Friday, November 04, 2005

Three Times Square

[photo by gail on the web]

1:30am Saturday

I sent this pic from my cameraphone on the way home from New York. I tried to send it while walking down to the metro, but the photo hadn't finished uploading when I lost the signal, which resulted in an aborted upload to Flickr... which might've answered my question whether Cingular sends the data in one packet or in parts (or is that at Flickr's end? I've seen partial uploads/corrupted data before). I was wondering, since Cingular botched my cameraphone upload of Hugh's pumpkin inspection last weekend, sending it SIX TIMES, three days later.

Speaking of baffling the consumer, I went to JP Morgan Chase (or is it Chase Manhattan?) to change my pound sterling to U.S. greenbacks this afternoon. It's been sitting in my wallet for five weeks now because I can't find a single outlet, bank or otherwise, that will convert foreign currency around here. You'd think I was trying to change Lebanese or Egyptian pounds instead of pound sterling, but the banking officer I spoke to said nobody deals with foreign currency at all in Scranton. Call me a cynic, but I'd probably get laughed out of the bank if I showed up with Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos -- even though they're from next door.

I was supposed to be in New York today, anyway, so I figured it was high time I got the GBP done and converted. I went to Chase because the last time I was in New York to pick up Lucy from JFK, she was able to change it there without too much trouble. She had to show her passport, but at least they didn't require her to have an account. I remembered to bring along my passport, and stood in the glacially slow Friday afternoon line of clientele impatient to get their weekend money.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Over in the business accounts queue, an irate customer pointed to her watch.

"But I was standing here right at four o'clock!" She looked around for validation.

"Right on the dot of four! How can you not take me?!? I'm the last person!" She did have a point, why single her out? Penalty for not rushing the counter?

Meanwhile, I carefully guarded my spot in the queue. This is New York, after all. Those 'keep one car-length' and 'don't tailgate' rules don't apply here, for vehicles or people. When I finally reached the counter, I put the money through the little security trough. I don't do bank chit-chat, I'm an advocate of speedy, efficient transactions. Besides, this looks like a lynching mob.

The teller asked me three times what the currency was called. BRITISH POUND STERLING. STERLING. POUND STERLING. BRITISH POUNDS. GBP. She also picked up and rotated several notes like she'd never seen security holograms before, or different editions of the same denomination.

I could see the little thought balloons floating above her head: "Oooh, look at the colours! How pretty!"

Then she took out some forms and asked the next teller how to spell the currency on the forms.

Hello? Is this not Chase Manhattan in TIMES SQUARE, the busiest, most famous intersection in all of the United States? There are more tourists here than the population of Scranton, for crying out loud, does nobody change money anymore? I'm a card person, myself, but you'd think Queen Elizabeth II's face has made enough rounds in the past sixty years or so that she might be recognised by a bank teller in Manhattan. And when all else fails, one might consult the print on the notes.

Then she asked ME how much money was in the pile. The natives behind me were getting restless, so I told her the total quickly, and offered that she might want to check it. I jumped through all their little hoops, showed my passport, filled out my address, signed it, blah blah blah, then went on my merry way downtown towards the financial district... where they had better know what GBP means! :P

Took the 7 train eastbound, then the express 4 southbound, but it still seemed to take forever. That's Friday rush hour for you. Got out at Bowling Green, which should change its name to Construction Central. Yeesh. In the end, I had to be fetched from across the street at Duane Reade because the Ritz-Carlton sign was completely obscured by a tree. (Who's idea was THAT? Trees grow, even in New York. Whoa Gail, sarcastic much?)

I was there to meet up with Mister M and Mister B* for some nosh in the 11th floor lounge before their flight to Vancouver. Mister B was on Bangalore time, so he was nodding off. I hadn't seen Mister B for nigh on a year, so I was well out of the loop on his offshore activities, and it had almost been that long since I'd seen Mister M. There was much to catch up on, but as usual the clock ran down far too quickly. The car service to the airport was waiting downstairs after only half an hour. We continued the conversation in the car, which was quite full already -- the trunk was chockers, and the front seat piled high with carry-on luggage. But we made do sharing the back seat and were quite glad we didn't have to manoeuvre through the Friday gridlock through Midtown and along Van Wyck to JFK. It was zooish, to put it mildly. They checked in to Cathay, and I backtracked to Manhattan.

It's been a bit of a wacky day, and transportation loomed large on the agenda:

- car to bus station
- bus to Port Authority
- subway to Financial District
- hired car to JFK
- AirTrain from JFK to subway
- subway to Port Authority
- bus to local station
- car to home

The day started off wacky, thanks to an overambitious Photoshop project and a very funny phone call from Hong Kong. Days like this should be framed and put behind glass, for posterity.

* It's Mister B who's privacy-conscious, but for consistency I cloaked them both in mystery. Ha! Mrs. M would laugh if she read this.