Apartment hunting in New York is like searching for that perfect person. It’s trying to find the one that meets your very certain criteria, but ultimately, the one that puts a spring in your step as you climb the stairs to get home, a smile on face as you unlock your three locks before opening the door. To make the task appropriately more difficult (because such is New York life), beyond finding a guarantor and paying that painfully steep broker’s fee, the first month’s, last month’s and the security deposit, on any given day there are hundreds, quite possibly thousands of vacancies in this concrete jungle…where dreams are made of. But they’re not just in Manhattan. We have four other boroughs and a handful of locations across the river in Jersey that are brimming with unoccupied pieces of real estate.
I currently happen to be on the hunt, seeking a new place to live. After over a decade calling Manhattan my home, I’ve thought it might be a good time to venture beyond this particular island. So last night to Park Slope it was to check out a ‘cozy room on a tree-lined block’ with ‘cheap’ rent. The tenant I was going to meet gave me quick directions the day before and assured me it was easy to find. I agreed it would be no problem and the next day left to see it, confident I knew the route.
A preposterous notion!
So I’m on the train, one stop into Brooklyn when an announcement comes on, that due to weekend construction there is a detour and all passengers wanting to get off at such and such stops need to take the shuttle bus at Jay Street. I heard the announcement twice, confirmed my amended route on the map and followed the conductor’s directions. This led me to a bus ride through who knows where that tacked onto my commute another 15 minutes at least. I got off the bus at Church Avenue (as directed by the MTA dispatcher) and headed down to the train to continue my mission. ‘That train isn’t running,’ the booth clerk advises me. Great, I think. So now what? ‘Go upstairs and take the local bus.’ Ok, I thought. Got it.
So I get on the bus, which is parked on the sidewalk, humming. ‘I need to go to 4th and 9th,’ I said. ‘Do you go there?’
‘I’m new,’ he replies. ‘I don’t know.’ He looks at his route and confirms that indeed he does. So we take off. I’m in an unfamiliar corner of Brooklyn, have no idea where I am, so I sit attentively looking out the window, watching out for my stop. We’re driving along and I see this girl– a tough born-and-bred-in-Brooklyn type with an enviable curled, mohawk hairstyle– looking as if we weren’t where we were supposed to be. So she gets up, goes up to the driver and a dialogue of some sorts begins. Next thing, I hear him get on the loud speaker and say, ‘Attention passengers, we are turning around and going back to Church Avenue.’
Clearly the driver has no idea where he is going either.
I realize then that this chick with the mohawk is navigating. She seems to be the only one who knows the way. And aside from me, she seems to be the only one who is bothered by our clueless driver. Problem is, she’s getting off on the next stop. Again, the driver gets on the loud speaker. This time he says, ‘Is anyone going to the end of the route? ‘Cause she’s getting off here and I’ll need a replacement.’ At this point I’m about to jump off myself. I look around and again notice that I seem to be the only person bothered by the situation. Fine. One couple was having a conversation in sign language— hearing-impaired I presumed; so they might not have been aware of what was happening. And a few passengers looked like they were foreign, so perhaps they didn’t catch on either. But everyone else?
The Brooklyn chick gets off and we’re stopped at a light. Another bus pulls up alongside us and out of his window our driver says to the other one, ‘Hey buddy ok if I follow you? It’s my first day. I don’t know the route.’ So we follow the other bus, mind you, one with a different route number than the one we’re on, so I’m convinced we’re not even making the right stops. As soon as I caught a street sign that sounded familiar, I got off and figured I’d navigate on foot.
Way to go MTA.