Monday, May 30, 2011

Dances with Luggage Carts

Dances with Luggage Carts

Those of you who don't live in Manhattan would have no idea what chaos to expect on Memorial Day evenings, or for that matter, any long summer weekend. Oh sure, you might imagine or have heard of terrible traffic problems coming back into the city. But the scramble to unload cars, find a luggage cart to deposit all your belongings and leave it to begin a desperate search for parking can cause harried doorman to have fits of nerves.

Of course not everyone in Manhattan goes away on these holidays but a fair amount of us do. We head off to Long Island, or various shores, to summer homes or rentals, to the water, fresh air, cool breezes, barbecues and chilled beverages. Whether in quest of a tan or a relaxing place to laze around and throw a ball for the dog, we just want to get away from the city. And from the looks of it when we leave or return, we don't travel lightly. We bring weekend bags of clothing and sundry items, we haul summer vacation paraphernalia and, those of us that travel with small children and/or pets know that we must pack for them, too.

What's more, we may return with even more than we had when we left. Manhattan is an expensive place to live and getting out of the city can mean shopping opportunities in malls and discount stores not normally available to us. After all, we'll have our cars with us to haul back the giant boxes of tissues and toilet paper, the cases of soda and cereal. Am I generalizing? I don't know. I'll tell you our story and what I witness on our travels.

We counted down to Memorial Day weekend all winter long and, at long last, it arrived. The Friday before a holiday weekend is an early dismissal day for many Manhattan corporations but early isn't early enough for those of us that want a head start on the traffic. Since my employer affords me a generous amount of vacation days, I plan accordingly and take Friday off. So, by 10:00 am I am standing in front of our apartment building with packed bags loaded onto one of my building's luggage carts. Our doggie, Hadley, is standing next to me, having already been walked in anticipation of a long ride and we are waiting for Brian to pull up with the car.

All around me are many of my neighbors with similar luggage carts, children and pets. As we look at buildings up and down the block, we see similar scenarios. There is happy anticipation of the long weekend but also some edginess since there is limited space for the cars to stand in front of the building  for loading and they're starting to queue up as buses and taxis try to pass. Even more edgy are our doormen who must scramble to assist with loading the bags as the cars pull up and they have to hustle when several are there at once. They also know that more of our neighbors are descending to the lobby and becoming annoyed at the lack of sufficient luggage carts. The doormen need to help pack the trunks quickly and free up the carts. They don't like working this shift on this day.

But, at last we're off for much fun and revelry while the doormen remain in the city at their regular jobs, albeit with less crowded buildings.

We return on Monday evening, some of us earlier, some later. But there are enough of us to make the flow constant. We're tanned and happy but are now steeling ourselves for the post-holiday evening routine and we know the drill. Queuing up behind the other cars in front of our building, all of whom are also there to unload bags, we watch doormen scramble to once again find sufficient luggage carts for all of us. We finally have our turn in front of the building, quickly unload and hand the full cart off to our doorman to wheel inside and guard since we must now go find a parking spot. Yes, some people pay for a garage but many of us have chosen not to spend $500 a month on that luxury and so we must begin to search around. Parking space hunting can be intense on nights like this and is best done by two people - one driving and the other searching not just for open spaces but more likely for people getting into their cars and possibly vacating spaces.

This time we got lucky and found a space within 10 minutes. That is good news, not just for us, but for our doorman who is again dealing with too few available luggage carts because so many are sitting there full of bags and waiting for their owners to park. The doormen don't much like working this shift either. When we come walking into the building after parking, we are beseeched to return the cart as quickly as possible after getting our bags upstairs. And so, we do.

And we unpack, unwind and mentally prepare to go back to jobs and day-to-day reality. That is, until the long 4th of July weekend, one month away, when we will dance this dance again.

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