Day 0 of 7 – New York Blog

5 May

It’s that time again. Time for travel.

I arrive at the Ottawa bus station thirty minutes before our scheduled departure and the lineup for the 22:30 to Syracuse consists of exactly two people. At the departure gate the security staff are cheerfully inspecting all carry-on luggage of any passengers traveling to the U.S. If this were an airport I would have asked what they were looking for, but seeing as it’s a Greyhound bus I just assume it’s for their own amusement. As they review my passport I inquire about the bus and how full it’s going to be. Dude points to his list and tells me there’s only twelve people on this flight tonight.

This makes me happy because it means I will have space to spread out and chill for the three-hour drive to Syracuse. Boarding is not for another ten minutes so I sit myself down on a bench next to this African-looking fellow who tells me he is also heading to NYC. I ask him where he’s from and he tells me Montreal. I switch to French and he’s immediately a lot happier to be speaking not English.

We board the bus shortly before 22:30. I don’t even bother with the WiFi because the AC power outlets on the back of the seats do not work. I’m going to have to conserve power if I’m going to survive on a single charge all the way to NYC. Screen brightness – reduced to the lowest setting. Unnecessary programs – shut down. All radios – turned off.

Sitting in front to my right is Omar. I noticed his Lebanon passport at the security station. I make a joke about how his mere presence is going to delay us at the border by several hours. He laughs and tells me he’s done this a bunch of times and it shouldn’t be too long.

I’m exhausted from spending the whole day helping Brent mud the unfinished drywall in his garage and install a new toilet in his en suite bathroom. Last year he bought a new old house and there’s a lot of work to be done. Before he picked me up at 10:30 I also sanded the floor at my place and applied the final coat of Varethane.

I manage to fall asleep before we pass Kamper Kong on highway 416. I wake up when the bus pulls into the U.S. Customs station and the immigration guy comes on board to collect our passports. Without fail he secondaries the African and the Arab guy. As he’s talking to the African guy I can tell this is not going to end well – he has a very poor command of the English language, no visa, and his passport had expired. The three of them leave the bus and fifteen minutes later Omar returns.

The African guy is gone for almost an hour. They put him back on the bus but they won’t let him in the country. According to the customs official he’s got no papers – and from what I can tell he’s not supposed to even be in Canada. They send the whole bus back to Canada to drop this guy off so Border Services Canada can deal with him.

Of course now the bus has left the US so we have to go through the passport check a second time. It’s now 01:35 and my connecting bus is departing Syracuse in exactly forty minutes. I use my last few seconds of Canadian data to Google maps the distance – we’re ninety minutes away. I check the Greyhound website and there’s another bus leaving an hour later at 03:15.

I hope they honour my ticket.

We pull into the Syracuse bus station with five minutes to spare and I make my way into the building and sleepily start searching for the bus to NYC. A bunch of people are lined up and I ask one of them if this is the New York bus. He tells me that it goes to Ottawa and points to the other end of the hall. That’s the New York line, he tells me.

A woman in the line overhears our conversation and realizes she too wants to go to New York and not visit Ottawa. We walk over to the NYC bus lineup together and wait for them to open the gate.

When they finally let us on, there is only one pair of unoccupied side-by-side seats. My new travel friend follows me on the bus and asks if she can take the aisle seat next to my window one. I have no reservations about sitting next to her for the four-hour journey. She’s thin with no unpleasant oder and she carries herself with this no-nonsense attitude that New Yorkers are known for.

We chat a bit before falling asleep. Abbie has to work at 09:00 so she’ll be going straight from the Port Authority bus terminal to her job (marketing for a Times Square hotel). She was in Syracuse for her boyfriend’s grandfather’s funeral. She tells me he was a veteran from the Vietnam war who had been married for sixty three years. He passed away in the VA Hospital after they (the family and the physician) made a decision to not continue treatment for his illnesses.

She’s also from New Jersey. When she tells me this I immediately ask her if she’s ever seen the greatest movie to take place in NJ – The Long Kiss Goodnight. She has not and adds it to her list of movies to watch.

We arrive in New York at 07:40 on Star Wars Day. The weather is perfect and pushiest of New York’s pedestrians have yet to rise from their slumber. I slowly make my way to the hotel (which is located in Queens). There is an “L” train metro station one hundred metres from the hotel (a hotel that used to be a paper factory).

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Check in is not until 15:00 so I need to kill a few hours. I head out into the burning sun without any sunscreen in search of a grocery store. I find one and discover that in the U.S. one can buy Gatorade by the gallon.

That’s almost four litres for my imperially-challenged readers.

That’s almost four litres for my imperially-challenged readers.

I return to the hotel, tired but rehydrated, to nap in the common room and wait for the room to be ready.

It’s going to be a fun week.

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