Wow, here we are two whole months into my exciting Millionaire saga, and it continues to drag out longer than the finale of a reality competition. It took seven episodes just to get to my fun filled flight to
New York New Jersey, and we’re still a heaping handful of weekly posts away from the exciting game show action you are all on the edge of your seats for. But we’re making progress, because in this week’s installment, we are finally going to set foot in downtown Manhattan! That is…. assuming we can survive the limo ride….
Yes, among the many perks the ABC network has included in my package to appear on their humble game show is transportation to and from the airport in a limousine! Awesome! I’ve never been in a limo before.
First we had to find our driver, and as we all learned in those classic Bud Light commercials, chauffeurs hook up with their clients via holding up signs with your name on it. As tempted as both me and my Dad were to ask the pool of drivers if they had any Bud Light in the limo, we managed to restrain ourselves from pissing off the guy who was going to guide us through the insane Big Apple traffic in a hopefully safe manner.
As we came down an escalator, there was our man down at the bottom holding the sign with MY NAME on it! The excitement of this honor was short-lived when I realized that it was scrawled on what looked like a piece of notebook paper hastily ripped from one of Mecca’s 25 cent Back to School specials. Oh well, I don’t deserve any special treatment after all… and besides, I can’t wait to get in that big old limo!
Oh no I wasn’t. You see, in the Midwest away from the Big City life, we all have this silly notion that a limousine equals a STRETCH limo. We weren’t being led to any fancy 50 foot long rich man’s station wagon… nope, it was just a plain old luxury car, probably a Lincoln or something like that. And I was pretty sure there was no Bud Light in the back of it either… probably just an old notebook with torn out pages.
It came as absolutely no surprise to either of us that our driver had an accent. No, not a New Yorker accent, an easier to understand foreign accent. I believe it is some kind of local law that transportation in the NYC area can only be provided by people who were born in the Eastern Hemisphere. We couldn’t pin down exactly where our driver originally hailed from, but a good bet was on somewhere behind the old Iron Curtain.
He did try to strike up a conversation with us in his broken English. He knew we had flown in from Missouri, and said he had heard of our governor… the one and only WWF legend Jesse Ventura.
I don’t know if this mix up was caused by our driver’s bad Engrish, or if it’s the New York version of the Chicago syndrome. You see, to the fine people of Chicago, there are only two parts of Illinois…. Chicago and “downstate”. To illustrate this phenomenon, the infamous Rod Blagojevich was as Chicago-minded a person as you’ll find… and when he was our governor before we sent him off to prison for criminally bad hair, he wouldn’t even move to the damn state capital in Springfield! No, he maintained his residence in Chicago, and used the state jet to fly back and forth for the government business he had to conduct downstate.
So was our limo driver merely confused about his states, or do New Yorkers just assume the Midwest is one giant Pangea separating them from the Pacific Ocean?
After politely correcting our driver as to the correct state that “The Body” is governing over, he pretty much decided it might be a better idea to just shut up and drive. And drive he did…. just as you would expect a New Yorker on the freeway to drive. I wasn’t as scared on the entire flight here as I was on this short drive from Newark to Manhattan. It was kinda funny watching my Dad, who had subjected us kids to plenty of white knuckle drives back in the day, anxiously gripping whatever straps and handles were available in the backseat for dear life.
Then came the tunnel….
Specifically, the Holland Tunnel, which connects the Garden State to the Empire State underneath the Hudson River. In the relatively flatland of
Pangea the Midwest, we don’t exactly have a plethora of tunnels. At the time, my entire experience with tunnels over several hundred feet in length was on trains… in particular, our Metro train which runs underneath downtown St. Louis, and the stupid visitor train at the St. Louis Zoo whose tunnels always gave me a good scare when I was a kid.
The Holland Tunnel is about a mile and a half in length, and it was the first time I’d been through a tunnel anywhere near that long in a car…. with a crazy and confused limo driver… and with the knowledge that the tunnel had been part of a prior foiled terrorism plot. I’m glad I was able to get the long tunnel goosebumps out before I would first encounter having to actually drive through several of the damn things on my baseball trip to Pittsburgh in 2010.
Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel!
We made it into downtown Manhattan, and got to see why nobody in their right mind would ever want to try navigating a car through its crowded, congested streets. It did stop our driver from going 90 miles per hour, which was a plus and renewed hope that me and my Dad just might actually survive this ride after all.
On the way there, the two of us had quietly contemplated whether we would be expected to cough up a tip for the driver. I will go on record right now with saying I absolutely loathe the custom of tipping… not because service workers (Of which I’m one myself, obviously) don’t deserve to be paid well, but because the onus of paying employees should be on the employers where it belongs. The expectation of tipping creates many awkward situations for both the worker and the customer… when? where? how much? Fuck that… pay your goddamn workers fairly for the service they are providing, and that the customer is already paying you for anyway!
The question wasn’t really whether the driver deserved a tip, but whether the gratuity was already paid for in ABC’s package. My Dad, having worked hotel security for 15 years, figured the only way to solve this dilemma without drawing notice to our ignorance was to see if the driver Ralphed on us after dropping us off…
Certainly, if our driver from Boratistan expected us to tip him, he’d hem and haw around us, and do everything short of threatening to report us to Governor Ventura if we didn’t slide him an Abe. We were let out at our hotel, grabbed our two bags, and the driver was off and disappeared into the New York traffic jam before we could’ve even gotten our wallets out if we’d wanted to.
Ah, here we are… at the front steps of the one and only luxurious Empire Hotel in Manhattan!
Oh yes…. the adventure on this journey just never ends, does it? See ya all next week!