10 Mar

The weather was miserable. This doesn’t help. Too, the seas were rough on Friday. I was told and often.

My fifty clients were pockmarked with Transdermal Scopolamine patches. And an hour late they were, so difficult it was to park a Queen Elizabeth II on a soupy day when even our lower buildings scraped the sky. Nothing seemed favorable towards a happy outcome. But the first women to board the sightseeing coach were as giddy as they were old, and we chatted of this and that.

“Are they feeding you?” is a winning line of inquiry when doing tours from cruise ships. Works every time. Food is, perhaps, the very last refuge of conversation that cannot easily deteriorate into politics.

Sweet women from Brixton in Devon they, just delightful, widows and friends, who showed me their “Brixton Angels,” little charms for which their hometown is known, dangling from their purses. They even offered to send one to Angel, the bus driver, the single most useless, lazy, dumb, surly, motherfuckin’ douchebag of a moron with whom I’ve ever had the bisfortune to share a stage. Bisfortune indeed.

The coach suddenly filled up and quickly too so off we went. Off we were with Angel, a man who drives commuters for a living, whose raison d’etre is to get there and get there fast. I pictured nuns and infants plastered to the grille of his radiator. New York City was going by so fast my mouth couldn’t keep up. I was editing articles and prepositions. “Plaza Hotel. 1906. Designed. Henry Hardenburgh. Eloise. Home Alone 2.” I made no sense to myself. Forty minutes of a four-hour tour had gone by and we were already in Greenwich Village. I was running out of island. So I told Angel to pull over in front of Winston Churchill Square to let the Brits wander around a .05-acre park to kill time.

Angel wasn’t happy.

“I better not get a ticket here,” he griped in Hoboken’s equivalent of English.

“I’ve never gotten a ticket here in fourteen years, Angel. Can I get you a cup of coffee (you stupid piece of shit)?”

At Battery Park, I met a nice couple who were flying out to Arizona to see their son they never see. I met a lovely woman who guessed I was Irish. I talked with a very tall man who thought I was British because of my dialect. But he was Swedish don’t you see and we all sound alike to him.

“Sweden is in the North,” he thrusted. “Everyone thinks we are Swiss.”

“I beg your pardon,” I parried, in a ridiculous English accent. “And I love your cheese and army knives.”

This was fun. I liked these people. We laughed of that and this. And, as if scripted, a meagre but successful sun broke through a dull dense cloud and hung over the harbor barely yellow as if Goya was expected to drop by and paint it.

The itinerary for this trip stated, and I quote, “The highlight of this tour will be a stop at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center to view the progress at the new World Trade Center.” Once Angel roared around the corner clipping a middle school to pick us up, he informed me he would not stop at the World Financial Center because they ticket there. Angel’s predisposition and paranoia toward the law lead me to believe he spends more of his life on the wrong side of it.

“Angel, you HAVE to stop there. This is why these people chose this tour out of the five different tours being offered today (you jack-ass of a fuck-up).”

“Well, I have an idea where I can drop you and you can walk to the Winter Garden,” he assured me, me, to whom this made no sense.

He dropped us off like so much garbage in front of the Verizon Biuilding, which meant we, all fifty we, had to circle the block on foot, climb the treacherous staircase that leads to the pedestrian bridge over the West Side Highway, machete our way through a thousand Merrill Lynch temps, head down the stairs, walk half a block to the American Express Building’s doors, wander through the atrium, into the Winter Garden and up the 39 marble steps to the perch in the conservatory. This death march swept away exactly two hundred years of international goodwill and I found myself staring into the face of the War of 1812. The face of war is bloody aye and hungry for death.

I soldiered on and gave my speech, and won a few hearts and minds in the battle. You can imagine my surprise when, having concluded my remarks and standing on the third floor of a glass cage, several of the guests asked me if the bus was coming to this very spot to pick us up. While I wouldn’t put it past Angel to drive up a three-story marble staircase, he made it clear he would not drive up this one, nor anywhere near this building, so apparently peopled it was with phantom meter maids.

“No, we will be heading back to the point of disembarkation.” Words flight attendants use to disarm flustered frequent-flyers. And off we went again headed for the labyrinth they all knew by now and only too well.

“My husband is not well,” shrieked my former friend from Battery Park. Aye. He wasn’t. He was the pallor of the Goya sun. The Dutch began nattering on among themselves, conspiratorial, all Dutch and disgusted. One woman stopped me dead in my tracks to level me with “This is a nightmare, an utter nightmare.” I began to apologize and she interrupted me.

“Save your breath, you’re useless you are.” Useless, dumb, moron. I am become Angel.

Angel drove up like some dumb dipshit angel, to the ignorant cheers of those he had slaughtered, and failing to tell me until I had run all the way back to the Winter Garden that he had driven the six people I was missing back to the ship as they were tired and hungry. We arrived back at the ship hungry and tired. I normally make a plea, as graciously as one can in the position of prostitute, for a gratuity that I split right down the middle with the driver. But I looked back at anger, and back at Angel, the boob at the steering wheel, and spiting my nose to punish my face, made no such plea, said no goodbyes, denied myself any of the money I wouldn’t have to split with the shithead who ruined my day.

Angel was furious. And I could still feel the fury like heat coming off the guests as they passed me. All except for one. One of the Brixton Angels, who grabbed my hand like Cousin Isabel might have done or may do in Season Three to poor Mosely, looked me dead in the eye, gently tossed back her dignified head, and blessed my weary aching soul with “Superb.”

It was rough this Tuesday. Too, the driver was miserable. But a kind word helps. Tell one, and tell it often.


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