For the NY leg of our trip we decided to dispense with a mobile because a basic connection would have cost us a 100 dollars, and what did people do a decade ago when they travelled without cellphones? They survived. So we made a few calls to family from our hotel to tell them we had got to NY alright, and stepped out lightly every day, unencumbered (except for the great big luggage train of a travelling circus that comprised Mia’s things.). Our satisfaction at having gone back to Nature was somewhat tempered on the day we had to meet Satarupa, my friend who was nice enough to take a 3-hour bus ride from Baltimore and stay at a hostel in Manhattan, just to meet us.
The plan was simple enough, as thrashed out over the hotel phone and email. We would meet outside the Staten Island Ferry terminal at 12. By 12-10, we were looking hopefully at anyone Indian-like and female-looking. By 12-15 we were muttering darkly about our lack of a phone; and what madness it was to step out of the hotel without one. By 12-20, Jeet had jogged off to the terminal in search of a payphone, while Mia and I continued to man our posts in hope of contact. Not surprisingly at 12-21, Satarupa walked up to the terminal, looking around for us. Mia and I yelled to catch her attention, frightening a few passers-by. At 12-23, after a quick hug and a formal introduction between Mia and Satarupa, I jogged off to retrieve my husband from the depths of the enormous Staten Island ferry terminal. I jogged back 10 minutes later, not having found him. Jeet returned after a further 10 minutes, having stood in a long line for the public phone, which I supposedly could not have missed.
Turns out, after being dropped off by the bus a few minutes later than scheduled, Satarupa had passed us at just the moment we must have both bent over Mia; like a scene in a bad, slapstick comedy. She’d missed us completely and circled the terminal before coming back to where I saw her eventually.
I have no idea how anyone met anybody else at pre-determined times and places before mobile phones allowed us to check every movement. “Where are you now?” …“Look up, I can see you walking towards me.” “Where are you, I can’t see you?” “Put the phone away and Look UP you idiot!”. Suffice it to say, we’ve completely lost the ability now.
Now that we were all present and accounted for, we finally lined up for and boarded the enormous ferry, along with a sort of United Nations of tourists. It was a beautiful day, and Satarupa offered to keep Mia entertained while we went out on deck to watch the Manhattan skyline and (in her words) "Liberty Mashima” slip by. I had always wondered at the yellowness of the flame, but it was all made clear to me when the fire in the lady’s torch seemed to burn hotly in the distance.
After we were disgorged back onto the mainland we returned to our bench and tried to put away an ENTIRE pizza among the three of us. It did not end well, with all of us feeling bloated and awful, and 1/5th of the pizza dropped shamefacedly in a bin. I still can’t look at a pizza without feeling an awful burp welling up inside of me.
We walked to Wall Street and tried to get a picture with the NYSE bull. Some tourists were taking saucy pictures with the (extremely well-endowed) bull’s nether regions, others were hoisting themselves up onto the bull by the horns in a shocking display of would-be vandalism. We asked Satarupa to take a quick, very far-away picture of us waving near the stomach of the bull, (the only unmolested part of the poor boy’s anatomy) and we escaped, not wishing to be around when one of his extremities snapped off with a resounding crack.
We headed on to see the breathtakingly beautiful new World Trade Centre, looking like a sharp slice of sky plunging into the clouds. We watched the sombre visitors to the memorial at Ground Zero, the many grim policemen and their sniffer dogs for a while, before directing our feet in the direction of Times Square.
Times Square, again, was something I’d seen a zillion times in movies or newspapers. That did not prepare me for how mind-boggling the sight was. And it wasn’t even night, but a gently fading twilight. This was Capitalism in all its flashy, larger-than-life glory. Satarupa and I sat on the red steps amidst the flashing neon screens and milling crowds and chatted for a while, while Mia (who has a passion for climbing steps) was escorted up and down and up the stairs by her long-suffering father.
We couldn’t come away without visiting Toys R Us, though none of us were really in the mood for it. I could see it must’ve been a magical place for older children; but after a quick purchase of an “Abby-abby” (angry bird) beanie cushion for Mia; and a fleeting look at the enormous Ferris wheel within the store, we gladly made our way back to the quiet, darkened sanctuary of our hotel room.