Marathon Shopping Trip: Another NYC Story

In NY, we didn’t have a car, which—come to find out—adds a layer of complexity to life, if you’re used to having a car, that is.  I don’t know many people here in CA that don’t have a car, or at least access to a car.  I’ve had a car of some kind—usually a truck—since I was 18, and what you realize when you no longer have a car is just how much your car becomes an extension of you.  An augmentation of your capacity and ability.  I can haul that couch for you.  I can take us to lunch.  I can be there in twenty minutes.  Until you can’t.

Take grocery shopping for example.  At the beginning of each month, Liz and I can go to Food-4-Less, spend 200 or so dollars on 10 to 15 bags of groceries, load it up in the car and take it home.  But what would happen if we emerged from Food-4-Less with our 10 to 15 bags to find that there was no car to load them into?  Answer to follow.

So while in Brooklyn, without a car, our shopping was pretty limited.  Sometimes we’d go to Trader Joe’s downtown and each carry two bags back to the bus stop.  Often we’d get groceries delivered, which was easy and convenient and got the job done, but ultimately it’s what you’d expect getting your groceries from plastic packages (thumbnail pictures of which you’ve clicked into your online cart) stuffed neatly into a cardboard box and shipped to you.  There was an element of hominess missing, and the majority of the time there just wasn’t food in the apartment, leading to lots of Chinese takeout from the place around the corner.

Until one day, we came up with a plan.  Actually, we came up with a plan to rehash a plan we’d come up with previously.  Previously, we had taken the train to Target, loaded up hundreds of dollars worth of household goods (i.e. pillows, towels) into two carts and hauled it all back to Crown Heights in one of the numerous car service cars or taxis lined up outside the store.  Why wouldn’t the same work for the Path Mark across the street.  So in the interest of filling our fridge and cupboards with fresh and familiar foods, we set out.

In all our shopping excitement, there were two things we failed to notice until exiting the Path Mark with our overloaded shopping cart:  First, the belly-button high cement pillars lining the outside of the store that we had passed through upon entering and which, we could now see, prevented, with their spacing of eight-to-ten-inches-shy-of-the-width-of-a-shopping-cart, the removal of the Path Mark shopping carts from the Path Mark premises, a detail that only becomes a problem when coupled with the other thing we had failed to notice:  no cars.  No car service cars, no taxis, no regular cars.  Nothing.  The avenue, stationed no more than ten feet from the stone-pillar barrier behind which we were now trapped, an avenue generally lined with taxis and car service cars and thus the centerpiece of our plan and its rehashing, was empty, and it was at this point that I recognized our third failure: failure to recognize the implications of administering our plan on the very day of the New York City Marathon.

I knew that the New York City Marathon was happening that day.  But I didn’t know that the New York City Marathon was one of the largest marathons in the world, with over 40,000 marathoners.  Here’s a picture:

Most importantly, I didn’t know that the New York City Marathon covered all 5 boroughs.  Meaning that it covered Brooklyn.  Imagine all those people in the picture headed for the Path Mark at Atlantic Terminal.

We weren’t the only ones, though.  Shopper after shopper exited the sliding doors only to join us at the barrier and gaze out at the cab-free street, evident in their eyes the very question burning so hotly in us: how the hell were we going to get all of this stuff, which we just spent ten percent of our income purchasing, home?  I could sense a panic in the air.  It was like the Titanic.  As our precious milk and eggs began to slowly spoil in our sun-soaked cart, I could feel the thick urgency in the deserted souls surrounding us; could sense, at any moment, carts would begin ramming into cement, plastic bags tossed across the street like grenades, roast beef stuffed into shirts or consumed viscously on the spot. 

I decided to take action.  The bus stop was four blocks away.  It wouldn’t be easy, but we could do it.  I instructed Liz to “Grab it, Grab it all,” and five to seven bags clutched in each of our four hands, plus one gallon of milk, we set off, at a light trot.

Taped to the bus stop pole was a sign.  B65 Route Suspended for Marathon.  Our arms burning with ache, the now-stretched-string-thin plastic of the bag handles digging into our fingers, we moved on.  Tried the 63.  Same sign.  We moved on, desperately, with no destination, forsaken by MTA.  For miles.  Forced to stop every block and lower the bags’ weight to the sidewalk, reenergizing before continuing.  Calls, from me, to “Leave it!  Dump it! Dump it all!”  Liz, sitting Indian-style on the sidewalk, gathering the contents of a broken bag around her like toys in a sandbox, crying back, “No!  We can’t!  I won’t!”

Eventually, a bus.  We got on it, not caring what bus or where, just that it had seats, until it went 20 blocks in the wrong direction.  Rerouted, due to Marathon.  I wanted to cry.  Instead I fumed, shut down.  We nearly broke up.  Liz, who always saves the day, talked to the driver.

We ended up waiting for an hour or two in the shade of a building for a 65 bus that took us home, arriving at twilight—five to six hours from the initial implementation of our plan—to unload our groceries.  That’s it.  The end.

Liz requested I announce that despite all of these stories, we had a great time in NY.

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