Fudge tried explaining where the bus depot was located. In typical Queens baffle-osity, there were two sets of numbers that were nowhere near each other in sequence.
"Does this sound right?" Fudge inquired. "It's in the 120's and the 20's in College Point."
I called upon my mental map skills "Hmmmm, yep. I used to teach in that school district, and the district office is around there. I'd probably exit the Van Wyck at Linden Place."
"Linden Place! That's right! That's what Google Maps (or was it YouTube?) told me to do! My grandmother said it's not such a great area."
"That depends on what you mean by 'not such a great area'. Is it dangerous? No. Is it industrial, deserted at times, and a little creepy? Maybe. Especially compared to the 170's. Let's DO IT!"
Poor Fudge was more mortified than anything at this point. No doubt she'd not been expecting this setback. The loss of her belongings. The perilous notion that her stuff may be gone forever. Hope that it was all out there, somewhere. Helplessness to retrieve her things independently.
Now back to me. Growing up, my mother didn't drive, and my father worked long hours six days a week. Going somewhere by car was almost always impossible unless it was a ride with a friend, or occasionally, a cab. Parent-teacher conferences didn't leave me panicked about what my mother would hear about my performance at school. They left me panicked about finding a classmate's parents to give my mother a ride. Synchronizing those time slots can be tricky!
In other words, I tend to be sensitive to the plight of the car-less, or temporarily car-less.
There are many things that can be done so simply and quickly with a car. Nowadays, my parents live a ten-minute car ride away from me. They live near shopping and major bus routes. Walking distance is simply not a convenience for my mother, it is a must. And yet, when I try to give her rides or pick her up, she often doesn't want to "inconvenience me" or "take me out of my way". She doesn't always realize that in a car, nothing is that big a deal.
Back to the Infiltration. The distances in question were quite small. Fudge is great company. I was curious to see how this would all play out. City agencies can be mindnumbingly inefficient and annoying. Plus, it was time for a minor diaper restocking, which would be practically around the corner from the bus depot. In short, it couldn't have been simpler or more logical for us to help set this thing in motion.
RaggedyDad was driving, which meant I would have to ride shotgun in order to quickly translate all of the street signs from Russian to English. We loaded up the kids in the RaggedyMobile, and hit the road. I started singing "On the Road Again" as I am wont to do when we set out somewhere.
Fudge was waiting on the micro-porch (I love the houses in Queens!) with a handicapped red suitcase. We loaded it into the trunk, and Fugde hopped into the back of the van. Regrettably, Everyone's Favorite Grandma was unavailable for comment at this point. Embarassingly, I came thisclose to trying to buckle Fudge in. Car seat-fastening habits die hard.
RaggedyDad had a quick detour in mind. "This is not far from Dunkin Donuts."
RaggedyMom: "Chorosho . . . Hey Fudge, do you want caw-fee?"
RaggedyMom: "Sorry, let me translate. Do you want cah-fee?"
Fudge: "Oh! No, thanks."
We made a brief stop for RaggedyDad to infiltrate the drive-through Dunkin' Donuts and get himself some coffee, and turned that car around. We were ready. I clapped a few times to help charge the atmosphere . . . also just because I like to clap.
Before you could say "Great Gatsby Skyline of Manhattan view from the Long Island Expressway" we were there! Straight through the Valley of Ashes itself. There were even signs pointing out where the depot was located!
After a brief interrogation by a rookie security officer, Fudge and I were given hi-tech paper clip-on identification badges. (If only we hadn't had to return those at the end!)Spelling our odd names for the security officer was almost comical. But I had no intention of Fudge dealing with what could be simple or Not, so we spelled away. I've been to these kinds of offices before, and I wanted Fudge to have a combination of New Yorker, Israeli, and redhead by her side. Let's just say that if someone tells me "No" all I hear is "Try harder!" In the spirit of my grandfather, of blessed memory, I was ready to turn over some tables if necessary, to be, well, understood.
We made it into the building and a kindly bus-driver type directed us to the lost and found: "Yeah, yous guys go straight up there, I ain't sure if anyone's at the desk, but somebody oughtta know."
After leaving the elevator, were treated to a view of no less than 500 million New York City buses lined up in a vast parking lot. Within a couple of "what now" moments, a sweet woman walked towards us, and Fudge and I looked at one another. We were both thinking the same thing: Is something jangling in that woman's hand?
And then, "My phone! My keys! My ID! Thank you!" (You've got to love those out-of-town manners!) For my part, I wanted to hug the cheery, plump bus depot lady. In that moment, Fudge's New York years were stamped with a permanent silver lining.
In the brief blur of exuberance that followed, we got back in the van, and Fudge was no doubt buoyant, relieved.
Afterward, we made a quick run into a Van Wyck Service Road Toys R Us for diapers, which Fudge realized she had been to way back when. Her distract-the-kids-from-toys-we're-not-buying skills proved invaluable, clearly sharpened by years of this kind of guerrila training.
Too quickly, it was time to laugh, reminisce, and shed a few happy tears. Fudge was ready for the subway. We had made it into the core of the New York City Waco Bus Compound, and had made it out alive! The last adventure of 2007 was a glorious success!
Fudge can wrap this up, and maybe we'll get some input from the midwestern contingent . . .