Bob took us on one last joyride around the streets of Lower and Midtown Manhattan before taking us back to the Hotel Edison. The nighttime air was still surprisingly warm so Bob opened the sunroof to give us a better view of the skyscrapers as we sped by them. Jeff, Lloyd, and I took turns standing up in the back seat and poking through the sunroof to yell at people on the sidewalks.
Lloyd was the first of us three to take notice of the paucity of pedestrians on the normally busy streets. “Where is everybody?” he asked of Bob and Phil.
Phil answered, “The only people on the streets this late at night are the hookers and drug addicts. Once the sun starts to come up they head back inside. They’re like vampires that way.”
“This late at night?” I asked rhetorically. I checked my watch for the time.
“HOLY SHIT!” I yelled. “It’s quarter-to-four!”
“QUARTER TO FOUR!” Jeff and Lloyd repeated.
“Yeah!” I answered.
“Ozzie’s gonna kill us,” Jeff said. Bob laughed at our predicament. Phil wasn’t seeing the humor of it.
“Bob, we have to get these guys back now,” Phil said.
“Party poopers,” Bob laughed.
We were headed north on 8th Avenue in the opposite direction of our hotel. Bob turned on 58th Street then headed south on Broadway. We were barreling down Broadway over 70 miles per hour. My butt was puckered up by a factor of ten. Bob was laughing the entire way down Broadway until we came upon an old street lady crossing the street. He yelled at her to get out of his way but had to slam on the brakes, coming to a screeching halt less than four feet away from the poor woman.
She looked up from her cart, shook her fist and cursed at us. Bob yelled at her again while waving her over to one side. Once she was out of the way, Bob continued on to the hotel, driving at a more leisurely, and much safer, pace.
Bob and Phil finally dropped us off at the Hotel Edison just before four o’clock. “Good luck, you guys,” Phil told us. “I hope you had a fun night.”
“It was different, that’s for sure,” Lloyd responded. We thanked them then hurried inside and up to our room.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jeff and Lloyd were both out like a light in no time at all. Me? I was wide awake thanks to the adrenaline rush of the trip back to the hotel. I lay in bed facing the window for well over an hour. Pretty soon the dim light of the sunrise was brightening up the blinds of the window. I tried my best to get to sleep but the light was soon too much to overcome. I gave up on the effort and decided to go out for a walk to try to burn off what remained of the adrenaline surge and to tire myself enough to get to sleep. I quietly threw on some clothes and headed back outside.
Broadway was completely devoid of pedestrian traffic. Just like Phil explained, the hookers and drug addicts had gone back inside for the day. A few cabs rushed past on their way to who knows where. I headed down Broadway until it crossed 7th Avenue. I continued down 7th for a block or two until I noticed the Empire State Building lit up like a torch in the dawning rays of the day. The majesty of the skyscraper and the nearly-apocalyptic scene of the empty streets was an incredible moment. I stood there drinking it all in to sear the moment into my memory.
A sweet-sounding voice from behind me broke up the moment.
“Well, hello. Are you lost this morning?”
In my tired state my mind quickly raced through some possible, Hollywood-style scenarios. The one I liked the most involved the sweet and pretty cashier from the hotel gift shop. I had looked for her every day since she gave me the buttons for my hat and had not seen her since. How great would it be to turn around and find her as she was walking to work. My heart raced as the romantic in me paused for a second to prepare myself.
I turned around with the sincere hope of greeting a new friend.