I just returned from an overly eventful 11-day trip to the East Coast, with the majority of that time spent in New York City. The original motivation for the trip was to see Book of Mormon and to escort a dear friend from Seattle to the East Coast – she was moving to Boston semi-permanently.
Then, a few weeks into my whirlwind romance in September, I discovered that my new boyfriend was planning on being in NYC for 6 weeks and my previously-scheduled trip just happened to bisect his time there perfectly. So suddenly Dave and I had made plans for a reunion and for spending Thanksgiving at my family home in Pennsylvania (for the first time in nearly a decade). It was fate! The trip was supposed to happen! Right?
The first few days of the trip were jam-packed and exciting in a good way. The second half was apparently doomed, to the point where I wonder if folks think I make this shit up. “You got hit by a car? Really? REALLY?”
Arrive in town; dinner with my traveling companion and boyfriend. Post-dinner pies and drinks at our hotel bar. Loved our hotel (the Distrikt; in midtown) – and they put us on the very top floor (32nd) so we had a view of both the edge of Times Square and the river. Great staff, too – recommended if you want a place to stay in Midtown but not on the Square.
Anything Goes matinee performance at the Sondheim theatre, thanks to a surprise early birthday gift from my mother. Unfortunately, Sutton Foster was recording a pilot but the woman replacing her did an admirable job and seemed to support the “replacement enthusiasm” adage. The whole show was great, and it was especially amazing to see the inimitable Joel Grey alive, dancing, and surprisingly lightfooted as the bumbling criminal mastermind. (I also took great amusement from drinking champagne out of a sippy cup – Broadway’s answer to spills inside the theatre.) That evening, we did Chinese food, Shake Shack concretes, and touristy wandering of Times Square.
11:00 AM reservations at the 9/11 memorial, which was intense but beautifully handled. I have a strange conflicted relationship with the event, since it is responsible for my life in Seattle and for my current relationship and latest lead role in a show. How can good things come out of such terrible tragedy? Spent a lot of time at the Flight 11 list (our characters in September Skies were fictional passengers on that flight.) It’s a shame the museum isn’t open yet but there are some heartwrenching displays in the painfully undersized visitor center. Advance reservations are a must if you’re wanting to make this pilgrimage; it’s very well attended.
Afterwards, we dined at the Trailer Park lounge with an old actor friend who moved to the city a few years ago and has recently hit his stride. And then that evening, dive pizza followed by Book of Mormon, which could be an entire blog post in and of itself. I had maintained a moratorium on listening to the soundtrack, though, so the fact that the musical is strangely obsessed with Orlando was a delightful surprise.
Slept in, wandered the city a bit in the amazingly gorgeous 55+ degree sunny weather, then headed to the Ed Sullivan theatre for the Letterman taping. My cousin’s fiancé (who has worked on the show for many years) very graciously arranged VIP tickets to David Letterman. VIP tickets get you in without waiting in the long outside line, and get you seated in the front section of the balcony. Unexpectedly, we even got seated before the rest of the VIPs, so you can see us for 30 seconds in the broadcast when they show the front row of the balcony. (We’re located dead center underneath the turkey graphic.)
Tuesday was supposed to be fairly low-key. My traveling companion left for Boston early in the morning, leaving me to my own devices before meeting my boyfriend at his lodgings in the Upper West Side before lunch. I took my time, then checked out and hopped in a cab because I’d be dragging my luggage 30 blocks and didn’t want to do that in the rain.
I was checking my email on my phone, about 8 blocks from my destination, when the cab driver exclaimed something. I looked up just in time to see a van illegally cut us off at speed at the intersection of 68th and Broadway. Time slowed down, as they tell you it does. I wanted to believe that we’d dodge it but my rational brain knew the physics weren’t in our favor as our driver slammed on the brakes. Then came that dreadful popping sound of two giant metal machines hitting each other as we T-boned the car at fault, which spun out of control as it continued its trajectory.
Right before we impacted, the thought crossed my mind – would I be losing consciousness? Where would I wake up, and what would have happened to us? Also: “what the hell are the odds?” Our car slammed hard, as we hadn’t had time to slow down properly, and then began to violently fishtail. I remember being thrown forward and surprisingly registering that my seat belt was, in fact, buckled – I slammed into it and was thrown backwards into the seat. Had I not been wearing my seat belt two things probably would have occurred: (1) a concussion on the divider just a few inches in front of me and (2) reinjuring my bad kneecap.
But thanks to the seat belt and the driver’s futile attempt at controlling the vehicle, we were both fully conscious when the car came to a stop. I looked to my left to see that the backseat of the taxi was smoking. This was extremely alarming – was I going to survive the crash to suffocate inside? So I wrestled with my seat belt until it released, exited the vehicle, and got the police to release the trunk and my luggage inside (the driver was disoriented and arguing with us; he insisted he didn’t hit his head but I think he was lying because he didn’t want to be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt even though he wasn’t at fault.)
