. Cool. They weren’t in line for any early boarding, or for first class, or priority boarding, I noticed. Cute, tough guy and I kept exchanging glances. Impaired judgment.
A moment later, the gate agent nodded to the cute, tough guy’s not half bad looking friend, and the two of them got to board the airplane; before the handicapped and the elderly, before family with small children, before first class, before active military personnel in uniform, before global services, before anyone. At this point, I noticed the handcuffs on cute, tough guy. Groan. I laughed, out loud, and commented to the amazed folks near me, “Want priority boarding? Commit a felony!” He was cute, though.
Carny was in line for Zone 1, I was still milling about, immediately adjacent to the post that divides priority boarding from general boarding. I just make myself “thin” and hang here until my boarding zone is called, then pop into the front of the line. Shameful, I know.
Priority boarding takes place, which seems like hundreds of folks. I am strategizing; how I will position my two items under the seat in front of me and still have room for my feet. Zone 1 is called to board. Carny guy reaches towards me and says, “come on”. And I board, with my new best friend and “traveling companion”. I got to my seat, tossed my items into the overhead bin and stretched my feet out, luxuriously, before me. Gloating, a little.
Carny guy was in row five, I was in row twenty-six. So, I didn’t have any obligation once I boarded the plane. Relief. But, I was appreciative. I decided to show my appreciation by buying Carny guy a beer. Someone had done this for me in the past, on a different airline, when I did a favor for them. My plan was to go back and make the appropriate arrangements once we reached altitude and could get up out of our seats. Problem? I fell asleep before we even took off. Six pints and a long day on top of a hangover will do this to you. I woke up just in time for the drink cart to arrive at my seat; red wine and Delta peanuts, the snack of champions. Once the drink cart clears the aisle, I headed back to use, well, the head. I took my wallet and planned to make arrangements for Carny guy’s beer for the second drink cart pass. In the very last row before the restrooms was cute, tough, extradited, felon guy and his not half bad looking bounty hunter friend. Eyes met, I averted my gaze. I think. I probably smiled. I have a habit of smiling at people, even if I don’t intend to. Impaired judgment.
I told the flight attendant what I’d like to do and she laughed. Out loud. Like no one had ever done this before. Right. Not the “friendly skies”. But, she was super excited about the prospect. I told her to tell carny guy the beer is from “Rock-O-Plane girl”. She ran up to aisle five, eager to be party to this transaction. Carny dude was asleep. After three beers. Some people just can’t handle their beer. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, I suppose.
The rest of the night went uneventfully, until I turned airplane mode off on my phone when we landed. Blendr overload. Sigh. I collected one of my two suitcases, the other, the one with the New York craft beer carefully packed within, having gone to L.A. without me. Impaired judgment. I drove home and took a shower.
The lesson I gleaned from all of this, upon reflection; sometimes good things come about from throwing caution to the wind. Other times, well, throwing caution to the wind ends up a lot like Blendr.