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Marilyn Hagerty, Forum Communications Co., Published April 15 2012

Hagerty: In New York, driver believes in being kind to people

New York City

‘Go on back to Jersey and learn how to drive!”

That’s what our driver hollered when a car alongside us kept honking. We were on our way back to LaGuardia Airport after a quick visit to New York this past week.

“They can just keep beeping,” the driver said. “We aren’t going any faster. Such idiots!”

The cars, the taxis, the traffic. It is simply wild in New York City. Our driver sat back and said, “You couldn’t do this if you didn’t enjoy it. Me? I just laugh it off.

“Mind you,” he said, “they come in from Albuquerque and they know everything. We meet all kinds.

“As long as your do your job as a driver,” he said, “you’re OK. And you’re kind to people. That’s how our company gets its reputation.”

Although I have been there several times over the years, I find it exciting and thrilling to be in New York City in April. This past week, the trees were blossoming out. The carriages were waiting in Central Park. There were people all over. And pigeons fluttering around. The streets were full of yellow taxi cabs.

The sidewalks are alive with people who walk rapidly, seemingly with a purpose. Central Park covers 60 city blocks. And as one driver said, “It’s four avenues wide.”

The Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers being rebuilt are well-known places to visit in New York City. There is so much. For me, the attraction is Broadway shows. Although there was no time for frivolity, I noticed “Anything Goes” is one of the most recommended of the current shows on Broadway. So, too, are “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “Rock of Ages” in Time Out New York magazine.

For those who have the wherewithal to get around New York, the wonders include an unending list of museums. There’s the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park West and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Ave.

Two quick visits to New York in several weeks have given me a chance to see firsthand what goes on behind the scenes on television shows. My visits were to the Anderson Cooper show filming site in the Jazz studio of Lincoln Center.

Along with Ryan Babb, a technical staff member of Forum Communications in Fargo, I was guided through the back door where there are attendants on duty. Up the stairs and through unadorned cement areas we walked.

We reach the area where the backstage crew lives and works. There is lunch available mid-day. Sort of a cafeteria approach. Each person has a different job to do. I have become fairly well acquainted with Jessica Yankeluna, associate producer.

She’s a lively, friendly New Yorker. She’s down to earth. No nonsense. Still very pleasant. The makeup man and the hairstylist did their best to make me look – well, as good as possible.

You wait behind the camera’s reach. You go on. Anderson has a way of making his guests feel comfortable. He’s quite cheery. The shows I have been on have an audience of 350. They cheer and they clap at the behest of stage people.

It’s a whole other world from the newspaper offices where I have spent much of my life. It’s sort of like visiting the neighbors.

Thoughts that come in the middle of the night:

E This going viral isn’t too bad. The most wonderful things started happening after some vicious criticism of my weekly Eatbeat columns. As the virus spreads, friends surface and opportunities appear. So far, two trips to New York, a promise of a cruise to Italy and a chance to work with Anthony Bourdain on a new book.

E The best way to get up and leave for the airport at 5 a.m. is not to go to bed. Just dress in something soft for travel and sleep on the couch. Keep the alarm clock close by.

E Delta Air Lines employees at Grand Forks International Airport are friendly and helpful. There are six people who come on duty to make the security checks. The snack shop inside security is a great place to pick up a snack, coffee, a neck pillow, whatever.

E Most airline employees we meet seem rather blasé and bored with their jobs. The best one between here and the Big Apple was Chris Swenson, an attendant on the connecting flight from Grand Forks to Minneapolis at 7 a.m., April 9. When he reached me at the back seat of the plane, he said he just ran out of coffee.

Then I told him I wouldn’t complain about sitting in the last row right across from the lavatory, but I would like some coffee. He said he would make another pot. He came back cheerfully with the coffee and not one, but two packets of Delta’s Biscoff.

This guy was up and down the aisles, checking things out. He was all business. Polite business. What the airlines need are more people like Chris Swenson.


Marilyn Hagerty writes for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach Marilyn Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or at (701) 772-1055