Peripatetic Postcards

Nyu- Yawkahs

We're in New York now -- well, Nyu Yawk as they say over here -- but I'm still in the midst of reporting how that happened, so, here's more o' dat . . .

JetBlue -- how we arrived -- is a stripped down affair. No frills. Do everything on line – reservations, seat assignments, baggage check. Even so, we couldn’t get the carrier to pair the four of us into 2 equal groups. The reason (aside from the fact that we reserved too late) was apparently that the kids were deemed by the computer to be kids (!) Try telling that to the son of mine whose response to "you need a haircut" is "do not" and the rejoinder to "Zander, your hair is too long" is "is not". Now, in the face of a will like that, how can anyone say that that belongs to a kid?

But try explaining that to a machine. And since that machine deemed my kids to be kids, they were not allowed to occupy the 2 seats currently open alongside the exit. As such -- and since we wanted two sets of twos -- we had to finalize that reservation by phone. This involved more than a simple reservations clerk (wouldn't you guess); it required the intervention of a manager countermanding the system and instructing the clerk.

So much for stripped down service. Humans still requisite cogs in any bureaucratic machine.

The good news is that JetBlue is in the Avis mode: “we try harder”. Everything with a smile. Enjoy your flight. Lots of teeth. You want ice with that drink? No problem. Full set of lips. Plenty of eye-contact and personality. Other than the turbulence which rocks us over Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburg – up, then down, then side-to-side - this flight goes fast. On my individualized headrest TV I watch the Angels come back from the brink against the Yankees and beat them the same way. Twice! Once in real time, then again on ESPN replay. This, to the consternation of the obnoxious Yankee rooter who had hooted and raucously clapped -- waking the entire cabin -- the first time the Yankees took the late inning lead -- then again after they stalled the Angels in a ninth inning bid to seal the deal.

Yankee fans. There should be forcible reeducation plans to help them get their minds right. But I suppose that would be asking for the sky and heaven too.

While the plane wasn’t a problem, the shuttle was another matter. That was another on-line thing, but when we arrived at 5:25 a.m. and called the shuttle operator, like our confirmation voucher told us to, the operator said: ”wait about 30 minutes, a car’ll be there.” The voice on the other end didn't even say "please", They did, unfortunately, say "about" -- which should have been a tip-off. 45 minutes later some dude in shorts and a muscle shirt with a stud in his left earlobe waltzed in the double glass doors and sang out my name. Not "Mister Holden", not "Holden, party of 4". Simply "Gotta Todd in heah? Todd?"

How democratic is that? Welcome to New York, Todd.

Ninety minutes later we were still in the shuttle. A misread address, a wrong turn or two, a driver who learned mid-drive that a buddy had been in a near-fatal traffic accident, all being culprits. Fortunately there was a room awaiting us. It would have been great to crash, but all we could do was dump our bags and then head out to work. More on that another day.

But first . . . Starbucks.

It is impossible not to run into a Starbucks here -- as there are 171 on the Island. No kidding. I read it over the shoulder of a guy reading the Daily News on the "1" Line to 59th Street and Columbus Circle.

Now, I know that you know that I tend to exaggerate in these posts. But I am also a reporter. And a reporter first and foremost. Which means that I do insist on a certain standard for myself: the truth standard. So, when I tell you that there are 171 Starbucks on the Island, I am not pulling on any of your appendages here. And I exaggerate not when I report that in midtown those round green medallions with the mermaid on them are at the corner of just about every numbered street.

Another "I kid you not": there are three within 100 meters in each direction from our hotel. But since it is New York, one thing that I immediately learn is that getting a regular tall with a smile is a tall order, indeed.

"Whaddya ya want!?"

"Latte? Tall, short -- what?"

"Dat'll be tree-sixty-faivuh . . . "

"Here ya's go."

And . . . you actually have to reach across the counter to collect your drink. Damned if the server will push it even half way in your direction.

Folks in New york -- well, Manhattan, at least -- offer courtesy -- and here I mean your drink, a smile, a pleasant disposition -- as if that would come for the price of an incisor wrenched with a pair of rusty pliers against their will. Like "no way in hell are you getting a smile out of me, pal!"

It must be a pride sort of thing. You know, give one up, lose a notch in the social ladder. Either that or its the weather.

Or, I suppose it could be something that is standard issue when they come out of the womb over here,

Providing me with an idea -- an objective, a goal . . . of sorts. For me, in the next 5 days, if I can finagle even one smile from a New Yorker on this trip, I will return home a triumphant man. Having accomplished something of great moment. I mean, in the order of things, extracting a pleasantry from a New Yorker would be like blasting a game-ending grand slam.

Sweet dreams are made of these . . .

So, people of my future encounter: if you can manage to give it up for me -- and if not for me, then, for Nyu Yawk. One smile, one good deed, being the seed for another . . . and another . . . and another . . .

If you can spare a simple smile to one out-of-towner -- then you would have made this peripatetic's journey. And might just have served the greater good.

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