I planned to be prompt for my first firehouse tour. Really, I did.
I got up at 6:30 a.m.! That's a half-hour earlier than I usually find myself able to stop ignoring that incessant beeping that comes out of my alarm every weekday. And I did get ready, and I even checked up on the various sites that have been featuring the on-auction JC firehouses I've been coveting. But when I meant to leave, at 8:30 for my 9:30 appointment on Central Avenue, I found myself instead rushing back to my computer to figure out how to get there from here without my car.
I wanted to avoid the Newark Avenue traffic that the jitney to Palisades hits in is circuitous route to the Heights. But taking the Light Rail to Hoboken and then a bus didn't seem to be faster than taking the PATH to Journal Square and getting a bus. Shouldn't there be a bus from somewhere around here to there? I dug around online.
Sure. There's a bus. The jitney, a private, mostly Latino bus that goes from the bottom of 8th Street up to Palisades.
"Shut up and take it," I thought, just when I noticed is was already quarter-to-nine. I'll just have to risk the Newark Avenue traffic.
I raced around and out of the house, and just missed a jitney at 9 a.m. I waited a second, then decided to cross the mall and get a taxi.
Which worked, until the taxi driver started chatting. Right after he called into his central office, got the fare, and then laboriously pushed buttons on the GPS.
"I can tell you how to get there," I said.
He made some vaguely affirmative noises and stared at the GPS instructions.
"Are you from here?"
"Yes, I live over there." I waved my hand vaguely towards the mall.
He made a U-turn and hit every single light and then aimed his taxi straight up the Holland Tunnel exit. (Uh-oh. He should have gone under the Skyway and up the cliff the back way. I should've waited for the jitney. Damn GPS.)
"I am not from here," said the driver.
No kidding, I thought. I could have played his game, but I wanted him to hurry. I didn't want to chat.
"You are Egyptian," I said flatly. "You are from E-gept." I said it with the guh, not juh, like an Egyptian would.
Surprised, he said "Yes, I am. But I am Coptic! I am not Muslim."
"I can see that." I glanced at the Jesus decals on his dashboard. Coptic taxi drivers do this in Egypt and the US, and probably other places too.
"Coptics are Christian! We are not Muslim!"
Yawn. Here we go.
"America is a very smart country! Why do they let these people in? They are terrible people."
Taken aback, I said that America was open to everyone and that there was no way to know who would do bad things.
And then he made it quite clear what he was talking about.
"Obama - Muslim."
I actually laughed at this point.
"That's ridiculous. Obama isn't a Muslim.'
"Yes, he lived in a Muslim country."
"Barely for any time and anyway, it doesn't matter. I lived in Muslim countries and it didn't make me a Muslim. Obama isn't a Muslim."
And in my head, I thought "Why the hell am I having this conversation with this idiot? He is probably discriminated against all the time and yet here he is doing to others exactly what is done to him all the time. I should get out and walk. No... wait... that's only hurts you. Sit tight. Just stop the conversation."
"I lovvved Bush."
"I only have ten minutes. You went the wrong way. You shouldn't pay any attention to that GPS. You should have gone under that bridge and up the back way. I will show you. You need to hurry. I am in a hurry."
And with that, we fell into silence for the rest of the trip.
Just another installment in my ongoing awkward adventures with Egyptian taxi drivers, I reckon.