Thursday, December 22, 2005

strike? what strike?

this post is for all those of you in the rest of the world who, reportedly, were able to carry on your lives much as you were accustomed to this week.

i want it on the record that this strike did what nothing else - not awkward relationships, not midterms, not mismatched roommates - could do: it gave me a nervous breakdown.

tonight was the last radio show of the semester. seeing as how so many of my shows get cancelled for events or for gigs, i desperately wanted to make this week. plus, i had an archeology presentation (i built a model of stonehenge using gummy bears - insert spinal tap quote here) uptown right after the show. plus, i had a free ticket to see the yu play (more on that later). in short, i had a full night ahead of me. so the first call i made when i sat up in bed in the morning was to security: what do i have to do to get uptown by seven?

the answer i received was, leave no later than three.

well, ok, i thought. that's not so bad. i'll catch the bus from school, i'll bring my music and my knitting, maybe some work in case i get to yu early...it's only four hours early.

"are you crazy?" says the security guard when i get to stern. "there's no three o'clock shuttle. the traffic sets everything back three hours. if you don't get on the one-thirty bus, you gonna have to wait till four-thirty for another, and then you ain't gonna get there by seven. you gotta get on the one thirty."

i glance at my watch. "one-thirty? um, ok, it's one now. let me run back to the dorm and pick up my roommate (new and improved- moved in with the neighbor!) and drop off my lab books - i'll be right back."

"sure, sweetie," says the security guard.

we show up, racing and breathless, at one twenty-five, to find that the shuttle left at one fifteen.

"Why did it do that?" i say.

the guard shrugs. "that's when it came. the next one's at three. why don't you try that one?"

i glance at my neighbor.

"we'll go to archeology class," she says, "and then we'll come down here at two-fifty, so we don't miss it. and we'll have all our stuff packed and ready to go. we can make it."

"ok," i say.

an hour plus of class later- two forty-eight - my neighbor and i are standing once again on a street unclogged by shuttles.

"sorry honey," says the security guard. "it left at two forty-five. you know what, there's another one coming at four-thirty. why don't you give me your number and i'll call you when it comes?"

"will we make it at four-thirty?" my neighbor says to me.

"it'll be tight, but we have no choice," i say. by this time, my hands are beginning to clench, a little. "hey, at least we can run down and get lunch!"

"the caf's not open...we'll have to go back to the dorm."

"we have another two hours, almost. we've got plenty of time."

two minutes after we get home, the phone rings. the shuttle's here and it's about to leave.

"now? they said it wasn't coming for another hour and a half!"

"it's here now, it's leaving, no lunch, let's go!"

we race out the door for the third time, bags thumping heavily behind us, faces red - we dash up to the shuttle, climb inside -

and the driver climbs out.

"where is he going?"

"he's taking a break now. he's been working all day. he has break until five-thirty."

"you mean this shuttle isn't leaving until five thirty?"

"that's correct, miss."

"but it's twenty-five to four."

"that's right."

"isn't there anyone else who can drive it?"

"no."

"but we won't get there in time!"

"i can't help you, miss."

my neighbor looks at me. "we could walk."

"you still won't make it in time," the security guard advises. "plus, y'all gonna get mugged in harlem. i wouldn't walk there at night. why don't you stick around...it can't hurt."

i just stare at her. my neighbor stares at me.

"we'll wait outside," i say cautiously. "in case you change your mind."

"it's cold out here, miss. this shuttle ain't leaving till five-thirty."

"we'll wait in the tv lounge," my neighbor says. "it's ok. just relax."

"you'll call us before it leaves?"

"of course. this shuttle won't leave without you."

at this point, i am beginning to feel tired, and a little bit stressed. five thirty to seven in rush hour traffic, when nobody knows what's going on- call me crazy, but i don't think we're going to make it. and that means my show is off. again. and i won't get to see the play, or make my presentation, which i have, by the way, worked hard on.

but ok. we'll wait in the tv lounge.

well, wait a minute. five-thirty, that's two hours away. clearly i'm not getting to yu ahead of time, so i won't get any work done. there's no point in lugging a bag full of fifteen library books with me all around campus. i'll just drop it off at home and...

and as i walk past the shuttle, i notice that it is full of people. i stop and stare. why are there people on the shuttle two hours before it's scheduled to leave?

"are you going on the uptown shuttle?" a security guard on a smoking break asks me.

"yes," i say, utterly confused. "but it's not leaving yet."

"oh, it won't fill up without you. they wrote your name on the seat."

"really?" i say hopefully.

"no," he laughs, shaking his head. "if you want to go on uptown at five-thirty, you better get your butt on a seat NOW and hold on for dear life."

