Back on 47th, a banshee wail broke through the serene silence of a day and night that had, until this very moment, been a perfect example of Manhattan’s magic in all its glory. “WHERE THE HELL IS THE CAR?!” Time slowed down for me in that way that it does when it begins to dawn on you that (a) there is a crisis at hand, and (b) the person screaming at the top of their lungs is, in fact, screaming at you. Slowly, I turned: clearly, one of us needed to assess the situation. Given that the banshee was Rhea just as surely as the walrus was Paul, it seemed that the role of he who was going to figure this out had fallen to me. Looking down the street, I noticed two important things: (a) there were no cars at all on the block, and (b) there were now a flurry of photocopied NO PARKING SATURDAY signs (like the one pictured in the teaser post for this saga elsewhere on this blog) all up and down the block. Add all of that up and whaddaya get? The car done been towed, kids. Shit.
Rhea is still hysterical at this point, but there’s work to be done. We decide to split up: Rhea goes to chase down a cop, and I’m dispatched back to Walgreen’s to deliver the “Houston, we have a problem” speech to our friends, who will now likely not be departing for home as soon as previously planned, given that their train tickets are in the missing car. As I approach Barbara and Madison, I find them already talking to a policeman. I relate our tale of woe, and the cop confirms my suspicions: the car had been towed, and we needed to go to the Manhattan tow pound and retrieve it. In his words: “It’ll cost ya a coupla bucks, but just consider it part of your night out, right?” Indeed. I call Rhea to tell her this. She’s heavily winded on the phone, and I can’t quite understand what she’s yelling about; something about “command vehicle”. I tell her to forget about all of that, to come back here since we are with a very nice police officer and he has told us what we need to do. She runs back to where we are, and our patient new police friend tells her what he told us, that we need to hail a cab to the tow pound and bail our car out. Rhea, still being a bit beside herself, decides to play a game of Frogger in trying to hail a cab that still makes me cringe and close my eyes to think back on it, even a week or so later.
We get to the tow pound without injury, only to find the line is out the door. I leave Rhea to wait on line (and, maybe, use her emotionally charged state to cut a few places forward on it), and go outside to call Amtrak and ascertain when the next train Barbara and Madison could take is: 5:45 AM turns out to be the answer. I walk back in to find Rhea literally in tears at the counter; she is upset because they have told her that they cannot find any paperwork on our car. They suggest to her that the car may simply have been relocated to another block in Times Square; this is the concept that she was attempting to explain to me on the phone, but I just couldn’t understand what she was talking about. The folks at the tow pound are friendly and helpful, and arrange for Rhea to be driven around the premises to see if our car is there somewhere. While this is going on, I wait with Barbara and Madison, whom are taking the whole mess in stride like real troopers. As a half-joke, I tell them that if our car turns out to have been relocated and it does not cost me $185 to get it out of the tow pound after all, that I will buy breakfast for all of us. Rhea comes back; the car is definitely not at the Tow Pound. Back to Times Square and our attempt to find the command vehicle after all.
Surprisingly, Manhattan’s magic was not quite done with us yet: as we were trying to hail a cab, a NYPD Traffic Supervisor’s car pulled up at a red light on the block we were on. Rhea walks over, explains our situation to the gentleman, and within two minutes we are given the exact location of our prodigal vehicle. Honestly, I thought it too good to be true until, about five minutes later, the cab we eventually hailed pulled up right next to our car: no boot, no ticket, nothing but a photocopied notice that this vehicle had been relocated and should not be ticketed pending owner notification. Between the four of us, I think every emotion imaginable was had within the ensuing few minutes. I look at the time: it’s a little under two hours until the 5:45 Amtrak. Assessing the vibe in the car, I decide that making good on my offer of breakfast was the way to go. So, for the last stop on our adventure, we ended up at the Big Daddy’s location just north of Union Square, where we watched a drunken idiot be handled by management, and ate a truly great breakfast. For my part, I’ll just say that the bacon, egg and cheese on homemade bread sandwich was both delicious and duly noted for future re-consumption. From there, we headed back to Penn Station: tickets were successfully swapped, and a sad goodbye was waved to our friends. By the time I walked back through my door at home, it was 7 AM; literally twenty-four hours after my alarm had gone off to start this adventure the previous morning. Needless to say, sleep was not long in arriving.
Prior to this adventure, I can’t remember the last time I’d spent a non-stop-go twenty-four hours in Manhattan. I was also completely unaware how much I needed to reconnect with such an experience, how much I needed to be reminded that the most magical place on Earth is literally in my back yard. My love and thanks go to everyone involved; our old friends, Les Nubians, the NYPD (who couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful in our quest for car), literally everybody we interacted with along the way for showing us a truly enchanted day and evening. Hell, I’d even like to thank the parking gods, for making sure we had to stay in for the duration.
It is an amazing, truly blessed thing to be made re-aware that we live so close to an always-waiting escape from the mundane.