May 31, 2012
I nearly died the other day.
Catchy intro, no? It is sort of true too.
I live in Brooklyn but work on Long Island. I was renting a Toyota Yaris which I detested (you can read of my disgust here) and that’s where my story starts.
I was wasting a lot of money every week renting that car. The price was not too bad but the fact that I was throwing away money week after week without any chance of ownership was horrible. If I was putting that much money towards a car I should at least own it at the end. Plus I hated the infernal Yaris.
Using some of my Company contacts, I was hooked up with the owner of a Subaru dealership about a half hour away from my office, farther and deeper in Long Island. I am a Brooklyn guy and I do not know Long Island, other than the Southern State Highway. But I mapped the route and it was an easy ride to the dealership in Glen Cove. The day was dark and overcast, with drizzles on and off all morning, but it was not too bad.
I left work for an early lunch and intended to be back in an hour and a half. I know that was cutting it close with travel but I really only intended to go and have a preliminary talk with the owner. I got to the dealership and the owner was expecting me. I told her what car I was interested in, the Impreza, and that is where the adventure begins.
She tossed me the keys, pointed to a car out front, and said to take it for a test drive. I never heard of a solo test drive but there it was. And she didn’t know me either. Yes, she knew where I worked and who I worked with, so if I ran off with the car she could track me down, but who ever heard of a solo test drive?
It was a mistake. Oh, not on her part, she got the car back safe and sound, it was a mistake on my part.
I had planned to drive it around the block. In New York that’s easy, four right turns and there you are, back where you stated. Not so much in Long Island. I turned the corner and saw this:
Soooo, it is both a parking lot and a tunnel to downtown? Okay, sounds odd, maybe I shouldn’t go through… but there are cars behind me and I can’t turn around.
I drove through and…
… came out the other side in a totally normal looking place.
I followed the street for about three blocks and decided not to push my luck and go back. I pulled into a parking lot and pulled out the other way. Simple, right? I go back the way I came, just 3 blocks, go through the tunnel, turn left, and be back at the dealership.
But I couldn’t find the tunnel. Never saw it. Instead I drove into a residential area, a small community in and of itself, really. Houses, lawns, more houses, more lawns, and no tunnel to or from downtown.
OK, I had to have made a wrong turn. I have no idea how that was possible but I did. So I planned to turn back around and go back the way I came, back to the parking lot, and start over again.
But I couldn’t. It was raining a little harder, and the road I took meandered and branched off and curved and there were no signs or landmarks and all I managed to do was drive further and further into the town. I desperately wanted to ask someone for directions but I did not see a single person anywhere. Houses, lawns, no people.
I was getting a little worried. I had no clue where I was. I also left the phone number for the dealership in the rental and I have zero faith in my cell phone. (The Optimus V is supposedly a good phone? Not in my experience.) And then the hurricane started.
It was bad. The rain came down so strong, and the wind was so blustery, that the car rocked, I could see nothing out of the window no matter how fast the wipers ran, and I had to pull over. I found out later that I pulled over and onto part of someone’s lawn but I did not care. I was totally lost, in a storm of (it felt) epic proportions, and I was sure that I was going to total the car I was test driving.
Eventually the rain stopped enough for me to drive on and then I discovered my next problem: the windows had fogged up to an opaque blackness and I couldn’t find the defroster.
After wiping the window with my sleeve, which did nothing but smear it, I found the defroster switch and I must say the Impreza has one heck of a defroster. I was back on the road in no time.
But the road to where?
After more aimless wandering I found a road named Central Avenue. It wasn’t any bigger or more promising than the others but I the name sounded good and I took it and sure enough it led me right out of town-
-and into a seedy, run down area full of closed stores, sketchy garages, and, again, no people. I drove up the street for about six blocks until I saw an old man and I, with desperation finally abating called him over and asked him where Glen Street was.
“Well, before I can tell you where Glen Street is, I have to know which town.”
“Um, this one?” I am from Brooklyn. I don’t know from towns. Of course the correct answer would have been Glen Cove but my brain was still in crisis mode.
After some hemming and hawing and which-towning he finally told me that Glen Street was just two blocks ahead. I was so happy that I did not kill him for being so annoying. I thanked him and drove off, straight ahead to…
Thanks a lot, old man. About the only thing I was sure of was that I was driving in the wrong direction. I have a pretty good sense of direction and while I had no clue where the street was I had the strong feeling I was driving away from it. So I made a U-turn and somehow found a gas station with people in it. The first guy I asked, a sturdy looking guy in greasy overalls knew exactly where Glen Street was.
“Drive down to the fire house. Make a right, a left, and a right.”
“Thanks! How far is the fire house?”
“About two minutes. Can’t miss it.”
So I drove for ten minutes and never saw it. I was starting to panic again when I pulled into another gas station to ask for directions. There was a random guy there sheltering from the rain. I asked him for Glen Street and though he spoke no English he directed me with waves of his hand, pointing, and some sort of air-finger painting. And the amazing part? I followed it all. Understood every weird gesture.
I thanked the guy and pulled out of the station. As I looked back to make sure there was no oncoming traffic, I saw it: The fire house. It was right there, blocked from my earlier view by a large tree.
So I made a right, a left, and a right, and there it was, the dealership, and no more beautiful sight ever greeted my eyes.
I pulled in and checked my watch, sure that over an hour had passed and they had put out an APB on their stolen car. But no, I was only gone twenty minutes.
“How was the test drive?”
“Uh, ok I guess, except for the rain.”
“But that’s good.”
“Yeah, you got to see how it handled in the rain.”
A couple of days later I bought a GPS.
TO BE CONTINUED.