Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Grove Street Gang

I feel that yesterdays post requires some explanation, because no-one knows what the hell the Grove Street Gang is. Apart from it's members of course.

I first moved to New York in November 2001 - should have been sooner, but they messed up my visa application. Anyway, X and I had rented an apartment in Jersey City, as he worked in JC right on the Hudson River, and I would be working in the World Financial Centre, just across the Hudson River. Of course, after the WTC attack, my offices were out of bounds, and his offices had been commandeered by head office. So, we ended up working for 6 months in an office in Parsippany, which is in the depths of New Jersey. To get there, we had to walk to the Grove Street Path Station, travel to Hoboken, where the company had laid on a bus to take all the people in the area to Parsippany.

This was a nightmare - I have done major commuting to London, and the reason we were paying such extortionate rent was so we would not have to spend hours each day commuting. And here we were, 3 hours at least each day commuting. And by bus. There were several other buses laid on - most of them from Manhattan. But the Hoboken bus only had one each day - 8 am to go there, 5 pm to come back. Miss it and you were buggered. Anyway, because it was the same people each day, we bonded. As only people in a shitty situation can. And especially the people who travelled from Grove Street Path. Hence, the Grove Street Gang was born. There was Cap'n Taco, Flash, Pokey. We had banana cake competitions on the bus. Nancy and I even baked bus shaped cookies one day, and iced them in the green and white colouring of the bus.

There are so many tales of fun from this time - Nancy and I were reminiscing on Saturday night, and crying with laughter. The crazy bus driver, who really was crazy. He got into a road rage fight with a New Jersey Transit bus one night coming home. It was like a clip from Speed. Hurtling down the highway, cutting each other up. All the passengers sitting silently, gripping the arm rests, too frightened to upset the driver any further. The time the bus got jammed under a bridge. Then a week later, with a different driver, getting jammed under the same bridge. The crazy bus driver suddenly pulling to the hard shoulder, got out, walked to the back of the bus, kicked the wheel, got back on. He did this twice. No-one ever asked him what he was doing. The time the crazy bus driver shouted at us because we waited under cover the morning it was pissing down with rain. Then, because someone complained to his boss, the appalling apology from him on the bus home. The crazy bus driver (hmm, crazy bus driver is a recurring point here) seemed to love me. Every time I got off the bus, I would say "Thanks very much" as only we British can. And every day, he would reply "Your welcome very much" and giggle like it was the funniest thing ever. Twice a day. Two days a week. For 6 months. Wasn't that funny. What was funny was when I pointed this out to Peter, and he then started to say "Thanks very much" as he got off. And the bus driver just grunted at him. Peter conducting an interview with a new bus driver, even down to what car he drives, how many miles he does a year, where his favourite spot was to drive, how many dogs he had. Peter conducting a survey of the regulars to see if we wanted the bus to leave early on a Friday - at 4.30 - since all the other buses left early. Then, rather than asking the person in charge if we could move the time, he makes a 10 page presentation. Listing all replies (10 people said 'yes', 5 people said 'Yes', 7 people said 'YES' - two of which were underlined - and one 'HELL YEAH!') showing the answers in various different types of chart, then booking an hours meeting to present it.

Christine making up the 'Rules of the Bus' -

Our favorite bus driver was unfortunately not on the bus today. Reports indicate that he was actually using his day off or that we are no longer making his job enjoyable. In order to better understand his moods, an underground group has developed the following coding system:

1. When bus driver claps once, he is joking.
2. When bus driver gets out of bus and kicks tire, he is not joking.
3. When bus driver hops up and down, he is irritated. Or his foot has fallen asleep.
4. When he makes us wait outside in the rain, he is joking again.
5. When he speeds away when you are running to the bus, he is just following the rules. Nothing personal.
6. When he drag races with NJ Transit, he is angry. Remain calm. Close your eyes and think happy thoughts.
7. When he points and tells you "you're gonna lose!" you are going to lose. Sit down and be quiet.
8. When he crashes into the railing on the highway, he is just sleepy. It's hard driving a bus for 2 hours.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't actually the hugest fun I have ever had. But given the situation, I think we made a bloody good job of making the best of it.

Then we moved back to Manhattan. And while we hated the commute, the Grove Street Gang was not so close. The ferry left every 15 minutes. So we often did not all make the same ferry, so didn't see each other quite so much. We bonded to some degree over the ferry - especially one particular ferry guy who would always hold your hand as you got off the ferry, so all us women would walk on his side of the boat just so we could hold his hand. It taking 2 months before we realised he was English - and this only because I went to work late one day and the ferry was almost empty so he came to talk to me. We all thought he came from the Bronx! Then making all the girls jealous because I now knew Adam's life story, and all they got was his hand off the boat.

Every so often we meet up for a drink. We even had a 'Parsippany Bus' evening, where we went through the presentation Peter had made, other funny signs and emails which had been going around during the 'Bus Era'.

Anyway, to the Grove Street Gang - thanks! And looking forward to our last meeting next week!

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