Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hey, Look Kids! There's Brooklyn!

Just about everyone ever born has seen the hilarious movie, "National Lampoon's European Vacation", which follows the antics of the Griswold family as they traipse through Europe. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Clark Griswold, stuck in a roundabout in London, repeats, "Hey, look kids! There's Big Ben!" as they circle...and circle...and circle the famous landmark.

That scene makes me giggle every time, as we've all probably been stuck in a roundabout - or something similar in life - that we can't seem to get out of. Trapped, if you will, in an endless circle of driving....

Yesterday...was just such a nightmare for me.

Oh, it began innocently enough...when we loaded up two semi-trucks of materials and headed out to deliver them to Far Rockaway, New York, as well as Brooklyn, New York. I was in the "chaser" car - which follows the semi-trucks and provides additional manpower to unload the truck once we arrive at our delivery address.

We began our journey in the morning as we headed over to Staten Island, where we then traversed the Verrazano Bridge, landing us into Brooklyn. Our plan was to head to Far Rockaway first, as it is true to its name...it's far, far, far away from just about anything...and we hoped to get there quick, unload, and then go to Brooklyn on the way back to the warehouse. Should be easy-peasy, right?


Trouble first hit once we hit Brooklyn...the idiotic highway department in New York had decided to shut down all lanes but ONE on a very busy bridge - during rush hour traffic - which bottlenecked everyone for at least 60 minutes....Three lanes...merging to one...and we have two semi-trucks trying to squeeze in. Tempers in New York City can be short anyway, but throw in aggravated and impatient drivers, and it was a nightmare.

After finally making it across the bridge, we began winding our way through Brooklyn...and then on through Queens...in an attempt to find the food pantry that we were delivering to. There's a lovely road that would have taken us directly there - called the Belt Parkway - that is devoid of traffic, stoplights and pedestrians...but unfortunately, it's also devoid of trucks. Yup - NO trucks are allowed, which meant us. Drat.

Two hours and 45 minutes later, we finally arrived at the first stop, where we enlisted the help of several of the residents, and quickly unloaded the truck of two pallets of water, and dozens and dozens of boxes of supplies. One delivery down...two more to go.

We asked one of the drivers, Bob, where HIS delivery was to go, and he mumbled something about Far Rockaway, as well...and since that's where we were, we thought, "AWESOME!" We should be there in NO time and have two of our three deliveries down relatively quickly. Telling Bob to lead the way, since he had the GPS with the address, we jumped in our vehicles and began our convoy, once more.

Unfortunately, this is when trouble found us yet again...Bob made a few turns, and before any of us realized what had happened, we found ourselves on the Belt Parkway...and BOY, our fellow NYC drivers were NOT happy! Cars began driving up to the trucks, and fists and hands began shaking and gesturing at our drivers...not being up there to hear what was being said, I can only imagine they were telling our guys to get the HELL off the Parkway - trucks weren't ALLOWED. Period.

Once we found the next exit, we sat on the side of the road for a bit, trying to figure out how to get to our next stop without using the Parkway...which was difficult, because our GPS units couldn't understand why we had to avoid it. We jumped back in and then started driving...and driving...and driving...and as I'm looking around at the scenery...and the people...and the brownstones...and the little ethnic shops...it hits me....


Whatever happened to the delivery we had to make in Far Rockaway??!!

By now, it was very apparent that we were lost...and we were driving aimlessly around Brooklyn...I kept pointing out my window, and in my best Clark Griswold voice, I"d say, "Hey, look kids! There's Brooklyn!" over...and over...and over...again. Gah.


Being the good chaser car that we were, we didn't ask questions...nope. We just followed...like a little lost sheep...until the next unfortunate incident happened. We got caught at a stoplight, as the semi-trucks whizzed through...where they then proceeded to turn left on a street up ahead. By the time we got through the light ourselves, we had totally lost them. They had vanished into thin air, and we had no way of contacting them to see where they were going...as my lovely (not) iPhone had last it's battery completely and was now only good to be used as a brick.

At one point, we had no clue as to where we were...thinking quickly, I grabbed my iPhone and checked on Facebook...who told me that I was in Southside Jamaica Queens...wherever that was. Another time, we were in "East New York, Brooklyn NY" - and yet again, we were in "Chinatown" - although the Chinatown was easy to figure out, for obvious reasons.

Leslie, the driver, eventually says, "We're done. Screw this. We're going back to the warehouse." She then points the car towards the Verrazano Bridge and we take off...however, as we approached the bridge up in sight, I made a startling observation.

I've only been in New York for three weeks, but I'm practically an expert now...and one thing I know - I know my bridges, and my tunnels. You HAVE to know these here to survive...and I said to Leslie, "Uh...that's not the Verrazano - that's the Manhattan Bridge...we're going to Manhattan!"

After Leslie recovered from the dead faint of the shock, she pulled herself together and did rather well. I knew enough that the Holland Tunnel would be on the west side from where we were, and so we drove straight across - through Chinatown - to get into the tunnel and get safely back to the warehouse.


We eventually found out that the two semi-trucks lost each other, so basically, the entire convoy was a bust. Everyone got lost, everyone was cranky, and everyone had seen enough of Brooklyn to last two lifetimes.

Lessons learned, though...

1. Know the truck routes...BEFORE heading out in a truck!
2. Never lose the chaser car - look out for your fellow convoy members!!!
3. Always use a bathroom before heading out, because they're pretty scarce in NYC, as I've discovered.
4. Have a good attitude...even while lost, frustrated and tired.

That's one thing Clark Griswold was always good at - having a good attitude when all hell broke lose.

Hey, look everyone! There's Brooklyn!!!


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