Theaters throughout New York’s Broadway district were letting out for the evening, but the rain was not relenting – neither was the winter cold, which came in blasts.
Suddenly we were among hundreds competing for a dry way to get to where we were staying. There were taxis, many of them, but every one was filled and heading away. We could have taken the subway, but the underground station was several blocks away and I wasn’t sure what to do when I got there. I was still not yet Über-literate, but we could have prearranged to hire a car. (Next time I will try to remember to do that, and to bring Bill Gates with me to split the tab.)We were cold, wet and helpless on Broadway.
Then, of all the monologues spoken on Broadway that night, none was as beautiful as the one delivered by a young man standing on the corner speaking in an Eastern European accent. “Would you like a ride?” he asked.
Looking through the forest of transportation options I had failed to see the critters, the pedicabs, working their way through the crowds. Our destination was about 20 blocks away, yet he agreed to take us. His vehicle is essentially a tricycle. We plumped into the two seats in the back. Then he zipped a plastic sheet that surrounded us. For a moment I felt claustrophobic as we were sealed into cellophane like a pair or potato chips. Our driver began pedaling. It would have been better had I not been looking. He began by actually turning head on into the traffic and then weaving his away across the street to the left lane. Then he straightened his path. His legs, pumping like pistons, propelled us up Eighth Street. He was not, as might have been expected, a hunk with bulging muscles; instead he was an average sized kid with lots of gumption trying to make bucks. (Four per minute, but it was worth it.)
Unlike us, he had no protection from the rain. He pedaled into the elements, hauling us though a soggy night. From a taxi’s perspective the streets of Manhattan seem to be level. As seen from a pedicab, the truth is revealed. The island was carved from hills. In the direction we were heading there was a gradual elevation. Our driver was standing at the pedals working up the force, chugging with each down stroke.
By the time we got to our destination the rain had subsided. From there we only had to walk across the street, then continue about a half-block. He unzipped us. Once I added in his well-deserved tip, the cost was more than had we actually hired a car; nevertheless, without him we might still be standing on Broadway waiting for the taxis to return.
There was a median in the street where we waited next to a traffic light to cross the street. We talked about how lucky we were to be arriving dry. Meanwhile the traffic light was about to turn red. Onrushing taxi drivers sped up, whizzing near the curb where puddles had accumulated. There must have been four taxis in a row, each shooting a splash into the air roughly equivalent to Hawaiian surfing waves. The water formed a canopy over us, and then crashed down, leaving us thoroughly soaked.
In the end we were drenched, but at least in the final act there had been a hero.