"it doesn't leave for two hours," i say, heart sinking. "there has to be seats. what am i gonna do - just sit on a stationary van for two hours?"

"unless you can fly."

sure enough, i climb aboard the shuttle to discover that there are about three seats left. the bus is filled mostly with rambunctious security personnel tired from working a long day, angry about being bumped shuttles, and desperate to get home before rush hour.

i call my neighbor. we sit on the shuttle for two hours. we watch as newcomers, finding no available seats, casually move posessions used to save seats onto the floor and sit down. one old man comes on and yells that someone has to give up their seat so he can go uptown. a girl wants to sit on the floor but security won't let her. shouting erupts on the bus. people start heckling security to get the shuttle rolling already. security responds in kind. i try to knit but my yarn is an endless knotted loop with no end for me to twist around the needle, and i have no scissors. my phone stops working, and my mp3 player's battery runs dangerously low. we have to squeeze over to fit as many people as we can per row. i start to feel nauseous.

finally at five, the shuttle begins to move. wild cheers erupt.

and die down immediately, as we hit third avenue, bumper to bumper, and it slowly dawns on us that no one is getting home any time in the near future.

i can not explain to those of you who haven't really experienced new york traffic how harrowing it is to sit, crammed like a sardine between two people, watching the same stop light change color over and over again. gaining ground inch by inch. realizing that in the past forty-five minutes, you have moved essentially five blocks. extrapolating that you have - say - 170 more blocks to go. realizing that you are going to have to get onto the fdr - that you can't even CONTEMPLATE getting onto the fdr for another two hours minimum - unable to even move, the people are packed so tightly - negotiating with yourself. "ok, so there's no way i can make the radio show. but i may still make the presentation...ok, so i'm clearly not making the presentation. but maybe i'll make the play...or the second act...or...oh my G-d, that cannot be fifty-second street. it's six-thirty. we have GOT to be past fifty-second street..."

i lost it. i tried to lose it with dignity and failed. i had my own private panic attack, right there in the bus. i hadn't eaten, i felt sick, i could not imagine sitting on third avenue for another two hours, but there was no end in sight...i started gasping for breath like i haven't done since i was eleven or twelve years old. i put my head down between my knees. nothing helped. i pulled the hood of my coat over my face and started to cry - about traffic, which was even more humiliating because there are more worthwhile causes for which i have shed not one tear - and i don't think i stopped crying for the next hour or so. i called my mom. i would like to say that i didn't cry out loud. hey, you gotta take pride in something.

by some miracle, we made it to the station on time, thus dashing my cohost's dreams of stealing the whole hour to blast his personal hitlist such as "kryptonite" and the like.

once the show started i could laugh again. my friend the station manager - remember him? - guest starred for a special rendition of "if i knew you were coming, i'da baked a cake", by my father's special request, which was so priceless that i'm going to sneak into his studio and steal the recording. we had my cohost, of course, back on the show, and he always adds a certain...special...something...that can only be defined as 'needless interruption.' not to mention a five-and-a-half minute shout out to his girlfriend. good L-rd. but my neighbor came on for a little bit, the station manager was his usual gravely ridiculous self (always willing to play The Man and Authority Figure for necessity's sake), and a lot of my friends ACTUALLY LISTENED this time. good times. good times.

after that, the cohost, my neighbor and i ditched the station manager (heeeeey!) to go to my presentation, which, due to spectacular stress and a campus-wide lack of gummy bears, did not feature me, per se, presenting. on the way back we passed the poc (remember him?) "and there's another one of our tour guides everybody wave hiiiiiiii the cheat(kch)."

we sat in archeology for awhile eating tuna sandwhiches and feeling slightly silly embarrassed as the other students proceeded to run through excruciatingly detailed accounts of their site's archeological implications. no gummybear stonehenge and multiple-choice-around-the-world for them. my neighbor assured me that mine was just "special." we had to leave early to make the play, but my neighbor, utterly riveted by the intriguing slides of zimbabwe's ancient culture, stayed behind, leaving me and the cohost to sneak out of furst with as much dignity as possible.

