14 June 2005

"Somewhere Between Wilmington and NYC Is A Little Place I Like To Call INSANITY!"

Setting: My office, Wilmington, NC
Time: 2:15 PM EST

(Phone rings in ringtone assigned to my daughter)

"Where are you??", I demand, dispensing with the time-wasting but courteous and customary, "hello?"

"I'm in New Jersey.", she says, sounding like someone who has been awake all night, probably because she's been awake all night.

"You were in New Jersey when you called me this morning at 7:30 AM. You're still in New Jersey?", I ask, recalling my grasp of geography and noting that, geographically speaking, New Jersey isn't all that big.

"I KNOW Mother. We stopped off to take a nap around 10:30. The cell phone is dying and I have to go. I'll call you when we get there.", sounding even more annoyed.

"When do you think you'll be there?", I ask, realizing I might as well asked if she knew the square root of 724.

"Soon Mother. I'll call you. I have to GO now. Great, my bag just broke."

"But where are you exactly? What part of New Jersey?"

"Northern New Jersey."

"Are you at someone's house?"

"Yes. I have to go now. I'll call you later. Cell phone is going now."

End of conversation.

We zoom in on me sitting back in my office chair, rubbing my temples, head down, trying to calculate just how many hours this little joy ride to NYC is taking off my life, in terms of time spent worrying - over something I have absolutely no control over.

My daughter Katie, and her best friend, Chaundra, left Wilmington last night, after work, to drive to Manhattan. Chaundra is house-sitting for a friend in Manhattan for 7 days, and she invited Katie to join her. Apparently this house belongs to the actress who played the youngest daughter in the film, "Mrs. Doubtfire", and she is flying off to Italy to get married.

Of course, my daughter, though she's been to Paris, London, Manchester, several cities in Ireland, having lived there as an au pair a couple of years ago, has never been to New York City. You know, New York City, the place where they make wannabe picante sauce that makes the folks at Pace, in Paris, (the one in Texas) see red. Jalapeno, red.

Katie jumped at the chance to see the Big Apple. She's always wanted to see NYC. She already loves it and she's never even been there. I wonder if she will really love it as much after she actually sees, smells, feels, hears and touches it in person? I'm not so sure. Katie hates crowds. She hates heights. She's not fond of loud, or constant, noise. Katie despises traffic..."with the fire of a thousand suns!".

It's about the traffic. At least for me it is. That what is causing me the most angst at this moment.

I've only been to NYC once, and my visit wasn't even 48 hours long. I was supposed to fly into La Guardia, but the plane got diverted to that garden spot of the garden state, Newark. I stayed in the Hilton near Times Square, walked a few blocks, had a picnic and rode the merry-go-round in Central Park, visited a few shops, bought the t-shirt from a street vendor, bought my dad a pipe at some huge tobacco shop, visited the top of the Empire State Building, didn't find Tom Hanks and flew back to Raleigh two nights later. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, either.

I expected to feel claustrophobic because of the tall buildings and swarms of people, but I didn't feel that way at all. I can't say people were friendly, at least not by my southern definition of friendly, but they certainly weren't rude, either. I didn't encounter anyone being inordinately offensive. The cab drivers were scary and I didn't understand much of anything they said, which worked out fine since they didn't talk much, unless you count the obscenities, at least the ones I recognized, hurled at other drivers.

Why won't my cell phone ring? I wish I could simply WILL it to ring. All I want is one 30 second phone call, "Mom, we're here, Everything is fine. Yes, the doors are locked. Talk to you soon. Love you."

I must tell you, that the thought of Katie and Chaundra driving into, and around, midtown Manhattan, is enough to send my stomach into bigger flips than I execute in the pool. I am way past butterflies. There are pelicans careening about in my stomach and inching up toward my chest.

The good news is that Chaundra is a New England Native/Yankee, and I say this with affection and maybe even a sense of admiration - that people survive the weather, population and chaos. So I am certain that since Chaundra, who moved to Wilmington last October from Boston, is accustomed to the driving practices of folks north of the Mason-Dixon line, she knows how to handle herself, the traffic and her car. I remind myself of that fact about every 4 minutes, and it quiets down the pelicans for about 20 - 30 seconds. Do you know how wide the wingspan of a pelican is? (90 inches, I just looked it up). No wonder it feels huge.

Since I woke up this morning at around 7:00 AM, I have consumed a pot of coffee, two iced teas and now I am working on my second coke, something I never drink except in times of serious stress. I don't even care that much for coke, unless it's with popcorn and a Jimmy Stewart movie. But for some reason, I turn to it when I can't make sense of my world and, right now, the only thing I know for sure, is that my daughter is in Northern New Jersey, about to descend on Manhattan, and I dearly hope and pray, repeatedly and with every fiber of my being, every cell in my marrow and every string in my heart, that when those two girls begin driving into the city, God will direct their car and protect them from those aggressive cab drivers and trucks and buses and who knows what else?

I am scared. I am nervous. I can usually hold it together pretty well, but right now, I am wanting so much for my cell phone to ring again and to hear that they are safely where they are supposed to be, the car is parked, they are in the apartment, brownstone, condo, whatever, and the doors are locked, several times over, as are the windows. I want to know they are fine. I want to know they are fine. I want to shoo these pelicans out of my stomach and turn my attention to other stressors because nothing is as stressful as knowing your children are far from home, regardless of their age, and wanting nothing more in this world than for them to be safe.

I know, I know, they, "...want to be a part of it, New York, New York...if they can make it there...", I will be one thankful, grateful, blessed and ever so relieved...mother.

Until then, I am not letting this cell phone out of my sight. Between staring at it, praying, checking NYC traffic and weather conditions, and clicking on NY Local news, I'm staying pretty busy. While Katie and Chaundra are driving into New York City, I am driving myself completely insane. I don't even need a map for that. I've made that trip more times than I care to count. It seems to be getting shorter every time I make it.