I had the awesome opportunity to visit New York City when I was sixteen years old with a group of girls my age I did theatre with, my mom, and my friend’s mom. It was only the six of us, and it still remains one of the most memorable trips of my entire life—for both good reasons and bad.
But I’m going to focus on my particularly favorite memory from this trip, which was when my mom and I broke away from the pack and braved Broadway and Times Square all by ourselves, travel amateurs though we were.
Growing up in what you might call a blue collar family had never left me wanting for any of life’s necessities, but it hadn’t awarded me a whole lot of travel opportunities unless we were going to visit family, or we went on the occasional trip to Disneyland, or my mom went with me on a school getaway or two (which were probably the most fun of the trips I have ever been on in my life to this day.) But as I got older, more opportunities presented themselves, and we jumped at the chance to go see the Big Apple.
We were not what you might call travel savvy at that time, and my mom is completely directionally challenged, so she had bought a travel compass before we left on the off chance we ended up lost, which I of course made complete fun of her for. (I was sixteen, with a decent sense of direction, and my mom could get lost in a cardboard box, so of course I was going to make fun of her!)
We spent the majority of the trip at the mercy of my friend’s mom, who knew New York inside, outside, and backwards, and while that was fine since we got to see all the major attractions, it made for some disagreements from time to time on what we all wanted to do. The biggest of these came at the half-price ticket booth at the World Trade Center while we were all trying to figure out what Broadway play we wanted to see. I desperately wanted to see Les Miserables, as it is one of my favorite stories. Another girl—who had taken delight in being a thorn in everyone’s side for most of the trip, and who really, REALLY liked to whine—was insisting upon seeing The Sound of Music. Now, I have nothing against The Sound of Music, but it comes on TV at least once a year and I had seen it umpteen billion times. I did not want to fly all the way to New York to see a play I could rent at a Blockbuster.
Now, I don’t have the blog space to go into details as to why, but the last few days prior to this one had been really trying for a number of reasons—some completely understandable, others not so much. Suffice it to say, we had six people with extremely different personalities, four of which were teenage girls, all stuck together for two weeks. There was some personal drama going on between some of us, and by this point, the atmosphere was a bit tense and everyone was on edge.
Sound of Music girl was being really insistent. I was being just as insistent. Sound of Music girl was also kind of a loose cannon, so the other two girls were just going with the flow in order to not piss her off. I was not going to afford her that luxury. So, we were all bickering. Now, my mom is probably the most passive human being I have ever known, but when this girl got almost up in my mother’s face and stated that she was NOT going to see Les Mis, in the snottiest way you can imagine a teenage girl to sound, I thought I saw fire shoot straight out of my mom’s eyes.
“Hey, Mom, why don’t you and I go see Les Mis and let them do whatever they want?” I knew my opening when I saw it.
Suffice it to say, later that night, we were headed to the play—by ourselves. Just Mom and me and the big city.
We left our hotel with enough time to grab something to eat, and I was confident I knew where were going, but my mom started to freak out because she lost her bearings, and her lack of knowing North, South, East, and West made me second-guess myself. So, of course, we did the only logical thing we could do.
We tried to hail a cab, which was impossible at that hour, and then we panicked some more because I was afraid we weren’t going to make it to the play on time. My mom, remembering she had her travel compass, yanked it out like it was going to save the world—and it proceeded to spin around like it had drank too much.
“There’s too much magnetic activity,” I said. “The city is throwing it off.”
My mother looked horrified.
“Here, let’s just go this way,” I said, starting back up where I thought we should be going. “I feel like this is the right way.”
No dice. My mom was having none of that. She flagged down a person (which is almost as difficult to do in New York as hailing a taxi) who happened to be a very flamboyant man who wanted to chat. We finally managed to get directions out of him, my internal clock ticking away the entire time and my panic rising at the thought of missing the play, and we headed right back up the direction I had thought we needed to go. At least I got some validation out of it, but we needed to run about ten blocks in twenty minutes.
Ten New York blocks.
In theatre clothes. And heels.
In the middle of July.
Have you ever tried to run anywhere in New York in the middle of July when you are used to living the in desert where humidity never happens? Yeah.
There is something to be said for determination because we made it five minutes before curtain, and collapsed into the chairs sweating like freaks, our makeup running, our hair plastered to our heads, and probably stinking. But we made it. And it was worth it because the play was phenomenal.
We were much more leisurely on our way back to the hotel that night, although we did end up having to walk about a block behind the most ginormous cockroach I have ever seen. We couldn’t even think about squashing it. That thing had more swagger than most rock stars. I’m still pretty sure it was the mob boss of the roach world, and well, you just don’t mess with those kinds of insects.