Monday, September 06, 2010

Crowds Roll By

I began the summer in a crowd, so it seems only fitting that I would wrap the season up in the middle of a mob scene.

It seems like only last week that it was June and I was hyperventilating my way through the throbbing mass of humanity at the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.

And then I turned around and it was Sunday of the Labor Day weekend and I was crammed into a waiting room in the Battery Maritime Building, hoping the Governor’s Island ferry would hurry up and dock before I had a 20-megaton panic attack.

I wanted to do something different on this last weekend of summer and I saw that there would be a parked food truck event on the island—it was billed as “Eats from NYC’s best food carts & trucks and specially crafted local beer.”

There was also an art exhibit happening on the island as well, so I had a chance to get some culture, stuff my face and drink myself into a stupor. Plus I had never been to Governor’s Island before, so how could I say no?

And then I arrived at South Street and saw the line to the ferry snaking its way uptown like it was never going to end. I was tempted to ditch the whole thing and go home, but I do that too often. Screw it, I thought, marching northward, I’ll get on the end of this thing even if it’s in Montreal.

It wasn’t quite that far, but I think I went through a couple of time zones until I found the end. This being New York, it wouldn’t feel right if there weren’t a few line jumpers—urban weasels who think waiting is for other people—and, sure enough, a couple of idiots happily obliged.

First two middle-aged women, who were old enough to know better, got behind me. I heard one say, “just move along and pretend we were here.” Unfortunately for them, the rather tall gentleman who was legitimately in line behind me would have none of it.

“Excuse me,” he asked sharply, “were you in this line before?”

Poof! They vanished in a cloud of scorn. The line progressed and just as we reached the doors of the Maritime Building, two young women came walking out of nowhere and stood along side of me.

I cut them off and kept going, but that big dude I mentioned before proceeded to rip them each a new one. He shouted that they had cut the line.

“There was a line?” one woman had the gall to ask.

No, honey, we were having a block party in your honor.

The guy would not let up and the women yelled back.

“Do you feel good making a big deal about this?” one woman asked.

“Do you feel good sneaking onto the line?” the large man retorted. “You’re dealing with a native New Yorker.”

You tell them, big guy, and all of you please feel free to leave me out of it.

The waiting area quickly filled up with people from all over the world and screaming babies of all persuasions. I don’t do well in crowds and I imagined an evening news story about a stampede at the ferry. I thought I was supposed to be relaxing.

All Ashore Who's Going Ashore

The ferry finally showed up, we all piled on without trampling each other, and then we zipped over to the island. It’s a very nice spot where you can honestly forget you’re in the city. And that really felt good after all the grief I went through to get there.

You can’t enjoy art on an empty stomach, so I went over to the area where the food trucks had been parked, all set to wolf down a complete selection of global goodies.

And then I saw the lines.

Every single food truck had long lines of people circling and curving around within this fenced off field. Hell, I just stood on a huge line to get over here—now I’ve got to do it again? With my luck I’ll get on the same line as the big dude and those two women and another brawl will break out.

I thought I could come back later when the lines shortened a little, but I knew these people would be standing there until Columbus Day. So I hiked around the island, looking at these eerie empty buildings and I checked out the art exhibits. The weather was gorgeous; the setting was incredible-who needs food?

I walked around for a couple of hours and when I got back to the food trucks there seemed to be even more people waiting. Okay, I thought, we’ll get dinner on the mainland. I was very tired by then and I just wanted to go home.

So I got on line.

The good news was that this line was outdoors and moved with amazing speed. One moment it looked hopeless and then the next moment I was rounding a corner and heading to a waiting vessel.

"Everyone's going to Shutter Island," a dock worker said, giving me the best laugh of the day.

And—big surprise—there was one young woman up front looking to jump ahead of everyone else.

“Come on,” she called to her two friends. “No one will notice.”

“I’m not doing it,” one of her companions declared as she marched away.

No one will see you? Are we all blind and deaf? Christ, where are those Catholic school nuns when you need them? They wouldn’t tolerate disorderly lines for a second.

People who pull crap like this rely on not being challenged—I confess I find it embarrassing to get involved in some stupid argument over a spot on a line. It’s unseemly to me, but I should probably emulate the big dude and shame these losers into submission.

So now the summer of 2010 is over. Memorial Day weekend, the Mermaid Parade, July Fourth, they’re all distant memories. I saw a display for Halloween cards in a local store this week. Last week I got a catalog in the mail hawking Christmas—Christmas!—decorations.

I know people want to sell their wares, but have you no idea how miserable this stuff makes me? I always loathed the “Back to School” ads when I was a kid. They showed these impossibly happy little androids racing to class with these Stepford smiles plastered on their faces. Believe me, no real child every smiled on the first day of school.

And I know that pretty soon it’ll be Halloween…and then Thanksgiving…and then Christmas. The days will get shorter, colder and the whole world will resemble Shutter Island. I’ll have to dig up all my winter clothing, worry about colds and flu, and the idea of walking out of the house without a coat, hat, and gloves will be impossible to imagine.

The only good thing I can say about the change of seasons is that it reminds us that life is fleeting and that it makes no sense to put things off.

But I truly hate winter and if it were to vanish forever, I wouldn’t miss it all. And if you feel the same way, get in line.


Anonymous said...

Loved this post, Rob. We thought about doing this event but had to cancel--now I know what I missed. (Others also reported coming back hungry.) Last summer, I predicted Gov Is would become a victim of its own success, and I'm afraid it's happening.
As for winter, we'll survive--you bring the soup, I'll bring the cookies.

Rob K said...

You were ahead of your time! Now it's time to make the soup.