“Just don’t panic,” I kept repeating to Diane and Liz, as we stood in the middle of the now deserted 22nd Street. “The Prius has to be here somewhere.” Before I could complete that sentence both Diane and Liz were doing jumping jacks in the middle of 6th Avenue trying to hail a cab.
Occupied taxi’s whipped past us until, finally, a private black car service cut across four lanes of traffic and screeched to a stop in front of our outstretched cab-hailing arms.
“I think my car was towed,” Diane explained, “and I don’t know what to do.”
“Get in,” the young Middle-Eastern driver commanded. I asked how much. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “My car’s been towed before. Let me help you.”
As soon as we jumped in I pulled out $20. Liz lowered her eyes, shaking her head in a disapproving “no.” “Here’s a five,” she mouthed.
Our kind chauffer told us all about his life. Every time he told another story Liz pulled a five from her wallet. “Oh how awful, let’s give him another five.” Story about his mother, “Give him another five.” Story about his siblings, “Anyone got a ten?” By the time we arrived at the Tow Pound we had to keep Liz from writing him a check and naming him as beneficiary for her 401-k.
Add into this mix the fact that we were supposed to pick up Diane’s teen-aged daughter, Emily, and her friend, Kyle, from a Yankee game that ended thirty minutes ago. Which brings me to Diane’s phone. Por qua? She was avoiding every one of her husband’s numerous phone calls. By now he had left so many messages that the pinging “message-waiting” alerts made it sound like Vegas Night inside her purse. Also, Emily’s phone had no service. Diane was stalling informing her husband that she had temporarily misplaced both his new car and his only daughter.
Now, let me just say that the NYC Tow Pound is the closest I hope to ever come to the holding pen of Riker’s Island. I don’t know which scared me the most: the strong smell of fresh urine; people wearing “team” colors with thick chains attached to something heavy in the deep pockets of low-hanging jeans; or the Gangstresses hanging possessively onto the arms of their Baby Daddy’s giving everyone the “hairy eyeball.” I stood on line with Diane and my tribe of new BFF’s to belly-up to the bullet-proof confessional and patiently wait our turn to be extorted.
Standing single-file in a line that did not move, I began to lose all sensation in my feet. Unlike Diane and Liz who wore low-heeled sensible shoes, I was sporting trendy four-inch strappy platforms and the straps had now turned into flesh-eating fiends. Just as I was about to abandon Diane to sit on a newly vacant mustard-colored plastic chair shackled to the wall, a muscle-ripping beautifully dressed dark-skinned man entered the room. I watched in awe as everyone cast their eyes toward the floor and stepped out of his way. He paused by me, bent his head to my ear and whispered, “Killer heels.” Thank God! My prison husband had arrived.
Diane’s phone rang again, but this time it was Emily. “Hey Mom! Me and Kyle took the wrong subway; we’re on 168th Street! This is SO GREAT!”
Giving Diane room to allow her head to explode, I went outside to call my husband, Jim. Unable now to walk, I wobbled arthritically down the makeshift plywood ramp.
“I’m waking the kids and we’re coming to get you, Baby!” he cried semi-hysterically into the phone.
“You’re not waking the kids!” I yelled in reply.
“Then I’ll call my father; he’ll come and get you!”
I put the phone in front of my face and screamed, “Your father hasn’t driven into Manhattan since 1962! He doesn’t know that the El is gone! Unless he’s driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or his name is Sully, he might have a little problem when his car lands in the Hudson!”
Suddenly, my dark-skinned friend appeared and without moving his lips asked, “Everything okay, Baby?”
“Who’s that?” Jim cried in a jealous panic.
“I gotta go. My prison husband’s here.”
To Be Continued…