I’ll say from the start that this is not one of those vortexes I sometimes get caught in, where a trip to fresh-aired yonderlands (in this case, Colorado) makes me rethink why I ever decided to live in New York. No. I love New York in all its fecal glory. I am no Cliff Lee. I am not saying no.
But, for Chrissakes, New York, can you please try rolling out a better Welcome Home mat? I’m not looking for bonbons and backrubs, but it’s hard enough traveling alone with two kids under the age of 5. We don’t need to be thrown into the shouting cesspool so quickly.
It started with NYC air traffic delays that trapped us in transit for four hours at Denver airport (which, by the way, has removed its children’s play area altogether, in favor of a dozen or so oversized pleather chairs meant “for business travelers,” by which they mean the airport equivalent of the sleep-people who usually haunt Greyhound terminals). That’s fine, I get that: we’ve all heard that NYC has crowded skies, with tons of angry cabbie-pilots leaning out of the windows of their 737s, honking madly, and yelling Bengali obscenities at each other.
But arriving near midnight at a grimy, forlorn LaGuardia terminal, having to take both kids into the men’s room, a tiny, hideously scented affair that seemed to have about 40 flatulent travelers in there. Changing my son’s diaper while his sister shouts “I can see your penis!” and then having the boy lurch around me to touch the toilet, which is about two inches away: that’s fun.
Then the sensory assault started in earnest.
Whirring, clacking, screeching, wingeing: that was the near-busted luggage conveyor belt. Then jackets on both squirming kids, plus scarves and gloves and hats because it was 20 degrees outside. And though the terminal may have been empty (except for the hypercrowded bathroom), as soon as we stepped outside it was like Times Square. Honking, idling, shouting, black cars, town cars, taxicabs and then, as a final aural insult, police cars sweeping the waiting area, with lights bleeming, and loudspeaker blaring: Move your car. Move. Now! Move it!
I rolled our two pieces of luggage and made my kids hold each others’ hands and follow me closely. But on the narrow median, with cars double and triple parked, police barking, there was no room for meandering children. They nearly got run over by other pedestrians about five times, everyone trying to roll their bags quickly, too cold to look down at child-level and see what they might be bumping into. The horns never ceased. I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the five minutes it took to find the kids’ mother waiting in the car.
There is, in general, a problem with children and car horns, which I only realized from talking to a ConEd worker a few weeks ago. I was at the street corner, 88th and Amsterdam, I think, waiting for the light, when someone honked his horn for absolutely no reason, and this ConEd guy, on bended knee fiddling with some manhole cover, flinched noticeably. I started chatting with him and he said that people have no idea what it’s like having your head three feet off the ground, the exact height of a car horn, all day, bombarded by random blasts of existential cab-fury.
Three feet happens to be exactly what my daughter clocks these days, so there you have it: from the big quiet white of Colorado mountains to the obliterative noise attack that is New York at three feet above sidewalk level. May you forgive my life choices, children.