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An eventful ‘practice run’

I’m always driving toward Schenectady, it seems.

Last Sunday, for instance, I awoke with the realization that I was to take cast members of “Miss Saigon” to WNYT for “Live at Noon” the following day.

I love to drive — except when I’m on a mission. And taking cast members to area stations is the least favorite aspect of my job. I always stress that I may be late, or delayed in bad weather, or that construction cones will spring up unannounced along the designated route. I can’t drive my own car for “insurance reasons.” I try to dismiss these non-existent, yet free-floating and invasive concerns to no avail. And so, to quiet the voices in my head, I do what I always do: a practice run – this time to Albany/Menands.

Getting to Channel 13 from Richmondville is a no-brainer. Although I recall the route from previous trips, I bring directions from Google for backup. I clock my time and mileage against Google. I recalculate the “optimal” time to fetch the cast members.

Should any of them require caffeination, I locate a nearby donuterie. I stop for an iced coffee; it has been several hours since my early morning wakeup and I can almost feel the large iced jolt that looms large in my thoughts.

Once inside, there’s turmoil behind the counter. Someone washing the floor has put bleach into the solution. The floor is so slippery that the wait staff must hold onto every available surface to walk without falling. I start to laugh, then realize the gravity of the scenario. I feel bad about ordering, afraid that I would be the cause of an accident (Man on Practice Run Held in Coffee Caper!). Lots of expletives later — not aimed at me, I hope — I return to my car and head for home –– this time via Schenectady to check the website at Proctors. I post news items on the crawl beneath the website banner and check throughout the day for possible malfunctions/changes.

Twenty minutes on the road, I see that I am going in a direction I do not know. At about the same time, I hear a news report about a highway car fire. I tune into the station listed on the flashing roadside kiosk. I hear that I should avoid the access route between Routes 87 and 90. I’m not sure where this is relative to me.

Before I can calculate what the report means, I am stuck in a miles-long backup on the highway. After 15 minutes of non-movement, the “outlaw within” trumps the fretting but obedient child. I jump the median strip, put the peddle to the metal and run with the high-speed wolves on the opposite side of the highway. I hear a strange sound. A stone from somewhere has etched the center of my windshield.

As soon as possible, I exit. No sirens. No flashing lights. I stop at the first service station. I show good will and buy a soft-drink that I don’t want before requesting directions. From behind the counter, a man points and directs in a crisp, high-toned accent that seems at odds with his disheveled appearance. His reaction tells me that he has said this before — maybe even seconds before my arrival.

“Take this road straight. Do not get off.”

I want more than reassurance but he waves his arm even more decisively in the direction of his directive! I hear. I obey. I go.

I am on Route 5. Despite unfamiliar territory I begin to notice names and locations that I often hear on AM radio as sponsors of local news or featured on my own Facebook page. Passing a well-known Subaru dealer, I realize that I’ve been here before — just weeks ago. Within 20 minutes, I arrive in Schenectady.

Although I feel no welcoming current rising from the afternoon heat of the Electric City, I breathe a sigh of relief: While not home, I am safe and secure in surroundings that I will come to know more and better as my own in the months and seasons ahead — as a future resident of Schenectady.

Blogger Thom O’Connor loves to drive –- but is often given to daydreams and conversations with a faithful and oversized tape recorder. He is well known in traffic courts.


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