The Back Packer: Installment 1

It was a cold torrential downpour that afternoon in June when Abigail stepped out of J.F.K Airport. She spent a few seconds in the door deciding if she should go back in and get an umbrella from the duty-free shop. She was also taking in the assault on all her senses, a noise level that made her head ring. Smells both good and extremely bad in the hundreds maybe thousands all in one breath. So many people and vehicles moving so fast her eyes had trouble fixing on any one thing. She caught sight of a bench just off to her left and turned out of the door to sit and give herself time to adjust. Just then a man and woman passed her discussing the umbrella situation.

The woman turned to the gentleman. “It’s down pouring! I can’t show up at my meeting completely soaked. I have a white shirt on for God sake!”

“Dear those airport shops cost a small fortune. New York is the wholesale capital of the world. Let get a cab to take us to a place we can get it cheaper.”

“Charles how do you expect me to get to the cab without joining a wet tee-shirt contest? I’ll just go get one inside.”

The couple headed back into the doors arguing as Abigail sat on the bench. She covered her face with her hands and took a very long deep breath. As she took them away she suddenly noticed that most of the cars along the curb were cabs.  She decided to just get to her destination and forego anything else. Though as she stood her stomach protested its lack of food. She realized as she got in a yellow checker cab she had not eaten since three am Idaho time.

“Where to lady?” The large dark-haired cabbie was looking at her in the rear view-mirror.

“Um…Well I need to get to the docks for ‘Round the World Cruises’ as quickly as possible. But…um…well I just realized I haven’t eaten for close to ten hours. I don’t have a lot of time to stop. Any ideas?” She was attempting to straighten her skirt and retrieve her wallet from her purse when the cabbie jerked the cab out into traffic and took off like a shot. This sent her sprawling across the seat and some of her purse contents spilled out onto the floor. “Easy man I want to make it there alive if you don’t mind.”

The cabbie chuckled at her. “Sorry miss. Things move pretty fast around this airport and you gotta be able to keep up. I’ll pull over by the first food cart we see and you can get something to eat. Don’t get out of the car when you order. Someone will try to get in and I don’t need the headache. I will have you to your ship in about forty-five minutes to an hour.”

As Abigail was putting her belongs back into her purse she saw the card machine. “Oh! Can I run my card to pay you?”

“Yeah, miss and tip. You will need cash for the street vendor though.” He smiled at her in the mirror.

“Thank you…” She looked at his cab license for a name. “Thank you, Sal.” She retrieved her card from her wallet to begin the payment process.

“Where are you vacationing to miss?”

“Call me Abby. I’m not going on vacation. I got a job with ‘Around the World Cruises’ I will be a crew member for the next nine months aboard the Mirage.”

“What will you be doing as a crew member?”

“John, the man who hired me said he thinks they will use me in housekeeping but my job title will be assigned permanently once I arrive and get evaluated by Ms. Trytin.”

They drove along for some time discussing this exciting new time in her life. They talked about how this was her first time to New York and places she was hoping to see while serving on the ship. Suddenly Sal jerked the cab out of traffic and into a spot along the curb. Abigail looked blankly out the window at first not registering the food vendor on the side walk in her thought process. Her window began to roll down and she gave Sal a quizzical look. “Food Abby.” Sal was pointing to the vendor which now registered with her brain.

“Hey Bobby! My passengers in a hurry to catch another ride and needs food." A young man with dark slicked back hair turned toward the car.

“Uncle Sal! No problem!" He looked in Abby’s direction. “Wow you found a spicy one Uncle Sal! What'll it be gorgeous?”

“Hey, whatz a matter for you Bobby? She’s a respectable young lady. You talk to her nice.”

“Sorry Uncle Sal. What can I get for you miss?” He was staring at his shoes unwilling to make eye contact for fear his Uncle might get out and cuff him.

Abby was grinning widely at this exchange. She always thought this kind of New York banter was made up for the movies and TV. “May I have a cheese burger with Ketchup and fries. Oh, and a cherry coke.” She handed him a twenty out the window.

“No problem miss.” He took the twenty and turned toward the cart. In less than one minute he was handing her the order and her change. She barely had the stuff in her hand and Sal was whipping back out into traffic. She yelled thank you to the young man through the window as they sped away.

For the rest of the ride Sal let her eat while he told her all about New York. He told her all the best places to stay, see, and eat if she got the chance to come back and be a tourist. As they pulled up to the docks she wiped her face and hands gathered her stuff and thanked him for everything. He handed her a business card and told her to call him for a ride again if she was ever back in New York.
As Sal’s cab squealed away she straightened herself and took a deep breath which caught in her throat as she looked up at the ginormous ship in front of her.