When I was in the Army those many years ago, I first heard the expression “in a New York minute,” and it meant fast. Being from New York myself, the only thing I know for sure that happens quickly in New York is the spending of money. Everything else comes slow.
I wish I could have had one of those fellows I met in the Army with me today, when I tried to get home from a quick shopping sojourn into the city. I live in Williamsburg, right on the cusp of Bushwick and Bed-Sty. A trip into Manhattan is a quick nine minutes on the J train, it takes me to Essex Street. Take the M train on weekdays and I could be in Midtown in twenty minutes.
But today is Saturday, and as all New Yorkers know, Saturday is work on the trains day, and it means planning ahead. I checked my handy subway app on my iphone and found out that the F train was running on the A line from Jay Street in Brooklyn to West Fourth Street in Manhattan. So the F was out as far as getting to Twenty-Third Street, my destination. I was going to Home Depot.
So, my plan was this- get on the J, ride it to Essex, and grab an Avenue A bus to go across Fourteenth Street to Sixth Ave., then walk or grab another bus up to Twenty-third. But when I got off the train at Essex, I discovered it was the DOWNTOWN F that was doing the Eighth Ave. thing. I’ll worry about getting back later. I hopped on an F, made my way to home depot and got what I needed. I figured I’d also hit Trader Joe’s on Twenty-first Street while I was in the neighborhood. When I was done there, all I had to do was reverse the plan. Walk down to Fourteenth, hop on the Ave A Crosstown bus and get to Essex Street. A thirty-minute ride, but certain.
What is not certain, and this is what blows the New York minute maxim out of the water, is when the bus will come.
When I reached the bus stop there were a few people there, and I didn’t see one crawling across Fourteenth, so I waited. The crowd grew and there were no busses in sight. Across the street two Ave. A buses headed in the opposite direction went by. Not a good sign. At the ten minute mark, I could see a bus coming from somewhere beyond seventh Ave. It took several light changes and another eight minutes for it to reach the now sizable crowd.
At least it was an Avenue A bus and not an Avenue D bus. The door opened and people started getting on. I had my metrocard ready.
“Do you go to Park Avenue?” A tourist asked. They don’t know Park Ave. doesn’t come down to Fourteenth.
“I’m only going as far as Third Avenue!” The driver shouted. She was a Black woman in her forties, and she seemed to take great glee in announcing her final destination.
“Third Avenue! Third Avenue! If you want to go further, take the next bus.
This prompted a lot of confusion, people got, on, then got back off. I strained my neck trying to catch a glimpse of the next bus. There was none in sight. Another eight minute wait at the minimum. The short bus finally pulled out.
The next two buses were Ave. D buses, no good for me. Another Bethune Street bound A went by across the street. It was going on forty minutes when I decided to throw in the towel and get on the L train to Brooklyn. Before I descended down to the subway, I had a last look down Fourteenth to make sure another bus wasn’t coming.
I ran down the stairs to the L train, and hoped it was running.