Last week, I had to attend a work conference in New York. Though I knew it would be a lot of work for Elise, I really wanted her and the kids to come. I didn't know when the kids would get a chance to come to New York City. Elise was hesitant, knowing I would have to work most or all of the time we were in the city, but once I found out, I would have Saturday morning off, I was able to convince her to come.
We decided the take the bus up. Elise had taken the bus before and raved about it. The seats were spacious and comfortable. There was wifi and electrical outlets to power your devices, and at 4 1/2 hours, the ride went by fast.
I booked us a bus for 1:30. I would leave work an hour early and cab over to Union Station where the Bolt Bus departed. Elise would pick up the kids from a half-day at school then race home. The kids would empty their backpacks of lunches, notebooks, and folders, then quickly fill them with their blankets, pjs, and stuffed animals. Then she would take an Uber to Union Station where we would meet.
But when the Uber driver pulled up to our house at 12:30, he refused to drive Elise and the kids anywhere unless they were in car seats. Of course, this never crossed my mind. I don't know if I still thought maybe we were in India where three kids would pile on to the back of a scooter and zip through the city, but -- ironically enough -- right after Elise texted me to tell me that the Uber driver wouldn't take her and that she was now hurriedly marching three kids to the Metro station, I saw a commercial for Uber in the taxi with a mother and daughter climbing into the back of an Uber car. Without a car seat.
I told Elise over text she would never make it to Union Station on time if she took the Metro. I got a quick text back saying there were no cabs at the Metro station! (Of course there weren't, but there are always cabs there!) I finally got a text as I was stuck in traffic near the Capitol saying she was in a cab and on her way, I glanced at the time on my phone: 1:10. Then, I got the text saying that Clementine had fallen in the sprint to the Metro station and skinned her knee. She was having trouble keeping up, so Elise sat her on top of her rolling suitcase and pulled her along...that is until she fell off. Of course, prepared mother of three that she is, she had a band-aid and had patched her up.
I met Elise in front of Union Station at 1:30 exactly. The five of us ran through the station to the back where the buses pull out. Just in time to see the 1:30 bus pulling out. It was stopped at a stop sign and I even asked the bus driver of the 3:00 bus if we could still get on....he shook his head and said, "Nope." And sure enough, the bus sighed, then lurched out of the station.
Elise and I saw missing the bus as a mixed blessing. Everyone went to the bathroom, we found a breezy spot to eat the egg salad sandwiches Elise had packed, then ran to Starbucks.
At 2:20, we got in line to wait stand-by for the 3:00 bus. As the line of ticketed passengers grew, we started to question whether or not there would be enough room for the five of us on the next bus. We debated buying new tickets to guarantee spots on that bus, but decided to try and luck, and fortunately, we were able to get on.
The bus was nice. However, much to our dismay, we realized that the bus wifi wasn't strong enough to watch Netflix on, and there were no movies downloaded to the iPad. I know I know....we should have packed toys, and, in Elise's defense, she did buy Sam a new Harry Potter coloring book, Clementine a new sticker book, and Peter a new sketch pad for the trip. Sam ended up reading most of the ride, and in a moment of parenting stupidity, I gave Peter my iPhone to play video games. Though it bought us an hour of two of relative solitude, it wasn't worth it when I had to take the phone away, as all three kids were thrown into conniption fits.
The next few hours passed slowly. Clementine played with stickers before eventually falling asleep as the sun set. Peter writhed in his seat, trying to get comfortable. Sam read until his face was framed by the glow from the Kindle he was borrowing from his mother. Things picked up when we reached Newark and we drove by the airport, followed by our first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, and I think I was excited as the kids.
Traffic wasn't too bad (we were going in the right direction...into Manhattan at 8:00 p.m. rather than away from it), until we hit the Lincoln Tunnel then joined a long queue of Greyhounds pointed toward the city.
We got off the bus at East 33rd between 11th and 12th. Our hotel was Midtown east, and it took us awhile to find a cab as the first one we were able to flag would only accept cash. We eventually found a cab and piled in, and a few minutes later, we were at our swanky $600/night hotel (work was paying). Elise and the kids played it cool while I checked us in, then we all headed upstairs. Sam would sleep on a pallet of blankets on the floor while me, Elise, Clem, and Peter would all pile into the king size bed. I would sleep more soundly squeezed between Peter and Clem with Sam sawing logs on the carpet than I would the one night I had the whole bed to myself when I woke up with a start at 3:00 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. The quiet was deafening and the space was crippling; no one was twitching or rubbing up against me.
We forced the kids out to grab a bit. The air was brisk and woke them up a bit. We pulled into a burger place a block from our hotel to celebrate our first night out in the big city, but the kids grew bleary-eyed shortly after the food arrived. Both Peter and Sam were threatening to lie down on the booth benches. I couldn't carry both of them back to the hotel room, so we quickly got the check and decided to call it a night.
The next morning, the kids (almost) slept in until 7:00, then spent some time watching cartoons. We headed out for breakfast at a deli across the street from our hotel, Isadora's, for genuine New York-style breakfast sandwiches, gooey cheese and eggs with bacon or sausage on a roll. Sam ordered the #6: eggs, sausage, and pancakes and barely left anything.
We left Isadora's and walked, ending up at Rockefeller Center and (of course) the Lego store! We had to indulge the kids, and -- as far as Lego stores go -- it was a pretty good one with a convincing replica of the skating rink at Rockefeller Center made of legos. Elise did (very) little shopping, before I had to peel off and head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for work.
I hugged Elise and the kids goodbye in the sun on the corner of W 53rd and 5th Ave. They would go on to the MoMa where they spent most of the afternoon coloring and doing crafts and to a playground in Central Park. We would hook back up for dinner at one of the places Elise and I ate at when we were young and in love in the city, Dos Caminos for margaritas.
Peter was a handful the entire weekend for some reason, and was generally pretty miserable the entire time I was around him. I don't exactly know what it was. He complained that his teeth hurt, but he went to the dentist a few days ago to see how the tooth behind the baby tooth that had been knocked out in Brazil was coming in, and the dentist said it was fine. He may have just been out of sorts, too much new too soon; they had just started school, and maybe it was one change too many in too short an amount of time. He whined and complained through dinner at Dos Caminos at such a volume even margaritas couldn't drown out his misery.
They would go to the Central Park zoo on Sunday, but when we reconvened for an early dinner, everyone was too tired, too ornery, and too unhappy to go anywhere. They wouldn't stop fighting and generally not listening to anything Elise or I would say. They were exhausted. We had pushed them hard. And Elise and I grew increasingly frustrated with them. We put Pete in the shower, hoping that would improve his mood. When it failed to do so, we pulled the plug and would make the command decision to stay in the room on our last night in the Big Apple.
At one point, I got so fed up and frustrated, I walked out, something I had never done.