I am tearing crosstown, eastward on Spring Street and my derailler is clicking at me. Like some lost snare drummer. I peer at it, shift up and then back. It stops rattlin’ and I race through Greene, and then Mercer Street. Broadway looms, I slow.
Was this where that guy got doored by a taxi? Them hacks are brutal in traffic, dodging lanes without signal, stopping on less than a dime, a nickel. I have run black rubber from my handlebars down the sides of two cabs at once. In a misplaced game of peanut butter and jelly. The cabbies, they played the bread and I was almost jam, the jelly. And the peanut buttah’. With me pounding on both vehicles at once with angry, gloved fists.
I push through Broadway. It is a long, fast street, that. Running diagonal from the upper-west through midtown and the White Way, alleycatting east to the canyons of Wall. From one corner of Union Square through the other. Yeah yeah, I know: it jogs north of Columbia. But not to this courier. Not to say nothing of East Broadway or West. Better watch yourself there, newbie messenger, or you’ll go to the wrong one. My delivery is on Centre Street. Or was it Lafayette?
As if on cue, a cab lurches to a stop before me. I swerve. Ask any courier about getting doored. Roll a pedestrian and the fall is soft, softer then meeting an anxious taxi door. From some oblivious, exiting passenger who I glare at. Sorry pedestrians, I don’t want to bum rush you’s either, but hack doors don’t move. Much.
I cut a hard right on Lafayette into the slipstream of a cargo truck. Of all my draft choices, trucks ain’t great. If I stay a little in front of his exhaust, I’m fine. And I don’t have to suck fumes. It provides me cover from my left flank. But I have to watch him turning right. In front of me. That would really hurt. Once. And then I would be all sprawled out. Asleep or an imitation of it.
That little triangle where Lafayette splits off to Centre appears off my left. I can’t see it, ‘cuz (remember) I am running with an elephant on my shoulder. I slow and suddenly know where my two drop-offs are. I’d been to this place before. A modeling agency for gangly girls.
I brake and my derailler clicks twice. The same snare. Click click. I pull up to a bent no-parking sign and flip my chain-lock off my handlebars. Just ahead, hunched over a blue newspaper rack, another cyclist struggles with his bike.
I throw my chin at him. In greeting. Mostly because I want to stare at his track bike. Or whatever they call those one-geared dealios some guys roll. This dude is not a messenger, but he is a dude. A hipster. The kind with new facial hair not invented yet. All retro and futuristic at the same time. His shirt says something ironic, sarcasm lost on me. I snap my lock shut and dig into my bag for my deliveries.
Outside, two girls stand smoking. The models have the same shape as their skinny mini cigarillos. As in none. You’ve come a long way, baby.
I hate to break this to you, but some models are not models. Not for beauty anyway. Not up close. Nervous stringy things they are. Maybe they know how to work the camera, but as I pass them, they look like egrets, all swept hair and bob-necked. Sorry girls, I have no egrets in saying it. . .
I walk through the lobby and pass a modely type who frowns at me. I see myself in a mirror, behind the front desk, and I frown at me too.
Old story: how they push up close to the walls of the elevators I enter, glistening from jamming down Broadway, cutting across 59th, ducking through Canal. It did not help that I was a sweater, as in one who sweats, not the wooly contraption. Even in the building that stole my heart, the Trade Center, they would push away. God bless ’em. All of them.
Two deliveries, I say to the secretary. She is not nervous, nor fidgety. And she looks normal, in size and temperament. Probably a model reject, but she smiles at me and I smile back. Thanks, she says, signing the slip with my sweaty pen.
Is my manager ready, one of the working girls asks her. She flairs her eyelids, the model, like a horse. The girls outside are fowl and this one is equine. What sort of zoo have I stumbled upon?
The secretary rolls her eyes at me, like we was tight, even though I don’t know her. Not yet, she replies to the model before turning to me. You stay safe, ai’ite?
You bet, I reply. And I step out of the office, out into the street. Towards the hipster still wrestling with the tricked cycle he probably just bought. I stop: I’ll hook this brotha up. His chain has jailbreaked and I crouch over it, trying to coax it back onto the gear. I got time, I just got an ai’ite from a receptionist. Almost nothing better.
Confessions of a NYC Bike Messenger (Part I) can be found here.