It is midnight right now on the east coast, and I am way too excited to even think about sleeping. And while there are plenty of other posts which I should, chronologically at least, get to first, I have to tell you about this evening. Because tonight, I did something that I had never done before.

Tonight, I drove in Manhattan.

Driving in the largest city in North America has never been on any of my to-do lists. Like using exact change or playing the piano, it is a skill I admire in others, but one that I have never endeavored to cultivate in myself (Note to my mom: sorry about all those piano lessons you had to pay for when I was in the fourth grade. My heart was never in it. Now you know).

And it all happened rather by accident. Rand and I left dinner with some colleagues and friends, and, owing to a bit of temporary insanity caused by eating a deep-fried Oreo cookie, I offered to drive. I can only assume that when heated to such extreme temperatures, the white cream inside those little sandwich cookies begins to take on qualities not unlike LSD. The only difference was that while LSD causes people to think they can fly (out of, if the after-school specials I watched as a child were correct, four-story buildings), this confection of white goo and chocolate cookie with a doughnut for a wrapper had me convinced I could drive. I was under the crazed impression that I could get behind the wheel of a rental car in Union Square without wreaking some serious havoc on the streets of New York.

And oddly enough, I was right.

Granted, I nearly hit some guy on his bicycle as I pulled out of the parking garage, but I’m pretty sure he was high or something. Probably off the deep fried Twinkie we saw on the menu but didn’t order.

I pulled the car onto twelfth, and in the process did something that many people who live in New York for their entire lives have never done (It was official now. I was driving in New York. There was no going back). While I’d like to think I was the picture of grace under pressure, I may have lost it a little when Rand gave me driving instructions exactly two seconds after I needed them. (Him: “Okay, you need to turn left. I mean right. You need to turn right immediately.” Me: “YOU ARE WORSE THAN HITLER.”).

Soon, though, I was gliding down city streets that were, owing to it being a Monday night, largely empty. This was fortunate, given that the lines of demarcation between lanes were virtually non-existant.

“I can’t tell what lane I’m in,” I said, suddenly panicked.

“It’s fine,” Rand replied. “You belong to no lane.”

His words echoed in my ears, and quickly became my mantra. I was suddenly confident and in control. I was driving. IN NEW YORK CITY. Clearly, the only respectable thing to do was let this new sense of power and competence go straight to my head.

“Take a picture,” I ordered, and my dear husband did.
-

I did not say it was a flattering picture.

-“Tell me where to go next,” I demanded, and once again, Rand obliged.

“Take the Holland Tunnel,” he said, meekly, clearly afraid of what I was becoming.

Like so many other things in life, I nodded knowingly, even though I hadn’t a clue where the tunnel was. Since it seemed like an important detail, I decided to inform Rand.

“Where’s the tunnel?” I asked.

“Are you joking?”

“Huh?”

“It’s right in front of you!”

“What in god’s name are you talking about? IT IS NOT IN FRONT OF ME OR I WOULDN’T HAVE ASKED.”

The only things in front of me were a lane that would have forced me to turn left, another lane marked DO NOT ENTER, and the entrance to a very swank parking garage. Which brings me to a very important lesson about driving in New York that I would like to share with you: The entrance to the Holland Tunnel looks like a swank parking garage.

 

Courtesy of Wikipedia, which apparently is good for something after all.

I screamed at gently implored my husband to take a photo of this phenomenon, but he could not as he was busy looking up directions to get us home. So you will just have to imagine it. It strongly resembles the entrance to a parking garage (ignore whatever Rand or anyone else says to the contrary).

And so, I took the entrance to the tunnel, and just like that, it was over. We were in the Holland Tunnel, miraculously traveling under the Hudson River (a concept which I find baffling. How, pray tell me, how is the tunnel not crushed by the weight of the river? How does water not start bursting through at all the seams? My best workable theory is currently “witchcraft.”). We left Manhattan behind us, and I felt a twinge of sadness that our adventure was over.