i want to talk about the play because it was pretty darn good. i say that, admittedly, coming from a background of "Annie!" and "oliver!" productions, but this was seriously the most intense performance by jewish kids that i'd ever seen. the play was called 'The black box', and it reminded me so much of this video game my dad and my brothers play...i think it's called half-life. anyway, the play, from what i hear based on something that actually happened, portrays a psychological experiment that a few college students took part in - a few were designated as prison guards, the other five were prisoners, and they were supposed to live out their roles for eleven days as realistically as possible without using violence. the experiment was supposed to study the different conflicts and interactions that the prison-and-guard relationship inspired...a very slight euphamism for examining the mechanics of nazi concentration camps - how the prisoners' wills were broken and how the guards could as human beings bring themselves to commit the atrocities they did. the college students were held in check by the incentive of credit and money - if one person left, no one got any of either, so peer pressure really left no escape for any of them. there were the prototypes: your revolutionary thinker who wants to out-mastermind the proffessors, your aloof possible-spy, your wimp who wants to go back to their mommy. and the guards - the jerk, the leader, the one who feels bad for the prisoners and tries to help them. and the professor reminded me of nothing if not john cleese in one of his hysteria-enraged monologues.

but the actors carried the whole procession to its grim conclusion with so much conviction. one of the prisoner's nervous breakdowns was so convincing i was momentarily afraid he would charge right at me and start shaking me (we were in the front row). the violence never felt staged, and the set design and props were so realistically stark that when one of the guards charged in with a gun - and it cracked - i jumped in my seat. there were a few weak links in the cast - i found a few of the guards to be less than memorable, or a little overdone - but ultimately, the shaking, convulsing, terror, horror, the sense of something gone completely out of control was very palpable to me. i haven't seen so many plays, but of those that i have, it was definitely involving and well-produced. i wish my brothers and my dad could have seen it, though. i know kovi would've memorized the whole thing.

anyway, the cohost is friends with a lot of people in ycds, so we got invited to the cast party, which was - you guessed it! - right outside the radio station. and featured awesome, awesome chinese which i did not eat, and many deserts which i did. to tell you the truth, i felt a little uncomfortable there after awhile - the art crowd is going to be eccentric wherever you go, but you also have to factor in the 'party' half and you've got a great recipe for sketchiness. so i brought the station manager some food and hung out in his office on 'the comfy chair' while he made the setlist for his show - spamless komedy show, a history of musical comedy, which airs at midnight on thursdays. you know, making fun of his every choice. me and the cohost crashed his office and took over his computer. then we proceeded to crash his radio show, along with my neighbor/roommate, the guys' freshmen president (he was in the play), and his older brother, who is the arts and culture editor of the commie. this last bit was especially cool for me because i am a big fan of this year's arts and cultures features - he seems genuinely committed to good, varied and interesting music, and he explores the jewish issues as well: he did an expose of kol isha and women in jewish music that really interested me. anyway, after an hour or so of discussing the pros and cons of country yossi, censorship, and matisyahu, during which several people's mikes were turned off forever, we called it a night. my neighbor and i walked back to yu ten minutes early so we would be sure to catch the last shuttle of the night.

which, of course, had left without us. twenty minutes before the sheduled time.

merry christmas.

9 Comments:

Blogger PsychoToddler said...

So how did you get back?

11:28 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

wow. have a Very Good Shabbos!

i was going the opposite way (sorry i missed your show again) — tried walking, but it was too late and too cold so i grabbed a cab from 181st down to 34th (who knew Mendy's is across the street from Stern?). the traffic was fine until around 95th street where we bailed off the West Side Highway and did that whole sitting in endless traffic thing.

Let me just say, thank God for mass transit!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oh, man, I missed your last show of the semester? Bummer! I was working extra extra late last Thursday, of necessity--I could only get to that non-Manhattan office via my home-from-college son's car, driven by the hubby, and had to wait to be picked up by said hubby after he finished teaching at 8:30 PM.

How on earth did you get home? It's a long walk from Harlem to midtown.

11:25 PM  
Blogger fudge said...

my friend put us in a cab.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

You should think about switching nights... Thursday nights tend to be when most other events happen (save the Motzei Shabbos ones). Plus, I'm selfish: I always am busy then or forget to listen! :)

2:02 PM  
Blogger Tzipster91 said...

Invest in a bicycle.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

You had a panic attack in public?! I am so sorry for you! I thought the worst was to be alone, but in public is definitely worse. I hope your friend was sweet & understanding.

Once I had a series, all day, in the presence of my parents. They don't understand at all, and will never quite respect me again. I actually had a nightmare about the situation last night...So I hope your medical 'rents get it a whole lot better, and I hope this isn't a regular occurrence for you.

I don't understand why you have to go so far so often. It seems your college has multiple campuses? Maybe there's a website that explains this situation you're in?

4:36 AM  
Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

Oh, I forgot to ask, has the station begun to publish your recorded shows on the internet? Cuz I really covet them.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

Oh, and by the way, congratulations on moving! I hope you're much happier with the new 'mate.

And you're a tough cookie. I would've had a nervous breakdown the first week of school. I actually cried in public after my first day of college, fortunately among nice people, and it wasn't half as bad as your stories.

4:51 AM  

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