When I posted yesterday I had nothing to slice about, and with no plans for the rest of the day, I honestly thought I wouldn’t have anything. So much for that…
Two hours later my best friend and I are on the road. “Come be my navigator to Jersey. We can ride out, pick up my package and ride back.” It’s a Friday afternoon, don’t have any plans, it’s a quick run, why not?
Did I mention I live in NYC, specifically The Bronx? Getting to New Jersey means getting to the George Washington Bridge which means getting on the Dantean worthy stretch of road legally, but jokingly named Cross Bronx Expressway. The expressway part of the name is a fallacy. Anyone familiar with the CBE is likely already cringing as they read this. Perhaps, at 3am, when there is no traffic, it would be an hour to our destination and back. But no, this is a Friday afternoon at the onset of rush hour, nonetheless.
Any notions for a quick run are dashed with our Waze GPS app politely informing us “There is a twenty-three minute delay on the Cross Bronx Expressway. You are on the fastest route.” I all but heard the sniggering of “Suckers!” from Fate, Karma and the Universe following that. There is going to be nothing express about it. We are looking at an hour just getting there. Okay, radio up, window down, let’s do this.
It’s a sunny late-afternoon in early March. The first hints of spring are in the air. My bestie and I are reminding each other not to quit our day jobs as we badly harmonize with the radio. We pick on New Jersey versus New York drivers. Even with the traffic it’s a smooth-ish drive to our destination. Then there is the return home.
Now we are near the height of rush where even going in the opposite direction is no help because of the George Washington Bridge traffic. At 4:23pm, Waze informs us we should be an home by 5:48pm. Riiiiiiiiiiight. At 6:12pm we have only just cleared the GWB itself to approach the dreaded CBE again. I don’t drive, trust me you do not want me behind the wheel of a two-ton battering ram with my temperament, but I spend a lot of time in cars, taxis, Ubers. If there is one thing I know, it is how to get home. I see the traffic c-r-a-w-l-i-ng ahead at the main East River crossing and nicely introduce my bestie to a work around where even Waze knocked ten minutes from our ETA once we’re over the Alexander Hamilton Bridge. [An aside: For the record I now know I will never be able to read or hear the name Alexander Hamilton and not hear it sung with passion and ending with an orchestral hit, a la the musical Hamilton, for the rest of my days. Thanks Lin Manuel Miranda.]
We are discussing dinner plans because we both have separate Zoom calls and this one hour run, now over two hours, has crunched into our time when we suddenly see rising black smoke ahead of us. Because of the curve of the expressway it takes a moment to realize the even slower snarl in traffic is on our side of the road. As three lanes become one, we see a man alone, backing several yards away from something on the far side of where we are forced to drive up on the shoulder to give clearance.
Then we see why.
Now, I have seen cars with their engines on fire in real life. I have seen vandalism that has badly torched a car. What I have never seen is a car fully engulfed in flames, including the sudden loud pop! as something gave, except in cinema. Until this:
We realize the man backing away must be the owner of said car. He clearly saw what was about to happen, pulled the car to the nearest shoulder and got the hell out. At least he is safe and we sincerely thank his forethought and courage to get the car to the side and as much out of the way as possible before escaping. I imagine the vehicle must have had a full tank of gas for that to happen. I don’t know what happened to the audio in this video, but I exclaim, “You can feel the heat. Yo! You can FEEL the heat!” with awe as we drive up on the raised shoulder, giving the burning vehicle a wide berth as we drove past. The heat being something else you cannot get a real sense of watching it from the comfort of a theater or a home. The driver had no choice but to get far away from it, yet still be in the vicinity as at least three fire trucks that we saw raced to the scene.
And speaking of scene: because I am a New Yorker, and such is a part of life here , I admit I did look to see if there were a movie film crew nearby before my dang sense kicked in and I took my own phone out to record the above. Because I’m honest, I could do nothing but agree when my bestie thanked the powers-that-be in gratitude that we had passed it all before FDNY arrived and closed off the road to handle it. And because I am an idiot, my next thought was and I thought I’d have nothing to slice about(!).