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From The Vaults: Letter To A Timid Traveler

This is why I don’t like travelling into the city. It’s an ordeal, and scheduling is an absolute nightmare.

You are seriously overreacting. Four hours on the bus and half an hour in Port Authority is probably the mildest travel problem you will ever have. Try riding the bus for fourteen hours ending in a wreck, then having the same bus nearly run over you and your travelling companions at top speed as it hurtles down a hill, brakeless. Then, getting stung by a stingray the next day. All of this in a Third-World country with medical assistance unfathomable miles away.

Having been through the latter, Little Grasshopper, I want to impress upon you the importance of cultivating Travel Zen. The truth of the matter is that if you stay calm, laugh at your troubles, and make use of the resources around you, you will rarely find that you fail to glean happiness from travelling. Even if you don’t get where you wanted to go, you will have good stories to tell. Coming to New York and hanging out in Port Authority for half an hour, then turning around and leaving, is not exactly the kind of yarn you’ll see published in National Geographic. (You came to The Big Apple, and you didn’t even partake of the Port Authority Au Bon Pain?!?!)

Here are some hints:

1) Nearly any transportation hub of Port Authority’s size has a paging system. The operators usually keep a record of whether someone has been paged, so if your party arrives in the station later than you, they can get some idea of how long it’s been since you called and where you were going next.

2) You should have left me the time you called and a possible other location where you might be on my answering machine, too; I called to check it. For all I knew you were still in the station when I checked my messages. I was late, too. I combed the station from five to six, not believing that you’d been ludicrous enough to turn right around and gone home.

3) Thus: Travel is a waiting game. It isn’t going to resolve itself right away. Be sure you’ve exhausted all your options before panicking.

4) Contrary to popular belief, you are not going to get mugged in Port Authority. Just stay in well-populated areas and keep your wits about you. I’ve been there past midnight with no problems whatsoever.

5) Talk to bus agents and cops. They’ll help be a second set of eyes for you, and keep an eye on you in case you do get mugged. The cops I talked to today were very simpatico. They even offered to lend me their nightsticks when I explained I’d been stood up for the fourth time.

6) STAY CALM. LAUGH. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. It’s really pretty fucking funny, when you think about it. Shakespeare and Ionesco and Bronson Pinchot built whole careers out of comedies of errors like this.

I’d love to see you, but frankly, I’m not going to plan my day around it ever again. If you decide you’re coming out, here’s how to get to my house:

  • Get on the 7 *LOCAL* train at Port Authority/Times Square.
  • Don’t worry about which direction it’s going; it only goes one way from there.
  • DO worry about whether it’s a local or express: don’t go by the signs on the side of the train, ask/listen to a conductor or fellow passenger.
  • Get off at [my stop].

If you make it *that* far, give me a call and I will come get you.



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