I navigate cities with my head down, eyes pealed, and by way of intense power walking which stops never for a blinking red hand and only for moving vehicles. I don’t make eye contact on the subway, but am a master of peripheral vision.
Hubby, on the other hand, has been known to stare with childlike giddiness and wonder at strange occurrences anywhere we go.
Three years ago, we did something the first person I described would never, ever do. We bought tickets to the Empire State Building from the ticket vendors wandering 33rd as you approach the building.
I know, I know, I know….why?
It was a thoughtless decision, an instinct to try to save time, an impulse buy.*
*All my shoppers out there, now you get it, right?
Making a purchase from someone standing on the street made me feel icky. Yes, icky. As it was going down, I kept looking around, wondering if we were being scammed, despite the vendors matching semiprofessional looking vests. While it ended up as a legit and fair purchase, we could have bought our tickets inside without any wait* or icky feeling.
*Especially since visitors to the Empire State Building start in the same line regardless of having tickets or not.
At that moment, I promised myself I’d never, ever buy from a ticket street vendor again.
Fast forward to 2017.
Hubby and some coworkers wanted to take a coworker here from India to see the city. It’s a classic trip: visiting the Empire State Building, a subway ride to the business district, a view of the Statue of Liberty, and dinner in one of those adorably tiny New York restaurants.
My companions, by this point, have taken so many coworkers up the Empire State Building they’ve learned the lesson of purchasing tickets directly from the source. They have not, however, learned the lesson of purchasing ferry tickets to see* the Statue of Liberty.
*Note: Emphasis on see. Apparently, we only needed a nice, up close view of her, not to actually step foot anywhere near her.
We don’t always take visitors to see Lady Liberty. Some people are content with waving to her as they pass by on the highway. However, on this trip, she was on the list. Thinking tickets to Lady Liberty would be easier to acquire than tickets to the 9/11 Memorial (a new stop in our visiting coworker tour) our coordinator, who shall remain nameless*, purchased tickets online for our guided tour of the memorial, and left the ferry trip for spur of the moment planning.
*I can tell you this much, it wasn’t me.
Driving into the city, we searched online for ferry tickets and quickly realized the impossibility of making our 12:15 9/11 Memorial tour and also getting official State of Liberty ferry tickets. Tickets online were sold out, except for in the morning.
We settled on waiting to attempt purchasing tickets at the pier after viewing the memorial. The thought was if we couldn’t get tickets, the view from Battery Park is still pretty decent.
With enough time before our tour to stop by the Charging Bull, we headed for Wall Street. En route, we passed two different groups interacting with every person walking by. One group wore professional looking red and black windbreakers. They were pushing tickets to the 9/11 Memorial. The people wearing green foam Lady Liberty crowns sucked in a few members of our group.
In case you can’t tell, I’m shaking my head even now.
Again, thoughtless, instinct, impulse, and this time I’m going to add the word desperation.
Everything about the purchase seemed off. The first guy we talked to walked us down the street to chat with another foam crown wearing guy about the ferry schedule. At this point, I was ready to walk away, but I was with four men, so I figured they could handle it if things went south. With this second crown wearing man, we were chatted up about how the ferry goes out frequently and how these tickets not only had no expiration date, but were also better than the ones being sold at Battery Park. We would get the best view without having to get off the ship.* At my companions’ hesitation, the second guy instantly offered ‘the visitor’ and ‘the lady’ free rides on the ferry.
*I did learn, despite the sheer lunacy of everything happening, that if we had gone with the official Ellis Island tour it would have been a much longer affair involving getting on and off the ferry several different times.
While we pondered things, the second guy disappeared and we were left alone with the first crowned man. Unsure if any other options remained, and again desperate, wallets were pulled out for payment. Their credit card machine ‘wasn’t working’ leading three cash payments of $35/per person (but with two people free!) to be made, with an added guilt trip that tips aren’t necessary, but are appreciated.
We returned to the same spot four hours later (as agreed upon) to find the second green crowned man who asked us if we were ready to buy our tickets.
Oh boy. Now I knew things were dicey.
We told him we had tickets and he stared at us with a look of betrayal. We tried to explain, after all, the first guy had spoken to us first, and soon became overcome with confusion.
It was fine, at least, that’s what he said. He perked up, back into super friendly green crown wearing dude mode, and said he would help us get to the shuttle that would take us to the ferry.
Across the street, a small school bus painted black pulled up and inside I thought, “That better not be their shuttle.” Simultaneously, other crowned men with names like Jughead were telling our betrayed friend he better not put us on that shuttle unless he gets his money.
This was when I backed up and thought, “You know, it was only $35 dollars. I’m okay with losing it.”
Our friend looked at the black bus as another couple was being loaded on and said, “I ain’t gonna put you on that bus. That thing is disgusting.”
We breathed a sigh of relief, even though as we sat in the cold waiting for their next shuttle we realized this hadn’t been a gesture of kindness, it had been a gesture of greed. He was waiting for the guy who sold us our tickets to show up after having called for him dozens of times over his walkie talkie.
As we stood, he commented, “I keep telling him he needs to wash that thing” to which one of my companions responded, appropriately, “I don’t think a wash is the only thing it needs”.
Our shuttle was a luxurious mini van, and I do hope you sense the sarcasm in my words. Not realizing we weren’t really out-of-towners, our driver told us he was going to take us on the ‘scenic route’ which was the exact same drive we took around downtown to find parking.
Pier 36, as empty as it looked when we approached it
The pier was empty and our driver pointed us towards the water and told us to go down and make a right.
Did I fear for my life in this moment? Not so much. But did I think we had been swindled into not the very best ferry to bring us to the feet of Lady Liberty? Absolutely.
Looks like we weren’t the only ones the green crowned men hooked
We lived and now have a humorous story to tell.
In spite of it all, I ended up with a pretty sweet shot of the city and of Lady Liberty.
And once again I’ve promised myself I will never, ever do such a thing again.