Friday, February 18, 2011
Welcome to New York.
Here follows a tale, and after that we'll be back to terraces and food and Brooklyn, and leftover stories from South Africa.
It wasn't the happiest of arrivals. A promising beginning with a friendly immigrations officer who told us that Puerto Rican pork ribs are the best food in the world, but after 23 hours in the air (9 from Cape Town-Dubai, 14 from Dubai-JFK, on the excellent Emirates), and 42 without sleep, despite comfortable seats, we unpacked our yellow cab on Atlantic Avenue to check into our hotel for the night, and found...a missing computer bag. Mine. Also containing my passports, South African ID and a substantial amount of cash.
And a packet of lamb's lettuce seeds.
We asked the cab to wait and hauled our luggage to the NU Hotel at 85 Smith, where we would spend the night while Dinah, cat sitter deluxe, got her last night of rest in our apartment, before flying home to Queensland in the morning. Then Vince headed straight back to the airport to the dispatch area where we'd probably left the bag in the luggage cart. I hopped up and down in the lobby waiting to sign in and charge my dead phone.
Who do you start calling when your life seems to have been lost at one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world?
In New York, 311.
Not that that helped much. I got a generic number for JFK, and then that gave me the number for lost property. All you can do is leave a message describing what was lost, and where. If it is found, they will call you.
If you're interested, it is 718-244-4225.
I thought, I've got to do better. I need the number for the dispatch guy at the cab stand. He must have found the bag. But first I had to call Melanie and Dinah, to cancel our dinner in 20 minutes at Al di La, where I had wanted to thank them for their kindness and help avec le chat noir while we had been gone. I found Melanie in bed in the Bronx with a virus. I found Dinah on Union Street heading for the restaurant. She did an about-face and headed for the hotel.
I said an emergency prayer.
Vince called. The police at JFK had just called him, en route in the cab. They had a computer bag. They found his number as next of kin in a passport. He and the taxi turned around to fetch my driver's license (thankfully in my wallet, separate from the rest) so that he could claim it. They would not say how much money was in the bag. He returned, headed out again, this time on the A train, to save cash. The taxi driver had refused a tip on his second run to the airport.
Before Vince left he reminded me to check the bed for bed bugs*. I burst into tears.
[* New York has been besieged by bed bugs - found even at the Waldorf Astoria - and we booked into NU after I'd found a bed bug alert for another hotel.]
Three hours later Vince returned again, empty handed. The lost property could not be accessed after hours, despite the website stating that it was open 24 hours a day.
In the meantime Dinah had arrived bearing cold prosecco. We had never met before, and she must have been non-plussed at the sight of this jet lagged, stressed out, sleep-deprived person. I wolfed my first glass of bubbly. She stayed till Vince returned, and put up with my yawns and pink rabbit eyes. Not exactly the thank you I had intended. She is quite a lady.
In the morning, we walked our luggage back to the spotless apartment, slimmed down cat and vase of fresh tulips (I swear if I'd found that kid in the apartment on this day I would've ripped his head off), and headed straight back out to JFK. The A train, then the Air Train which was a free shuttle just that day, due to some maintenance work on the tracks, saving us $20, and yet another shuttle, and were dropped at building #269 on a service road. Walked in, showed my driver's license to Officer Velasquez, signed his book, and was handed my bag. Laptop, two passports, SA ID, and all the cash, which had been counted.
I learned that Marsha Dertan, a supervisor at taxi dispatch, had handed it in. I do not know who gave it to her. I took her number and left a message for her earlier today with a colleague who asked, You got everything? suspiciously. I hope that she will call, so that I can thank her properly, as well as the person who found it in the first place.
There were several opportunities for things to turn pear-shaped here, and not one was taken.
We are back in the big, bad city.