As we zoomed down the smooth expressway, a green street sign above us caught my eye. It combined two words one never wants to see together. The first one was “Jersey” and the second one was “Turnpike.” I squeezed the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles turned white. My mantra vanished from my brain like a disobedient child into the crowds of Times Square. Though I’d been on it a dozen times, and though I really should have known better, the concept of being on the Jersey Turnpike terrified me. I was convinced ever other car was filled with the driving equivalent of Tony Soprano.

“I just overtook that guy,” I told Rand. “I am pretty sure he is going to murder us.”

“He is not.”

“OH MY GOD, HE JUST TURNED ON HIS BRIGHTS. THAT’S THE FIRST SIGN THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE MURDERED.”

And as the screaming commenced, so did another adventure. I was now driving on the Jersey Turnpike. After driving in Manhattan. We made it back safely (Tony must have had a fit of conscience. Or he was out of ammo), and I find myself, in the middle of the night still full of fried Oreos and adrenaline. Is it any wonder, then, that I cannot sleep?

Full list of categories:  Random Musings » Road Trips
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Comments (34)

  1. 28. Jun, 2011 / Courtney:

    Look, I’m just say’in: deep fried oreos lead a girl to do crazy things. My husband always makes doughnuts for super bowl and inevitably an oreo or three or four and a twinkie or two end up dunked into the fryer. And afterwards? The most crazy things always happen! Like all the adults in the room go on some sort of “I-just-ate-a-deep-fried-oreo-and-damn-the-consequences!” spree of unusual behavior!

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  2. 28. Jun, 2011 / Philip:

    You have just taken your first step into a larger world.

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  3. 28. Jun, 2011 / Ben:

    Hi! Long time fan, first time commenter. Just wanted to say that all I could think of when I read your last line (“Is it any wonder, then, that I cannot sleep?”) is the song “Eye” by the Smashing Pumpkins. That line is essentially the chorus of the song. It’s a catchy tune.

    Ta.

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  4. 28. Jun, 2011 / Verena:

    so wait – let driving in Manhattan be driving in Manhattan BUT
    you SURVIVED the NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE – in one piece and your passengers and the car as well?

    I lived and drove there for the last half year (including my first US-driving experience three days before Halloween, with two drunk passengers and no clue where to go in NEWARK – yes that’s correct, NEWARK) – survived it hardly – Geraldine, congratulations, you can call yourself a HERO after mastering that :)

    oh an btw: i think this – aham – driving attitude – is an outcome the roads of NY & NJ – happened to me too ;)

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    I really want to hear the rest of that Halloween story, Verena. It sounds like a doozy. :)

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    Verena Reply:

    I will say that much (as i might need the whole story one day for blackmailing somebody)

    advice 1: knock the drunk ones out – JUST DO IT – they ARE not useful – specially if they A) start fighting with the GPS and B) try to tell you to go LEFT on the Jersey Turnpike – permanently (in like making a left-turn – where is just the barrier)
    advice 2: OK better – knock them out even before you get in the car – i just say: emergency buttons and one way streets are not the best friends of drunk people

    BUT: it all had it a good end eventually – just a slight headache on the next day – but not for me, what’s the most important part :D

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  5. 28. Jun, 2011 / Kristen:

    Now it’s time to take those skills across the pond and try driving on the opposite side of the road.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Oh, sweet heavenly father. No, I don’t think I could … I mean … could I? Let’s talk about it after I’ve had a few fried twinkies.

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  6. 28. Jun, 2011 / Steve:

    I must say, I was dreading reading any of your New York City posts for fear that you did travel to New Jersey. Not because I am ashamed of my home, the great Garden State, but because I am afraid when anyone comes here from out of town they will declare us useless, dirty, gross, and use Jersey Shore as an adjective.

    Thankfully, you managed to only reference The Sopranos, which is just fine! I hope your meander into NJ consisted of more than the NJ Turnpike all the way up there (I’m in Princeton!) and Newark International Airport, but I will not be offended if it didn’t. It can be intimidating venturing any further south than the sulfurous smokestacks and eight-lane highways (plus I would bet you guys were on schedule).

