The Lighter Side of Travel
Humor Catalog

Getting Lost In New York
And How to Cope
by Vicky Vasco

So I'm thinking I'm a big shot now. I've been traveling by bus and taxi in New York for over two weeks and haven't gotton lost once. Until this past weekend.

FLASHBACK: It's Saturday. Around 1:00 p.m.. I'm at the bus stop waiting for the Q46, my usual bus to take me to the subway. I'm headed to Bloomingdale's and to the New York Public Library. Bloomingdale's because it's the only place that I'm sure always has my favorite DKNY black tights and the library because I've never been there.

As I'm waiting at the bus stop, poignant, introspective thoughts cross my mind, profound thoughts like: when I get back from the city and I want to take the Q46 back home instead of having my Significant Other pick me up like he usually does, which side of the street does the bus stop on?

There is a guy also waiting, standing a few feet from me. He looks to be in his early thirties. He's wearing a baseball jacket and a wool cap and talking on a cell phone. After he's done with his call, I ask him the Big Question. "Excuse me, where do I get the Q46 on the way back from the subway?"

He's very friendly. "The same side of the street you get out from the subway," he tells me. Brilliant. We start to chat. I tell him I'm Anna from Florida and he tells me his name is Stefan and he's from Jersey. He visits his girlfriend here in Flushing every weekend. He and his girlfriend met on the Internet while she was still living in Puerto Rico. It was a hot and heavy e-romance for months. She came to the U.S. and they finally met in front of Macy's and have been together ever since. Five months to be exact. I tell him that's a great story and relate my own unsuccessful love interlude with Internet dating. We laugh. But I digress, because this story is about getting lost. So let's get back to that.

Suddenly Stefan reaches into his pocket and pulls out a card. "Hey, want this Metro Pass?" he asks me. "You can use the buses and subways all day for free with this. I thought I lost mine so my girlfriend gave me hers. But I found mine. So you can have this, it'll only go to waste." The pass, he tells me, costs one 6 bucks for the day. He doesn't want any money for it and insists I take it. Who says New Yorkers are a bad lot? Not me. (Even though he is technically from Jersey...)

After the bus drops us off, we both end up on the same subway train. Stefan warns me that there is construction in the tunnels on the weekends and that my usual E and F train won't be coming back to my station and that when I return from the city I need to take the "R" train instead. I write all this stuff down. And I have a map. I figure, I got it made. I'm prepared like a Girl Scout. We part at 42nd St.

I spend the afternoon according to plan; the library, Bloomie's and then it's time to go home. Remembering about the "R" train, I make my way to the subway and ask the girl in the booth if it's true that that the "R" train will go to my Union Turnpike stop. (I always like to check, just in case.) Booth Girl is chewing gum and talking on the phone. She briefly looks at me and gives me an annoyed nod. "Union Turnpike," I repeat. "Does the "R" train go to Union Turnpike?" She give me a "yes" nod and rolls her eyes. I get on the "R" train using my handy Metro Pass.

I'm riding and riding and riding and riding. People getting on. People getting off. None of the stops look familiar. Hmmmmm....this train must be taking the long way because it sure is taking TWICE as long to get back home. We pass a stop called "Union Street" Oh, oh. And now we just went ABOVE ground. There was no light of day on the way in. Gee, maybe I'm on the wrong train? Duh. The train stops and everybody gets out. "Last stop, 86th Street" I hear the conductor (whom you never see) say.

I follow everyone out. I have no idea where I am. I know it's not 86th Street in Manhattan. And it sure ain't in Queens. I continue following the crowd onto the next platform. I look at the sign that shows the subway map.There it is; 86th Street stop and I'm in...Brooklyn. About two hours out of my way. Great! I see a sign for the "F" train. I know and love the "F" train so I follow the signs. 007 would have been challenged to follow the path for this F train!

I had to go down two corridors, up three flights of stairs around another corridor and then emerge above ground to wait on a platform that looked like it was straight out of a Mad Max movie. I looked around the platform, embraced by the now darkening sky; there were 10 or 12 gang kids to the left of me blasting rap music; two agitated looking dark haired guys to the right of me, smoking and pacing that looking like they could definitely have been cast in the Sopranos. There were no other women. The music was getting louder. Some more gangstas came up the stairs. Of course, earlier this week, I had bragged to my friends on the phone about how great I was getting around and how safe I always felt. For the first time ever since I've been in New York I was feeling a little...uneasy. Please dear God, let this train come.

And it did. Just as I was getting ready to go back downstairs, just to get the hell out of where I was.

I took the F train all the way back home. It turns out that it was just the E train that didn't go all the way back. Thank God I had that Metro Pass. There was no human being at the booth at the Mad Max station to sell me a token. The pass saved my ass.

I learned some valuable lessons today and thought about how to cope with getting lost:

1. Never brag about how travel savvy you are. The Universe will hear you and immediately kick your butt.

2. Pay attention to maps. A detour for construction usually doesn't get rerouted to another country, state, borough, or hours out of the way. If you don't see your destination on the map you're carrying—you just might be lost.

3. Don't panic. And don't sing along to rap music if you don't know the words.

4. Carry a copy of Guns 'N Ammo and pretend to be reading it if you get stuck in a potentially unfriendly environment.

5. Never take the advice of anyone who appears not to be listening to you.

6. When you feel lost, never, ever look around you in exasperation and say out loud: Where the hell am I? Just my luck to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a $600 camera and all my credit cards in my purse.

One final word: trust that God will help you...and carry a cell phone.

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