Monday, October 1, 2012

What Happened to You, New York?

With the exceptions of Boston and Baltimore, I’ve made numerous trips to some of the major cities along the east coast over the years.  It comes with the territory of having Vietnamese immigrants for in-laws.  They are always flying back and forth to Vietnam, going back to see their parents and siblings and other family.  And plane tickets are far cheaper when leaving from international airports like JFK and PHL, and somehow I always seem to get suckered into dropping them off or picking them up.  Well, not really suckered, but I have to complain a little, right?

This weekend was no different, and we made the 2.5 hour trip to Harrisburg and then the 3 hour trip to JFK to wish my brother-in-law farewell as he and his wife and daughter will be visiting for about a month or so.  We arrived in Manhattan at around 9 AM, ate dim sum at Grand Harmony in Chinatown, then met up with my in-laws at Pho Bang and had some goi cuon.  Yum yum!  From there it was off to JFK.

We parked behind my mother-in-law’s car to help unload, and I have to say that the TSA peons were complete a-holes Saturday morning.  Pardon my French…er, English.  My brother-in-law, who had polio when he was younger and is slightly hobbled, was struggling with their bags, and my wife’s parents aren’t very spry.  My brother-in-law’s wife was holding their 16 month old, and so it only made sense that I stopped there to help.  Yet those TSA nincompoops would not leave us alone, repeatedly telling us to move.  It didn’t matter that we were unloading from both cars either.  And it wasn’t even busy.  I understand that these guys have a job to do, but we were literally parked there for less than 3 minutes, and at least 3 times the one elderly, grumpy guy came past and told us to move.  I don’t think he quite realized that I was with them (because why would a big white guy be with a bunch of little Asian people outside of the Korean Airways terminal), but that didn’t matter.  Three minutes, buddy.  And we were literally parked there to unload, exactly as the sign stated.

We then drove around and parked and went inside to see my brother-in-law off, and luckily none of the TSA staff harassed us while in the terminal.  When we left, we took the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island and then made our way back through Jersey and into PA.  My wife’s parents, though, decided to stop back in Chinatown to do a little shopping.  We would have joined them, but we were tired after having gotten up at 5 AM for this little trip, and we’d already spent half of the morning there waiting for them to meet us.

One amusing thing to note—my son had fallen asleep just before entering the Holland Tunnel, and we woke him up in Chinatown, where he was extremely confused.  He’s accustomed to being around people who don’t speak English, and yet Chinatown is just so wildly different from anything he’s ever experienced.  I had him up on my shoulders as we walked past the fishmongers and little shops.  Considering I stand an entire head above most of the people  on the streets there, he had prime view of the wonders of Chinatown.  I must have heard him ask me, “Daddy, what’s that?” about a hundred times in the half hour or so we were walking around.  I can’t wait until WE make that trip to Vietnam!

Anyway, when my in-laws stopped in Chinatown on the way back through, my mother-in-law apparently jumped out of the car, intending to then have my father-in-law find a place to park (or just drive around the block over and over) while she shopped.  My father-in-law has lived and worked in NYC since he came to the US when he was 17, and so he is by no means a tourist.  However, as my mother-in-law got out, a parking cop spotting them and the PA license plate of their car, ran over, and issued him a ticket for “standing” in a “No Standing” zone.  He explained that he was just dropping his wife off, didn’t even have the car in Park, and was driving off, and yet the guy didn’t care.  He even mentioned something about them being from Pennsylvania.  And the ticket was $115.  Can you believe that?!?

That's the first time I've been to NYC and have witnessed jerks with badges.  I'm sure it happens a hundred times an hour, but I've never actually seen it.  And I mean, we went to Philly one time for my brother-in-law to resolve an issue with his green card, and after getting all the way down there (this was maybe a year or two after September 11, 2001), we discovered that they had implemented a policy where everyone needed an appointment—no walk-ins.  The guard at the door, Chazz, was a complete jerk to us, and after yelling at us that we should have checked it online (they’d just done this a year or so before WITHOUT needing an appointment), I asked for his name.  He kept asking “Why?  Why?” and when I began to write down the info on his badge, he got right up in my face until I asked for the name of his supervisor.  I called a little later and issued a complaint, and of course I was told they’d “speak with him” and basically blew me off, but that’s the kind of behavior I expect out of Philly.  My brother went to UPenn, I’ve been there enough, and there’s a reason they call it the “City of Brotherly Love.”  People are rude there.  It’s normal and expected.

But not New York.  In all the times I’ve been there in the past decade, I’ve never experienced traffic cops and TSA people acting like that.  Again, perhaps we were targeted for our PA plates, and if that was indeed the case, that’s really not cool.  Shame on you New York!

One more side note about our crazy weekend:

Yesterday was another brother-in-law's (my wife has 4 brothers) wife's bridal shower, and afterwards we met my wife at my brother-in-law's new house in Mechanicsburg.  Nice little row house with three bedrooms, a beautiful kitchen, two and a half baths, a garage, and an office.  We then left from there, got on the turnpike, and about halfway home we stopped at the Blue Mountain rest stop where I took my son in to use the restroom.  As we were sitting in the car waiting for my wife to finish up a call with Sirius XM, she looked up and said, "Look, James Franco!"  I turned, expecting to see the famous Spider-man actor, and instead I saw this hulking man with a beard--Franco Harris.  Still pretty cool to see him, but we laughed as I pointed out the folly of her observation.  Coincidentally, after taking my son in to pee, we were washing our hands right next to him, and when none of the towel dispensers worked and I told my 3-year-old to dry his hands on his pants, Franco Harris looked over at us, shook his head, and smiled.  I did NOT tell him I'm a big fan, but I think he knew by how often I kept looking at him.

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