Monday, October 23, 2006

A Miracle on 60th Ave

this picture has nothing to do with the below post.

Due to varying circumstances I found myself riding my bike from Bayside, Queens (For non-new yorkers that is very far away from everywhere and yet is still considered New York City--which is kind of bullshit because the subway doesn't even go out there.) to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The 12 mile bike ride should have taken me about an hour. This did not happen. First off, I don't know Queens. Not only that I don't get Queens. Even though all the streets have an assigned number the logic of their order defies all known rules of math. You could travel down 73rd avenue and pass 73rd street which is not followed by 72nd street nor 74th, but by 73rd place which is then followed by 73rd road. What? Has time and reason ceased existing in the borough of Queens? And I don't know which direction any of these roads travel in. East? West? North? South? Maybe concentric circles? Who the fuck knows? On top of that the sun had set and I can't see in the dark. Needless to say I got lost. Several times.

I'm not going to lie to you. I've been lost before. Most of the time it's been in a car. Now, being lost in a car is indeed frustrating especially if I have to be somewhere. Usually I scream and punch the ceiling. But on a bike there is no ceiling to punch, and every wrong turn is just another pedal my legs have to push. I do not scream or punch the air. Who has the energy?

On my journey, I pulled off to the side of the road to check my bike map and try to figure out this David Bowie designed land mass known as Queens (That was a reference to the movie Labrynth.). Yes, that is correct I had a map. And still Queens bested me. At one point I knew I had to ride on Main street south, but I couldn't find Main street. (That's right they also have named streets randomly placed in between the illogically numbered streets.) I stopped and asked a gentleman on the street. He was actually somehwhat helpful. Then Main Street ended. Again I stood on a street corner my face buried in my map utterly baffled. Out of nowhere an angel appeared in a four door Sadan from 1979. This angel, a man driving his family home, pulled up to me and asked in broken English. "Where do you want to go?"

"Metropolitan Avenue." I said.

He started giving me directions. He gave up and said, "Follow me." So I did. I got back on my bike and proceeded to follow is car. Only thing--he drove his car at normal car speed. "AHH! "What is he doing?" I pedaled my little feet off. I somehow kept him in sight. When we got to Metropolitan Ave he stopped the car and waited for me. "Down that way. That's to Brooklyn. It's very far. Stay on Metropolitan the whole way. Don't get off." And then he drove off. I made it to Williamsburg. Sure the whole ordeal took me over 2 hours and by the time I got home I'd probably ridden 20 miles (not counting the 12 miles I had ridden earlier that morning--that's another story-more pleasant.), but if that man didn't stop and help, me, a complete stranger I could still be riding.

Why did he do it? Why did he take time from his evening to help some stranger? I didn't even ask for help. He just offered. His help and effort didn't reap him any benefit. Maybe because when you see someone lost you help them. That's the basic human thing to do. Even if it's inconvenient. Maybe other people's well-being matters. I guess my parents already taught me that. I just forgot for a second that helping another person doesn't make you a sucker it makes you human.

2 comments:

Your Friend Jesse said...

Brava! So well said. And here's some help from good old Mike, who knows everything, literally:

*****

"New York Times" July 30, 2006
F. Y. I.
By MICHAEL POLLAK


In the Names of Queens

Q. Some time ago, your column mentioned the Queens Topographical Bureau, in an item about naming Queens streets. What was the Queens Topographical Bureau?

A. Appropriately for a borough known for confusing numbered streets, avenues, boulevards, lanes, crescents and drives, the bureau still exists, at Queens Borough Hall on Queens Boulevard. The bureau supplies maps and various certificates for developers, and issues house numbers. It also puts down benchmarks to permit accurate calculations of property lines; you may have seen its name in the sidewalk.

The bureau's glory year was 1911, when Charles Underhill Powell, a chief engineer there, designed the numbering system to unify the street grid for the 60 or so villages in Queens. Some historians considered the numbered grid a model of urban planning. Many delivery people and outsiders venturing into the borough don't.

Mr. Powell liked to help the uninitiated by distributing a verse by the humorist Ellis Parker Butler, who lived in Flushing:

In Queens, to find locations best

Avenues, roads and drives run west;

But ways to north or south 'tis plain

Are street or place or even lane.

rachael said...

Q. Where was mister Pollak Sunday?

A. Not in Bayside and not at the "I Love Jack" Show.

Sometimes I hate Michael Pollack. Nah, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he too was lost in Queens.