    I encourage you and anyone else reading to leave the city behind and check out the true beauty of New Jersey, not the beast that is the Northern NJ along the Turnpike. Disclaimer: don’t go too far south or you’ll be surrounded by people who think they’re in Philadelphia, even though they’re not.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Oh, I know too well how unexpectedly beautiful Jersey can be, Steve. Hubby was born in Hunterdon county. There are deer everywhere. It is lovely and pastoral and not at all in accordance with what we tend to associate with Jersey.

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    Steve Reply:

    This makes me so happy! You are one of my favorite internet people and a regular part of my daily routine (man, that drought last month was tough on me…), so to know that you are not only aware of the greatness that is New Jersey, but have experienced it, is, quite simply, awesome.

    Also, I knew there was a reason I liked Rand outside of my envy of his ability to grow an impressive beard.

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    RiderWriter Reply:

    Oh! Oh! I am SOOOO happy now! I agree, I knew there was a reason I liked this blog and now I find out it’s because you, Geraldine, were smart enough to marry a Jersey Boy. This is simply wonderful. (I do admire Rand, too, having looked at his website in a somewhat vain effort to understand just what it is he does for a living – he is another smart cookie is all I can say.) I am a Jersey Girl, raised in Monmouth County, and very well-acquainted with the Little State With A Lot Of Surprises (I will modestly admit I cooked up that slogan for an assignment in my college Advertising class, for which I received an A+). I have lived in the Midwest for the past 26 years and have accordingly spent the past 26 years attempting to convince my fellow countrymen that no, we don’t all tawk loike dat, and no, New Jersey does not consist solely of oil refineries and trashy orange Italians/Mafia wives. I even have all of my original *gasp* body parts and zero tattoos!

    Aside from that, I am really laughing at your post today because I might have written it. I have driven in Manhattan myself exactly once, and I think that’s how the record shall remain. I took the wheel outside of a restaurant only because my husband, my father and my mother, who usually did all the City driving (my dad refused – wonder why?) had over-imbibed. I also had to get to the Holland Tunnel, and despite having been in a car traveling that way at least a hundred times, I hadn’t a clue as to how to find it. Cue in drunk mother: “What do you mean, you don’t know where it is?? You’ve been there a hundred times!” Yes, Mother, but not with kamikaze taxi drivers coming at me in all directions and threatening to turn our car into so much shredded sheet metal. Somehow we made it, only to emerge into the unmitigated hell that is the Jersey Turnpike. I don’t think I drew one deep breath until I was turning into our driveway an hour later. (By way of the Garden State Parkway – we didn’t live right off the TP, just Exit 114. Perhaps Rand has acquainted you with the old “What exit?” joke?)

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  7. 28. Jun, 2011 / Dave:

    Next stop is driving in Rio!!!

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  8. 28. Jun, 2011 / Candice:

    Driving in Manhattan is one of my very favorite things to do in life. If I could do it every day, I would.

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  9. 28. Jun, 2011 / Camels & Chocolate:

    Grrrrl, I’m impressed! Three years in New York and I never once contemplated performing such a feat.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Well, you weren’t high on fried Oreos, were you? I didn’t think so.

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  10. 28. Jun, 2011 / Farsickness:

    I was white knuckling the steering wheel for my entire drive the first time I drove in Manhattan. And circled the block and every block in the vicinity about 10 times looking for the Holland Tunnel. With GPS. You fared much better than I! Congrats.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE THE ENTRY TO A PARKING GARAGE, RIGHT?! I KNOW.

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  11. 28. Jun, 2011 / Colleen Sandic:

    You just made my craptastic slushee and work day so much better!

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Yay! I have no idea what a craptastic slushee consists of, but yay!

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  12. 28. Jun, 2011 / Cool Dad:

    Glad to hear that you survived both Manhattan roads and the Jersey Turnpike. I just posted about the hazards of NYC driving (link in my name), and it seems that you were spared all of my pet peeves/dangers!

