Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jaw-dropping moment of the day

This morning, on three hours' sleep, I trekked into New York City to attend the Asian American Journalists Association New York chapter's "East Coast mini-conference."

AAJA is a professional journalists' organization which - although I like to say I joined to meet girls - has added an interesting sidelight to my career.

I love professional conferences because, frankly, there's plenty I have to learn about being a journalist, and I enjoy the professional development aspect of such confabs.

(This should all culminate this summer in my trip to the national convention in Hawaii.)

Anyway, I was a volunteer at the convention in the afternoon (manning the "hi, can I help you?" table at the entrance) and the seminars I wanted to attend were in the morning, so despite working past midnight Friday night, meaning I got home after 1 a.m. - three days in a row of late nights thanks to breaking news Wednesday (which a superior spotted and we busted ass to get in) and Thursday (which I spotted, to much applause later) - I staggered out of bed at 6:45 and headed for the train into NYC.

Now, I was pretty freakin' tired, but I was still alert enough to drop my jaw in shock at the singular event that transpired when I arrived at New York Penn Station (Madison Square Garden for you sports fans).

I was en route to New York University, which is somewhere down in the Village near a place called Washington Square (it's a park).

So, not knowing my way around the Village (once the N.Y. streets stop their Theatre District numerical grid, I'm lost, to my Bronx-native father's everlasting disgust), I hopped in a cab at the Garden.

New York University, I said. The Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East.

Do you know the cross-street, the cabbie replied.

Huh? I responded.

And then he told me the damndest thing. He didn't know where it was. He wanted a cross street so he could figure it out (i.e. Washington Square and ...).

It's a park. It's Washington Square North, South, East and West. Four streets, a square, around a park. (I know that, because I was at the mini-conference last year, too.)

I might point out Washington Square Park is on the little maps in the back of the freakin' cabs.

I ended up getting out of the cab and into another one.

Do you know where New York University is, I asked THAT driver.

Of course, he replied. It's over there. (Pointing in the right direction.)

In fact, it's less than a 10-minute ride "over there."

I've been going into New York City, I'd guess, since I was maybe 5 years old. Maybe even earlier, I just don't remember. But in all those years, I can never, ever, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER-NEVER-NEVER remember a cabbie who didn't know where the hell he was going.


I'm still startled, and it's about 18 hours later.

I told everyone I hung out with at the convention, and none of them could believe it either.

Was it a yellow cab? one asked, or a livery cab?

Yellow cab. You know, the real cabs. The ones that line up outside Penn Station.

It's not like I wanted to go to Biff's House of Barbecue, "somewhere in the Village."

I wanted to go to New York Freakin' University.

I realize, as a Carnegie Mellon alum, I probably don't hold NYU in the respect it deserves - they're athletics rivals - but I mean, it's a freakin' college.

It's on the damn MAP!




And the guy didn't know where he was going. I should've gotten his medallion number, just to do humanity a favor.

But I was so stunned, I didn't even do that. I just stared in frustration as he kept saying, I don't know where that is. Until I finally just got out and got that second cab.

The third cabbie of the day, by the way, got me back to Penn Station just fine.

I might point out, the first seminar I went to was on blogs - I meant to go to one more tailored to my full-time journalistic job, but they switched rooms on me and I was in the front row by the time I discovered it was the wrong seminar, and getting up and walking out seemed like it would be a rude response to "you're all in the right seminar, right?"

Especially since I was a volunteer, after all.

Whether my participation will mean any improvement in this here blog, I don't know.

(Aside, my colleagues at the paper probably wouldn't recognize me at the seminar - by virtue of the train schedule, I inevitably wind up excessively early for AAJA events, whereas as I've made clear, I'm late for everything else on a near-fanatical basis, including work. I got to NYC so early, I had not one, but three cups of coffee AND an iced tea before the 10 a.m. start time. I had to pee in between each seminar. Literally. I must've set a convention record for trips to the men's room. But I stayed awake through the entire thing despite my three hours of sleep last night, not dozing off until the train ride home, 12 hours and four after-party Coronas later. And, I might point out, it's 2 a.m. and I'm a dreadful mix of completely exhausted and wired as all get-out.)

AAJA New York
New York City cabs
New York University
Washington Square Park
Directions from Penn Station to the Silver Center

By the way, for those keeping track, the movie's almost done and the (private) premiere is slated for early June. Yay!