Getaway Car 🚘
Any fun trips planned this summer?
“I had been unwaveringly loyal to my talent, and now that the chips were down I expected it to be loyal to me. With so much time for thinking and so little time for writing, I learned how to work in my head. Between pilfering croutons off salad plates and microwaving fudge sauce for the sundaes, I decided I was going to make up a novel, and that the novel was going to get me out of the restaurant. The novel was going to be my getaway car.”
—Ann Patchett, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
✍️ July 14, 2023 at 10:22 a.m.
I emerge from the chaotic Times Square subway station stairwell smack in the middle of morning rush hour. Just as I take in a big gulp of humid air, a friendly couple visiting from India stops me.
“Can you help us get to the Statue of Liberty?” they ask eagerly, paper map spread across their four hands.
On some days, I have all the time in the world. I’ll stop and talk for hours.
Today was not one of them. In keeping with 2023 summer morning scramble mode: I’ve already been up for hours: answering Voxers for coaching clients, drafting podcast notes, prepping for a free Free Time keynote while hammering out final notes on the train, and adding slides as service resumes in between subway stops. Not an idle minute yet.
I’m late for the podcast studio (again), with 30 minutes to bang out a solo episode before entering the virtual green room for Toronto’s Startupfest. In one hour I will be virtually zapping into a waterfront lounge via giant TV screen, speaking to conference-goers who amble into the ThinkersOne booth.
This couple did not have GPS on their phone and refused to take a taxi at any point in the journey to Ellis Island, which complicated things. My verbal directions devolved into a jumbled mess.
After five minutes of unsuccessful Google-map-pointing at my phone explaining options, a gruff older man approaches, tilting his head and smugly raising his eyebrows in our direction as if to say to me, “I’ll take over from here.”
I wouldn’t normally call a Good Samaritan Tourist Helper smug, except this guy made a crack at me as I left; more on that in a moment.
To give myself a morsel of credit, the journey required a convoluted 90-minute route with train changes, and was hard to explain in a way they could remember:
“Any fun trips planned this summer?”
—The start to every bit of small talk these last three months
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I’d be on a trip right now.
As things currently stand, like the couple from India, even the taxi fare is out of our budget, at least until we finish bailing out the bottom of our free-wheeling artist-author sailboat from the household expenses rapidly pooling.