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  13. 29. Jun, 2011 / Biddy Bytes:

    I perfectly understand the panic…And yes, Rio would be a challenge. Many years ago I drove out of Lyons (France’s second largest city), on my way from a parking garage to pick up my two girls who were 15 and 5, dutifully poised outside the little hotel, waiting for Mama. I took a wrong turn immediately (you need two in the car–one poised as look-out in a FOREIGN, heavily,trafficked city)but I was solo. I suddenly found myself in a warzone of autos, one way streets, on-ramps to God knows where (signs in French.) I looked to the side and saw my girls across a wide expanse of park. In total desperation, I just drove my car across to get them, staying on the paved pedestrian walk (fortunately, it was wide). Why? I knew I’d never be able to get back there again and I wasn’t leaving my kids.

    As to NJ Turnpike, I liken traveling through those corridors similar to Luke Skywalker’s careeing through the space corridor being shot at on all sides. Bit hyperbolic? You bet…but that’s how NJT affects me.

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    Philip Reply:

    Problem solved! I love this story. I’d have probably done the same thing, were it my kid waiting on the other end.

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  14. 29. Jun, 2011 / lisa:

    You’re in my state!! And I’m glad to see that you understand that not all of Jersey is Newark airport and the idiots from the Jersey Shore (who are mostly not from New Jersey). I’m in Morris County and we have lots of historical stuff if you ever want a personalized tour.

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  15. 30. Jun, 2011 / RiderWriter:

    Yo, Lis-A – Whaddaya mean, those kids ain’t from Jersey?? ;-)

    And thank God for that. However, I guess you are going to make me reveal the despicable fact that I have seen the cast members in the flesh myself, partying in the hot tub and flying kites on the roof of their house, whilst I was riding the gondola down the Seaside Heights boardwalk. My children also stalked J-Wowww into a laundromat. *hides head in shame* (What happened? The TV crew and bodyguard told them to beat it.)

    What can I say? Our family place at the Shore is 20 minutes north of Seaside, in the quiet, respectable, private and un-GTL’d town of Normandy Beach. But we simply had to go check out the TV sensations down the road… and I definitely had a good “what I did on my vacation” story last year!

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  16. 02. Jul, 2011 / Duane:

    Just a correction: the largest city on the North American continent is Mexico City.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Shhhh. I want people to be impressed by my feat.

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    Lisa Reply:

    If you consider that Mexico City is in “Central America” and that any cell phone plan that covers “North America” never includes any country South of Mexico then I suppose you could be close enough to right to be considered so?

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  17. 09. Jul, 2011 / Kelsey:

    I have yet to drive in Manhattan, though I have driven around NYC several times. Insanity, every time.

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  18. 11. Jul, 2011 / JoAnna:

    Holy heart attack. I think I would have a panic attack if I had to drive in Manhattan.

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  19. 14. Mar, 2012 / Yuliya:

    Speaking of driving through the Holland Tunnel – I saw the movie “Daylight” when I was a kid. Ever since then, I have been terrified of going through the tunnel. Each time I do, I try desperately to not think of the movie and end up instead screaming hysterically (maybe, ok always). And even though everyone judges me, I do like the movie and have seen it more than once (usually after going though the tunnel).

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  20. 24. Jun, 2012 / Kitty:

    We had a similar experience while driving in LA (we’re from Spain). I sometimes wonder how such a thing as “international driving permit” even exist. Nobody teaches you about the differences in traffic rules in foreign countries, and not knowing some can get you in real trouble. Still, lots of tourists drive in foreign countries and none of them seem worried about doing it well. It amazes me!
    We made it safe and sound back to the rental car company.

    We could have rented a car in Nyc to visit things outside the city but we didn’t dare. We decided to take the leap and do it in L.A. Scary thing at first!

    I praise you for doing it so well in NYC :) but it makes me have second thoughts about trying it next trip. I guess we’ll stick to public transport XD

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  21. 21. Feb, 2014 / Kristen:

    Congrats on the accomplishment! When I lived in NYC (about a year ago), I had a car and I remember my first time driving through the Times Square area (I lived on 42 and 11th) – how scary! After awhile though, I surprised myself at how comfortable I became driving in the City. In fact, sometimes I would drive around just for the sake of people watching – put on some tunes and go! I even started driving to more events, rather than taking the subway – I learned where you could park for free, and what parking garages offered discounts if you printed out coupons first. Great article! Xoxo

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