Before I start…Yes, that is a Peep dressed up like the Phantom. Yes, I made it. Yes, I am that twisted. Now onto the blog to prove it:
HOW MAKING A PILGRIMAGE TO SEE PHANTOM ALMOST KILLED ME
I made my first trip to New York with my husband (and twenty of our closest friends) in November 2007. We lived in Pennsylvania—a mere three hours away, but a world apart.
From the moment the skyline of Gotham City came into view, I was hooked. I’ve never felt such a personal connection to a place in my life and I’ve lived all over the U.S.
As our party-bus got closer to our destination to our hotel on 5th Avenue, we passed through the Holland Tunnel. Somehow, we’d missed the usual snarl-up and traffic moved along pretty well. Sheer providence!
A sreeeeeeeeeech (like giant nails on a billboard-sized chalkboard), a razor-sharp swerve and a string of obscenities coming from the driver interrupted the rowdy banter of our group of energized forty-somethings. Everyone gasped as we realized we’d been sideswiped inside the tunnel.
Welcome to New York.
Our bus had been grazed by a garbage truck on the passenger side. Now, that doesn’t sound so bad. The only victim had been the car behind us that got hit with something from either the bus or the truck which bounced off the hood and rolled onto the side of the tunnel. Not a problem. We were all alive and still moving at a pretty good speed.
“Can I get someone up here?” the bus driver yelled alarming us with his panicked-sounding demand.
A bus full of type-A personalities and no one moved. Everyone looked at each other with befuddled expressions of silent fear.
“Someone needs to get up here right now!”
My husband I looked at each other. Does he want someone to drive the bus? Is he hurt? Flashes of the movie Airplane came to mind. “I don’t want to alarm anyone, but…does anyone know how to fly a plane?”
“I can’t see…” before the driver finished his sentence, five of the closest guys jumped from their seats and collided with each other in the aisle. As I said before, this was a bus of over-achieving, type-A personalities. They seemed to elbow each other trying to get to the driver—my husband among them. It looked like a scene from the three stooges, plus two.
“G-damnit! Someone stand there!” the driver yelled pointing toward the door. The closest guy took a step back and waited for further instruction.
“Sit down! Move back!” he screamed to the others who’d gathered around his seat and assembled in the aisle.
“Shut up and sit down!”
The man on the steps by the door clutched the arm rail and stared at the driver dumbfounded.
“Turn around, you idiot! Tell me how close I am to that lane, forgodsakes! I thought you were all supposed to be smart! What are you looking at me for?”
The other men found their seats.
The poor fellow in the bus stairwell said, “Uh…you want me to tell you how close you are?”
“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see we don’t have a mirror!”
“And…you want me to be the mirror?” He sounded horrified.
The bus crowd let out a nervous laugh. If we’re going to die, we might as well make fun of someone, right?
“Dude! Shut up and be the mirror!” someone shouted.
He turned toward the door and said, “You’re close to the lane, but, uh…I think you’re okay.”
“How close? Tell me how close!”
“I think-the-guy-next-to-you-driving-the-Miata- just-had-a-cardiac-close.”
“Is that a nautical measuring term?” someone yelled from the back.
This is how we navigated the tunnel and then the congested streets of New York, until we arrived at the hotel. The “mirror guy” was a little pale when it was time to disembark.
“You look scared sh*tless, man,” someone teased him.
“Yeah, well, you would, too. I really couldn’t see squat. I totally bluffed the whole way.”
“Well, what other choice was there? We’re here, aren’t we?”
Did I mention the guy was a Navy SEAL? The moral? A SEAL is going to see the maneuver to its completion if it kills us all.
Once we got off the death bus, I knew, just knew that I found my “happy place.” We spent six days and five nights in the big city. I wanted to cry when we boarded (the now repaired bus) to go home.
One year later, we made the bus trip again. We had a new driver. The other guy retired. I wonder if that trip had anything to do with it?
That year, I fell more in love…with my husband and my “happy place.”
The group made reservations for a very expensive restaurant.
“All right. Your call. We can get great seats for Phantom or go to dinner tonight with the rest of them,” my hubby said to me as we strolled down Times Square.
Eat like a queen or see a phantom?
“You mean, if we don’t eat at X, we can get the better seats?”
“Yes. You decide. We splurge on food or entertainment. Your choice.”
“Look! There’s a street vendor selling hot dogs!”
We went back the year after that, too. We struck a standing deal. Moderately priced meals and decent seats for Broadway shows.
Luckily, I found a mate who loves live shows. Okay, most of the time I have to wake him up halfway through it, but he swears he enjoys theater. He has done his best napping in some of the finest shows in New York. The man can sleep anywhere as long as its dark and the seats are cushioned.
In 2010, we found out he was being transferred from Pennsylvania–three hours from my happy place to…
Texas—three hours from, well, nowhere.
Right before we left, my man surprised me with tickets to Phantom—one last trip to the Majestic theatre! I had never been to NYC in the Spring. It was gorgeous!
That was a fantastic impromptu trip. A night I’ll never forget. Going all out, my beloved even made reservations at a 4-star restaurant before the show. WOW! A fantastic feast and Phantom.
Bless his Catholic-convert heart, he forgot it was Good Friday, a day of fasting.
I hope I’m forgiven.