I was disoriented too, but sane enough to put in a call to my boyfriend. “Hi honey… um, my taxi was just in a car accident and I don’t know what to do next.” He showed up in a few minutes. By that time, there was quite a formidable response – two fire engines, two cop cars and four ambulances. The ambulances were needed largely because the vehicle at fault was carrying 6 people including a kid and baby. All of their airbags went off and the fire crew had to rip the door off with the jaws of life to get them out.
Long, long story short, I was suffering from neck and back pain and ended up extremely reluctantly agreeing to go to the emergency room to get checked out via ambulance. My last full day in NYC was completely obliterated by the accident, emergency room, and the aftermath. No real progress at the ER; they told me I had whiplash (duh) and gave me a prescription for Motrin (seriously? I had way more serious painkillers in my bag that entire time.) My boyfriend handled the situation as admirably as could be done; wiping the tears from my eyes despite the Sisyphean nature of such an undertaking at the time.
Just to add insult to literal injury, the place my boyfriend and I were scheduled to crash that night turned out to have been VERY recently treated for bedbugs, so I ended up having to find and book us a hotel room last-minute at my wit’s end. Rather than meeting his friends and having a lovely dinner out, I was lying in pain in a random hotel room eating Shake Shack fries and trying to get the 20th Precinct to release the accident report early (they wouldn’t; they were running behind and the holidays were coming.)
All the Rest (with little rest)
As you might expect, that experience colored the entire 2nd half of the trip. I went through half a large bottle of Advil; wouldn’t go near a taxi for the rest of the trip; was in pain most mornings when waking up and had trouble sleeping; had great difficulty covering long distances, and was generally operating at about 60%.
We still managed to have a good Thanksgiving dinner and I survived a day at Sesame Place for their ‘Very Furry Christmas’ event opening because I was too stubborn to change my plans. That was somewhat therapeutic (see earlier post “Being Grover”) and I successfully stopped myself from trying to don a costume or dance in the parade. Seeing Sesame Street Muppets singing Christmas carols wearing little hats was good for forgetting my problems for a while, and the place looked gorgeous when lit up at night. (If you’re a local, it’s a great value for a holiday event.) Thankfully my boyfriend is also a child at heart and enthusiastically accompanied me on even the cheesiest missions that day.
We also managed one night dining out and a reunion with my best friend from childhood. Other than that, we hid inside watching movies and eating in because it was all I could handle. And making lots of jokes about getting hit by a car so the laughter would take the edge off the pain.
After returning from Pennsylvania, we met some of my boyfriend’s friends for a low-key cocktail party, which was a nice treatment of laughter that I needed. It’s a sign of how much the Kindle has revitalized my reading habits that the modest bookshelf at our hosts’ apartment launched me into an overly enthusiastic discussion of Jasper Fforde books and beyond. I felt very adult for a fleeting moment, discussing books at a cocktail party with actors in New York. Then a fart happened and we giggled incessantly for 15 minutes. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Most of my last morning in the city was spent getting that police report, with a little time left over for lunch and a walk in Central Park. My time at JFK was a disaster – the security line in Terminal 2 was going slowly, so Delta’s solution was to unceremoniously kick half of us out of the line and force us to speedwalk the equivalent of seven city blocks with all of our luggage to a security line at a different terminal. I was in tears from the exhaustion and pain by the end of it, and I’ll be having words with Delta about their handling of the situation there.
It’s hard not to say “why me?” – even my NYC friends don’t know anyone who has encountered this kind of situation. I’m unlucky in a lucky way, like always – unlucky to have been in the accident in the first place, but lucky that I had the presence of mind to buckle my seat belt. But having just received word before leaving on my trip that the abnormal potentially pre-cancerous cells detected in May are still around and have a better chance of becoming cancer now… well, this trip was something I desperately needed to get my mind off my mortality, and it failed at that mission. Didn’t see this situation on any NYC tourist promotional ads.
I’d like to say that the city was welcoming and helpful when I was down, but not really. The cops were OK but no one even helped me move my bags up onto the sidewalk even though I had just been injured. The hospital ignored me for a good long time. People at JFK were massively unhelpful. And I’m still stuck with the paperwork of getting the hospital and ambulance bills directed to the correct auto insurance, because I sure wanted to come home from vacation with extra work.
If there’s a moral to the story, it would be “wear your damn seat belt, even in taxis.” Also possibly “don’t bother vacationing in New York.” At least now (due to the location of the accident on 68th and Broadway) I have a punch line for the trip:
“I was a ‘smash hit’ on Broadway!”– Cheryl Platz, 2011, 68th and Broadway, next to her taxi wreck
ba dum BUM.