December 23, 2005

Felix's Christmas mitzvah

Yesterday I rented a Zipcar for seven hours, and drove around Manhattan offering rides to people inconvenienced by the transit strike.

: I set out from home, in my suit and cap.

1:45pm: I fuel up at the Doughnut Plant.

2:00pm: I pick up the car from the garage at Monroe and Allen.

: I arrive at Jill Platner, on Crosby Street, where I'm met by Michelle.

2:22pm: Jill, her sister Delphine, and Michelle send me off with my first mission: to deliver an envelope to Kira Sugarman.

2:25pm: Michelle installs the Free Rides sign, and I set off.

2:30pm: I pick up JC on Houston between Broadway and Mercer. He's running late on a project he's been editing for the Food Network, at 15th and 9th.

2:40pm: I get a call from my friend Abby Russell, who is downtown and needs a lift. I tell her I'll get over to pick her up at Astor Place once I've dropped off JC and Kira's envelope.

2:54pm: I drop off JC on 15th and 8th, so that I can make it over to Kira more easily than if I'd gone all the way over to 9th.

3:07pm: I give Kira her envelope on the corner of 17th and 7th.

: I pick up Abby Russell on 9th Street between 4th and Broadway, where she's been working on a project for MTV. She, too, has something she needs to drop off at the Food Network.

3:55pm: We've made it to the Food Network, on 15th and 9th. But Abby needs to get uptown...

4:20pm: I drop off Abby Russell at CBS on 57th and 11th. Now I need to head downtown, since a couple of Jill Platner employees need a lift at 5:30. Can I make it? 11th Avenue is packed, so I wend my way south and east, eventually going up 46th Street to Times Square. I ask many people if they need a lift, but none of them do: One of them simply says "no, there's too much traffic!". I discover it's very hard to drive in New York traffic and ask people if they need a lift at the same time. In any case, it's getting late, so eventually I decide to simply make it down to Crosby Street as fast as possible. It's not fast enough, and while I'm stuck in traffic on Broadway, Katherine and Olivia from Jill Platner stop waiting for me and start walking up towards me.

5:45pm: I meet Katherine and Olivia at Broadway and Great Jones. First stop is Penn Station, for Katherine: she's taking the Acela up to Boston for Christmas. But 6th Avenue is packed, 8th Avenue is worse, and eventually she gets out at 15th and 8th, deciding it will be easier and faster to walk. Olivia and I then head west: she's going uptown to 101st Street and Central Park West. The West Side Highway southbound simply isn't moving at all, from 14th Street all the way up to 96th Street. But northbound is OK.

6:35pm: Olivia and I pick up Lorraine and her son Marqui at 100th and Columbus. Lorraine has picked up Marqui from school and they're now heading home. It's been a long day for Lorraine: she had three doctor's appointments at various points in town, as far south as 31st Street.

6:40pm: Drop off Olivia at 100th and Central Park West, just in time to pick up her laundry at the laundromat, which is closing early.

6:45pm: Drop off Lorraine and Marqui at 116th and 7th. Head downtown to pick up Simon Clark at his office in the financial district. Columbus Avenue is quite fast, and 11th Avenue starts off OK, but becomes solid around 29th Street. All the southbound avenues are nasty, and it takes a long time to get downtown from there.

: Finally reach Cortland Street, where I pick up Simon, and his colleague Carla. Simon is my only passenger all day who has accepted my offer of a doughnut.

: Drop off Carla on 5th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B.

8:35pm: Drop the Zipcar back off at the garage, after taking a much longer but much faster route to get there, via Avenue D and Madison Street. All the other streets are packed with traffic for either the Williamsburg Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. Walk home for a large glass of Scotch, and some holiday parties conveniently located in my apartment building.

Posted by Felix at 07:17 PM GMT

But you seem to know most of your passengers! What a massive coincidence!

And when do you plan to have your site back up?

Posted by: Stefan Geens on December 24, 2005 08:31 AM

My site was down?

