Tuesday, May 27, 2014

195 Miles: Rubberneckin' aka How I Got To New York In A Stolen Car

You know the feeling you get when you look over at the car next to you and realize that you are driving next to a cop? This is the very same feeling I felt on the drive from Baltimore, Maryland all the way into New York City. For three and a half hours, my head was like Linda Blair's during a scene in The Exorcist. Stretch, Turn and Crane were all verbs that best describe my actions from the shoulders up. With every tollbooth, state line, weighing station and speed trap we passed, my paranoia built until we got to New York City. The fact that we weren't stopped between Atlanta and New York was a miracle to say the least.

Andy and I weren't exactly a match made in heaven and we weren't exactly Bonnie and Clyde, in fact, we didn't like each other after the first two hours north of Atlanta. We had only two things in common that kept us from killing each other: We both wanted to get to New York ASAP and we were constantly horny. His reason for our trip to New York was not clear to me until we ran out of cash and gas in Baltimore.
The Kroger on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta
Forty eight hours prior to arriving in Baltimore, we met. Before we left Atlanta, Andy stocked the backseat with chips, sodas, beef jerky, potted meat, Vienna sausages, crackers and candy from the nasty Kroger on Ponce. We fueled up and were on our way. Every few hours, we switched places, usually with enough time for a quicky. This was the first time I'd ever driven and honestly I didn't know what was worse trying to get used to the weird feeling of pushing the gas pedal at a consistent level or trying coordinate myself with cruise control. I had no license or ID so if I got caught driving, who knew what would have happened.

The longest stop between Atlanta and Baltimore was when we stopped to see Andy's family in Thomasville, North Carolina. He apparently told his grandmother that the car was mine and we needed to get a fuel pump to get up back to New York, where my family lived. It's amazing how car $75 got us. I can honestly say that there is nothing worth going back to Thomasville for, the memory of seeing the "Big Chair" was enough for me.
The Big Chair in Thomasville, NC

The Maryland Penitentiary
The trip was really uneventful until we got to Baltimore, ran out of gas a block away from the Maryland Penitentiary. I guess by now, you are wondering why he was going to New York. As we sat in the car, in a city neither of us had been, in a neighborhood we had no clue about, he admits the reason he is going to New York. The truth was, he saw New York City as his escape, sanctuary and a new start. We met on a Sunday afternoon. He was living in a Motel 6, working as a server at a Denny's and was fresh off the bus from Arizona. That morning, he'd wandered into a car dealership with a checkbook and the over zealous salesman exchanged a white convertible 1991 Chrysler Le Baron for a check that he couldn't verify funds on. Our trip to Kroger, paid on the very same closed bank account. Keep in mind, this was 1992 and there was no internet back then. Customer service lines for banks were open during traditional banking hours so verifying bank records on Sundays was not an option.
A 1991 Chrysler Le Baron, just like the one were in.
We sat in the car with the windows cracked, trying to figure out how to raise enough cash to get us to New York City. We really had no clue what we would do in New York once we got there but we would worry about that when the time came. It was around 10 am, we knew we could find gay bars. How was the Baltimore hustling scene? I couldn't try and hook up during daytime hours, cops were everywhere. He recommended newspaper machines. I was NOT going to empty a newspaper machine and pose as a paperboy, especially just before noon on a Tuesday. He explained that the change bank in a paper machine is easy to break into and we could steal the money. I was NOT a thief and I was not popping locks for quarters. Then it hit me. How many checks are left? He had two books of the worthless checks. We were both greasy and scraggly from travel and sex. We needed showers and he needed to shave for my idea to work.
Sheraton Inner Harbor
We walked toward downtown, to the Sheraton Inner Harbor, walked in as if we belonged and found the pool. I had used hotel pool facilities for months in Atlanta so much that I knew that security was lax in Sheraton hotels. We used the showers located in the pool and gym area. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, towels, lotion, razors, shaving cream and sometimes after shave were usually a part of those facilities and the Sheraton didn't disappoint. We were clean and looking presentable. From a payphone in the lobby of the Sheraton, we called Marriott reservations. We made reservations for two nights at the Marriott Inner Harbor which was about a half mile away. The cost of each night was about $99 plus taxes adn we would pay upon check in.
Marriott Inner Harbor
We walked into the lobby of the The Marriott Inner Harbor with his rubber checks and reservation number. The clerks at the front desk were quite busy but nothing that filled the hotel to capacity. He wrote a check to cover the cost of both nights plus they allowed him to write $50 over for cash. We had gas money!!!! We walked a mile and a half to the 7-11 we saw close to were we had left the car. We bought a small gas can, filled it with unleaded and meandered to the car in hopes that we didn't have to shlep back to the station for another can to get the car started. We pour the can of fuel into the car, making sure we get every drop in. We threw the can in the trunk, jump in the car, say a little prayer or something like a prayer, turn the key and the engine comes to life. A buck thirty of gas in a seven dollar gas can got us started and back to the 7-11 for a fill up on Marriott's dime. We weren't done, we drove back to the Marriott, realized they charge for parking in their own lot and decided to park somewhere else that was free. We stayed the night and ordered pizza from a delivery place dumb enough to take out of state checks. That night we slept more comfortably since we left Atlanta a few nights before. We had enough fuel to get use from Baltimore to New York but what about extras such as tolls? No problem, the last part of my plan was even more lucrative than just a quick $50 for a fill up. The next morning we woke up, showered and I went down to a payphone I noticed that was out of sight of the front desk. I called the hotel, asked for Andrew Wilder's room and talked to him for a couple of minutes. When I hung up, I headed back to the room and waited a few minutes. We proceeded downstairs and to the front desk. A family emergency, we needed to check out. Andy signed the paperwork and the man behind the desk handed him $119 in cash for the unused night. We powerwalked to the car and got the hell out of Baltimore.
The view of New York and the George Washington Bridge from the New Jersey side.
Three and a half hours of paranoid rubbernecking was almost over. We were on the George Washington Bridge, I could see the view of the biggest city I had ever seen and it was indescribable. We arrived in New York City, took NY 9A to 44th Street to see my first glimpse of the Majestic Theatre, the home of The Phantom of the Opera. It was a sureal moment for sure. This was the first and last time I had driven a vehicle. It seemed as if I spent more time driving than Andy on the stretch between Atlanta and Baltimore. He navigated and drove through the streets of Thomasville, NC and Washington, DC. I refused to move from the passenger seat after Baltimore. Little did Andy know, I had more back up plans than he could ever imagine. The plan, if we were stopped before we arrived in New York City was I would tell the police that he kidnapped me and used me for sex. My next scenario, if we made it without incident, would be how I would ultimately ditch him which only took a week to pull of but with a slight hitch...
The Majestic Theatre on 44th Street

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