I got on the train with full intentions to get onto the subway heading north to Central Park to do my last bit of exploring before I left. I stepped on the train and at the next station I realized the street numbers are getting smaller instead of bigger. I was heading the opposite direction. “That’s ok,” I thought. “While I’m here I’ll just go check out the Port Authority and get my ride to the airport all lined up.” Once I got off the subway I got an excellent view of the Chrysler building and I walked around the snowy park in front of the public library. There had been a blizzard a few nights before that had actually cancelled some flights. Luckily, they didn’t cancel mine.
I started heading down the road towards broadway which was pretty close to the bus hub I was trying to get to. I walk into a building downstairs and asked a lady if she knew where the Newark airport shuttle was. That was what the concierge guy at the hotel told me to look for after I told him I was looking to get to the Stewart Airport in Newburgh. She pointed me in a direction and I found signs saying Newark Shuttle this way with an arrow. That’s where the shuttle was but where were the tickets? As I was going up on the escalator to find ticketing I realized. “Newark… Newark… Newburgh…!!!! Those are not the same! Oh Jeez.” I found an open ticketing booth right after I made it to the top of the escalator. Thank goodness I hadn’t found one before I figured out I was going to a different airport altogether. Thank you Heavenly Father. And thanks for sending me down there earlier so I wouldn’t be deathly stressed whenever I would have realized the miscommunication between me and the concierge guy. So anyway, I talk to the ticketing guy and tell him the airport I was going to. He gave me a fuzzy confused look and started typing on his computer. “Oh no.” I thought. “Does anyone know where this airport is?” A few moments later he looked at me and said, that’ll be $18. And I asked “and thats to the Stewart airport right?” “Yes” he said, and he did not elaborate. He gave me nothing. “Okaaay,” I thought. I paid for the ticket and he gave it to me without saying anything else. I asked him “what gate is it at” because it didnt say on the ticket. “405 fourth floor at 12:45.” Okaaay…. I meandered around and eventually found an elevator that took me to the 4th floor. The 4th floor button on the first one I tried didnt work. I get to the gate and there is no one. Its ok though because I was there an hour early.
Then I see Frank for the first time before we actually introduced ourselves to each other. Heavy duty work boots, thick and worn Levi’s, heavy jacket, closely cropped hair and a thick white handlebar mustache. A man in his late 50s or early 60s with a Brooklyn accent. He came up and looks at the gate, reads some of the signs, and disappears again. He reappears about 10 minutes later and sets his bag down in front of the door to the gate and talks to a transit worker he is familiar with. The worker wasn’t a bus driver but he did something with managing the buses. Frank mentioned the snow, asked about the bus schedule, was frustrated, and continued to stand there as the worker walked off. At this point I stood up and asked him what was going on and if he was headed the same direction I was going. He said he was and that the workers here will tell you anything to keep you quiet. He said the guy told him the 12:45 bus was running but Frank said he wouldn’t believe it until someone was there to take his ticket. He asked about my plans and thats when I told him I was on my way to the Stewart Airport to make my 5:30 flight. He told me, oh well this bus doesn’t drop off at the airport. It stops about 10 minutes away from it.” Oh no… ” I thought. “but its ok because I already looked up phone numbers for cabs in Newburgh when I was thinking I was going to take the train up the Hudson River and then have to cross it.” Frank works as a carpenter in Manhattan. He has been doing it for over 35 years I think. He has 2 daughters and one of them is getting married in three weeks. They’re going to South Carolina. Frank and his wife are going to be moving closer to their daughter sometime this next year I believe. He is on the verge of retiring and he is happy for this change of pace. But he didn’t tell me this until later on our commute.
It seemed that Frank could tell that I was a bit out of my element. He talked to the bus driver once he showed up and gave him details about where it was that I needed to go. Apparently my ticket said I was supposed to transfer busses at some point. Frank asked if the bus that would pick me up from there was actually running because of the snow. The driver told him it probably wasn’t. Frank told me to just stay on the bus with him and we would get off at the last stop together. We eventually loaded onto the bus and off we went through the Lincoln tunnel on our way to New Jersey. There was a significant amount of unplowed snow on the roads once we got into the smaller towns. Frank would give me assurance every now and again. I remember him saying ” hey it’s ok, we are almost there.” When he noticed I was siting on the edge of my seat looking out the Front window. I was probably unconsciously tensing up my thaighs like I do when I’m stressed. He told me he wasn’t sure if the cabs would be running because of the snow. I told him if it’s a ten minute drive it wouldn’t be too far of a walk. Besides, I had my backpacking pack on and my leather boots. Not the ideal situation but I would still make it there before my flight took off. I would just need to find a restaurant, use their wifi, take a screenshot of google map’s directions and navigate my way there.
Earlier Frank had introduced me to one of his carpenter friends while we were at the bus terminal. I don’t remember his name but he was about the same age as Frank. They do the same type of work but work for different companies. He told me about how good his life is, how this job has treated him so well and he and other people like him and Frank are making a good amount of money doing what they do in Manhattan. “You see people dressed like us, worn leather work shoes and faded Levi’s, and most people don’t think twice about us, but we are probably wealthier than most people walking on the street…We are the ones who built this city.” He really seemed to take ownership and pride in his work after being here for so long. I kept asking questions and he kept telling me more. I loved it!
Frank offered me a ride once we made it to our stop. He told me he wasn’t sure how I felt about accepting a ride from him since we had met only hours before. I was discerning when I made this decision. My friend Forrest is very comfortable with the hitchhiking process. He told me when someone pulls up to offer him a ride he talks to them for a bit before he accepts. He told me he can usually get a feel for the person. He told me there have been rides he has passed up because he didn’t feel right about getting in the car with them. I told Frank that I didn’t feel uneasy about accepting a ride from him and I thanked him as we walked to his car. When we got to it, I saw a baby car seat in the back and that’s where we struck up a conversation about his daughters. “I have a daughter your age and I would hope someone would take care of her if she were in a similar situation.” We talked on a more personal level on our drive to the airport. I am very grateful for him.
To all the good men in the world, thank you for your kindness, time, and generosity in serving the men, women, boys and girls who aren’t your children but who are someone else’s. I am so grateful for what Frank did for me that day. He helped me get where I wanted to go and he reassured me along the way. I know my Dad would’ve done the same if he were in Frank’s position. I’ve seen him do it numerous times and I love him so much for it! Happy Father’s Day!