It's true, I ended up giving more lifts to friends than to strangers. That wasn't really part of the plan, but when friends need a lift while you're doing this kind of thing, you can hardly say no.

Posted by: Felix on December 24, 2005 07:23 PM

That's a great story and I adore the suit and cap.

Posted by: Toby on December 24, 2005 11:43 PM

Felix - So you were that afraid of a lump of coal in your stocking eh? Quite a nice gesture regardless of the ratio of known to unknowns was. Personally I froze my ass off commuting from Astoria to Broad Street by bike. It's times like this one realizes one is no longer capable of the heroics of youth.

Happy Holidays.

Posted by: Gherimiah on December 25, 2005 04:59 AM

I envision a collection of short stories connected by the narrative device of Felix giving rides to people in Manhattan. Call it "Sloggers of New York".

Posted by: Sterling on December 25, 2005 04:36 PM

Ever thought of becoming a cabbie, Felix? With the stories from that you could write a whole book. So, I imagine, could the passengers.

Posted by: Rhian Salmon on December 25, 2005 07:08 PM

I don't know which I find more surprising: the color of your suit, the size of what is apparently your tv, or the fact that you did this. Great idea.

Posted by: john massengale on December 25, 2005 08:02 PM

this is a Honda for the goyim!

great idea, and good story.

Posted by: mike d on December 26, 2005 01:15 AM

Not a TV, a sliding glass door. Blame my Costa Rican architect.

Posted by: Felix on December 27, 2005 10:31 PM

Ever thought of becoming a cabbie, Felix?

Actually, there's an item on the Conde Nast job questionnaire asking whether applicants have ever worked as "taxi drivers, fast food restaurant workers, or any other job that might make [the applicant] smell funny?" Those who answer in the affirmative are not only denied employment, but are also escorted out of the building. Magazine writers (and published authors) simply cannot afford an employment history that involves working among the "dirty people."

...This is a Honda for the goyim!

I thought Honda was a Honda for the goyim? I have it on good authority that of over 126,000 of these sold in the U.S. in 2004, only fourteen were to Jews.

...The color of your suit...

Covered ground, my friend. Covered ground.

Posted by: Sterling on December 28, 2005 05:40 AM

Latest update: the good people of Zipcar found this post linked to from Gothamist, and phoned me earlier today to ask if they could put me in their online newsletter. And when I looked up my invoice for December, there's now a line at the bottom saying "Thank you for doing New York a good turn during the strike!" and refunding the fee for December 23. A donation of $78.23 is therefore now making its way to MSF.

Posted by: Felix on December 28, 2005 08:41 PM

MSF is a Honda for the Japanese!

Posted by: Sterling on December 29, 2005 05:22 AM

good onya Felix - I"m impressed.

Posted by: bafc23 on December 30, 2005 09:16 PM

If you aren't the snappiest driver in town! I wish you would bring your cheerful services to L.A. for a day, but maybe substitute the doughnuts for Sushi handrolls! Thank you for always bringin' a smile on board.

Posted by: suzanne on December 31, 2005 07:47 PM

I already knew you were swell, Felix; what I WANT to hear about is, how was the Scion in the city? I don't need one at all, but sometimes I think I really should get one, just because.

Posted by: on January 1, 2006 06:49 PM

I'm definitely not the person to ask about cars. I know nothing about them, I've probably driven less than 99.5% of Americans my age, and as far as I'm concerned they're things which I'm able to make stop and go by pressing pedals. All I can really tell you is that after 7 hours of driving around Manhattan there was virtually no change in the amount of gas in the tank. So that's good, I guess.

Posted by: Felix on January 1, 2006 10:10 PM

i like that Gothamist referred to you as the 'famous British blogger.' Assuming for the sake of argument that you are indeed famous, in some circles at least, shouldn't they have said, 'famous British poster of 3,000 word ramblings about Argentina, the IMF and Nick Denton' ?

Posted by: Matthew on January 2, 2006 01:02 AM

Nick Denton, maybe. Argentina and the IMF? I generally get paid when I write about them.

Posted by: Felix on January 2, 2006 05:45 AM