I took the Madison Avenue bus home from work last night.
Distance: 2-point-something miles.
Time taken: Two-and-an-effing-half-hours!
The problem: In a word, diplomats. Last night New York was crawling with them. In a way it was like waking up in the middle of the night, stepping into the bathroom for a glass of water, and finding the sink crawling with cockroaches.
The great un-diplomatic Manhattan traffic tieup
Somebody – NYPD, Secret Service, FBI, or for all I know the Iranian Secret Police – was making a huge show of tying up traffic for the security of various nations’ diplomats, including our own, while they go to and from the UN blabbing and blubbering to no effect I can detect other than annoyance. Meanwhile, it’s New York’s citizens who got shafted.
So a dude who happens to be a diplomat wants to go for a ride. Does that mean you have to clear all streets of all traffic in a four block radius while the guy checks out of his hotel, loads his baggage into a huge chauffeur-driven SUV, ambles out the hotel’s front door, picks his nose, blows a kiss, and gets in?
I live a few blocks from the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue, a deluxe joint favored by people who live off the taxpayers’ (or slave owners’) money around the world. The Carlyle is on Madison Avenue between 75th and 76th. Why did that justify blocking off Madison Avenue from 73rd Street to God-Knows-Where, the side streets between Madison and Park on 75th and 76th Streets, and who knows what else?
Why did some diplomat’s temporary residency justify freezing several bus loads of passengers for twenty minutes. The bus couldn’t move forward. The riders couldn’t get off. We were prisoners of diplomacy! Out-effing-rageous!
The curse of Leona’s ghost
Earlier, the same bus that I was riding got caught in a different diplomatic security log jam in front of the Palace Hotel, on Madison at 51st Street. That’s the hotel that used to advertise that Leona (“Only the little people pay taxes”) Helmsley was their “Queen.”
Well, Leona’s now pushing up daisies, but her ghost still haunts the block. Nothing moved. Nothing budged. You could almost hear Leona cackling. Or sneering. Or gloating that “Only the little people ride busses.”
Secret technique of the
For those of you who are security buffs, I did notice one interesting technique that some U.S. security service is using. (I say it’s a U.S. security service because it happened in a van with U.S. Government license plates.)
They’re using hatchback SUVs. And before any diplomat goes out the hotel door with his finger in his nose, they open the back hatch. One of those buzz-cut, conservatively-suited, funny button-in-the-lapel, doo-hickey-in-the-ear, sunglasses types sits down in the back, cross-legged like Chief Sitting Bull, facing out the rear window.
Can you see him once the hatch goes down? Nope, because they use that one-way glass that prevents you from seeing inside the vehicle. But you'd better believe he's there. I saw him get in. I saw him sit down.
Is he armed? I couldn’t tell you that. I didn’t see a weapon. But I’d be willing to bet a two hour traffic jam he’s carrying iron.
I mention this just in case you’re a terrorist, planning to sneak up behind a diplomatic vehicle and start shooting. Fuhgedaboud it, dude. They’ll blow you a way before you have a chance to call home on your cell phone and say goodbye to Mom.
On the other hand, I do wish the Secret Service (or whomever) would stop deploying secret agents in full public view. But I guess that’s what happens when you tie up traffic. Everybody in the vehicle stranded next to yours gets to see exactly what you’re doing.
Uh oh, it just occurred to me that if somebody in the Secret Service reads this, they may insist we commute to and from work blindfolded from now on.
Revealed: The Crank’s
plan for improving
Look pal, I’m for security as much as the next person. And I’m probably more in favor of diplomacy than anybody else you could name. But diplomacy in Manhattan simply doesn’t work. With cranks like me running around grumbling about needing over two hours to go two miles, and how late it’s getting, and how hungry we are, diplomacy here is counter-vibrational.
So here’s what I suggest. Get hold of an airplane hangar out at JFK Airport. Run a partition down the center. One side ought to be a dormitory, with none-too-comfortable upper and lower bunks, just like what they have in the army. The other side ought to be a conference room.
When the diplomats get off their airplanes, they should be herded into the hangar and forced to stay there and negotiate until they get something settled. Anything settled, come to think of it.
Until then, they’d have to sleep in a common hall, listening to one another snore and fart and whatever else all night. And they'd have to eat Army food. Does the army still service creamed chipped beef on toast – what soldiers at Fort Dix used to call shit-on-a-shingle – for breakfast? Good. Serve them that. Every last morning. Until they solve problems like Darfur, Iraq, and nukes in Iran and North Korea. Betcha it wouldn’t take more than a week.
Did I mention that I advocate having just one toilet for the entire diplomatic corps? Well I do. As well as one common shower room. And if one of those nose-picking diplomacy hacks is bending over for the soap when Congressman Larry Craig comes through on a Congressional junket, tough luck!