Photos on the Page Taken With: Nikon CoolPix775
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 and Wednesday, October 17, 2001 - Philadelphia, PA
On Tuesday, I headed back across the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the suburbs of Philadelphia. Harleysville, PA to be exact. The Philly Webgrrls chapter leader, Andrea, kindly offered to let me park the RV in front of her house and to stay, with the Berts, in her guestroom.
On Wednesday, I had a very full day which turned into a strange day. It all started when I drove the RV into Bala Cynwyd for a radio interview at Q102. I found the security guard to ask permission to park the RV in their lot and leave it there while I took a train into Center City for another interview. He was very nice and said he'd keep an eye on the Apache, with the Berts inside.
The Cab Driver
After the first interview, I called a cab to take me to the train station, talking to the security guard while I waited. We talked about work, life and my book. Then the cab arrived.
"You be the cab driver, and I'll be the passenger."
At first, I didn't understand what the cab driver was saying to me.
"You be the cab driver, and I'll be the passenger."
Okay, I thought, I've waitressed. I know how to deal with offbeat people. So I played along.
"Where to?" I said, figuring that is what a cab driver first says to a passenger.
"No no no no no. You're supposed to see 'Where are you going?'" he instructed.
"OK, where are you going?"
"Crazy, and fast. Wanna come?" He started to laugh. He had wild, light blue eyes and stringy blond hair.
Somehow we started talking about money, or lack thereof, and he told me how he had declared bankruptcy several years ago and how it was the best thing he had ever done. We also talked about living a life that you love and where we'd go to do it. He picked Florida.
I had told the driver that I needed to be at the train station by 10:05am. We pulled up to the station just as the train was pulling away. I knew I couldn't wait until the next train.
"I can drive you to the city," he offered, saying he'd give me a discount.
I didn't have a choice. So we continued talking as he drove, about a variety of topics. I was just trying to be nice. I don't think men know how awkward this situation can be for women. As a woman alone, I have to be so careful about how I talk to people, particularly men. I want to be polite, but I don't want to lead anyone on. I want to be nice, but I don't want to be too encouraging. It isn't always easy to tell if someone is a little "off" or not, so the last thing you want to do is anger them. These are some of the thoughts running through my mind as I continue talking to the cab driver of questionable mental state.
Finally, we get to my destination, WHYY studios. I pay the driver, giving him a nice tip.
"You are the nicest person I have ever had in my cab in six years of driving," he said as I waved goodbye and hurried into the building.
I sat in the lobby, waiting for the radio show producer, and wrote in my journal. When I looked up for a moment, I could see the cab driver coming into the building and signing in at the security desk. "I'm here to see a friend," he said, pointing to me. I tried to force a smile, totally confused by why he was coming into the building. Had I left something in his cab?
He sat down next to me, holding something in his hand. "Will you write me a letter sometime?" he asked, holding out pen and paper.
I regained my composure enough to say that maybe I'll send him a postcard, and he proceeded to write down his address and hand it to me. I accepted it, and then he said goodbye. I have to admit, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then I overheard a woman tell the security guard, "I just found some white powder in the storage room. I don't know what it is. You have to call someone."
The first thought running through my head was "What am I doing at a media building right now?" The producer showed up at that moment and brought me back to the studio which had a large picture window looking out onto the lobby. That is how I saw the HazMat crew coming into the building.
I just wanted to get out of there, and hurried out right after the interview. On the way out the door, I asked a policeman in the doorway if everything was okay. "It is all okay, if you are an American!" he chuckled, and I felt like I was in a bad dream.
Outside, I had planned to walk to the train station to head back to the RV, but caught a cab right away. I had to get away from here. On the ride back, I realized that I was missing my digital camera. I had left it in the first cab. So I called the taxi dispatcher and she confirmed with the cabbie that he had my camera. I instructed them to have the driver bring it to the first radio station and give it to the security guard.
The Security Guard
As we pulled into the lot of the first radio station, my eyes scanned the area, worried that the cab driver might still be lurking there. Then I saw the security guard and he brought me to the security booth, handing me my camera.
Then, the security guard proceeded to engage me in a 25 minute conversation about God and the Bible. He told me about Life after Death and how I shouldn't read the Bible with a scientific mind but with a spiritual one. When he wasn't a security guard, he was a Christian Minister, and he told me how he was a Doubter but came to Believe. We stood in the waning afternoon sun, a chilly breeze whipping around around us. He wanted me to know God.
Finally, he realized that I was freezing and said goodbye. I picked up a bagel at a nearby cafe, then hurried to the RV. It was then that I noticed a brass key ring attached to the camera which said "Know God in Your Life." As I got into the RV, the camera fell from my hands and broke on the ground.
For some reason, all of the events of that day seemed to be a series of symbols and secret messages, all meant for me to learn something or do something, but I couldn't figure out what the message was or what I was supposed to do. After my camera broke - the camera I had used for the last year to take photographs of my journey - I felt as if the messages were complete, but I was no less confused that I had been throughout the morning.
My immediate thought was that my camera was destroyed but that, luckily, I had a camera on loan from Nikon that I needed to learn how to use. At least I could still take photos on my trip. That was the only thought I wanted to hold onto. All the other thoughts were too unsettling.
End of the Day
Back in the suburbs, Andrea brought me to dinner at the mall - Houlihans - and then to the Philly Webgrrls event.
Two of the women featured in my "PowerTools" book showed up at the event - Tamara Remedios (Chapter 3) and Lorraine M. Pasquali (Chapter 5). It was nice, as always, to meet women who I only knew from email interviews. The meeting went well, and Andrea and I returned to the suburbs.