Not long ago on a Friday afternoon I agreed to chauffeur a friend, who had been visiting New York for a few days, back to LaGuardia airport from his hotel room on Long Island. His flight was scheduled to depart at 6:00PM, which meant getting to the airport by 4:15. Friday rush hour in New York seems to be evolving into the 3PM hour, so I thought I would make my 1 o’clock business appointment in Queens the last of my day.
As I was low on cash at the end of the week, I made a quick stop at a bank branch ATM. Posted on the lobby door was a notice to remove hats and sunglasses before entering the bank for security reasons. After all, what good are surveillance cameras if the images are revealed in disguise? I took off my sunglasses and proceeded to the cash machine. Dunkin Donuts next door would be my next detour as I start few trips without a cup of coffee. I waited on line, watched CNN on one monitor and the back on my slightly balding head on the other.
Back in my car I proceeded east on Northern Blvd. I figured to avoid the Cross Island Pkwy snarls by taking Northern to Little Neck Rd and then head south to the LIE Service Rd. Luckily, at the intersection of Douglaston Pkwy, I had the presence of mind to steer clear of the grid lock, preventing my license plate from being photographed and then mailed back to me along with a fine. Main streets all across America are coming online, geared up to take your snapshot, and happy to send you the print-along with a demand for payment.
I fought the traffic out to Rockville Center and arrived at the hotel at 2:45. I smiled as I went by the concierge desk trying to post my best face on the bank of video screens I assume are lined up in the office adjacent to the counter. In the elevator I consciously wore my sunglasses, even though I believe a camera lurks behind the tinted glass of the control panel. Once the car was loaded with luggage, my friend and I meandered our way to the Southern Pkwy. Tracing our exact route to LaGuardia would be an easy task for any geek with a laptop. The many traffic cams, cell calls from our wives (hands free of course) and GPS signals leave a wide trail of crumbs.
At 4:10 we arrived at the drop off line. I get a bit flustered on the airport ramps. There is a heavy police presence, too many signs to read and way more cameras than I prefer. I helped my friend carry his luggage to the curbside bag check and waved goodbye as I backed up toward my car. In my hurry I brushed up against a couple of pilots, who where neatly uniformed and were making their way to report for duty. I voiced my apologies, reached for my keys and began my careful drive away from the terminals.
I glimpsed a view of a parking lot security cam while merging to the left. I began thinking there must be no place left within fifty miles of New York City that is free of an electronic eye. Then suddenly it came to me-the cockpit. The final sanctuary, a safe haven with mysterious black boxes but no cameras, where one can play cards, have sex, perhaps even get in a few z’s and no one would be the wiser.