I recently gave up my car because I had to face the fact that it was an unjustifiable expense to keep a car in Manhattan. Growing up in California I had absorbed the “Car Culture” mentality that equates automobile ownership with freedom, well being, and generally all the good things that happen in the world. But in New York City, where the price of a monthly parking place would cover the rent on a small apartment in most places, it finally became clear that the car had to go.
After a few days of my car-free life I thought I'd go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls. The driving range is on an island in the middle of the East River and is a bit far to walk (assuming someone would be foolhardy enough to walk on the Triboro Bridge) but fortunately there is a bus that goes from Manhattan across the bridge and stops just a few dozen yards from the driving range so I hoisted my Sunday bag on my back and headed for the bus stop. What I had failed to note is that this same island also was the site of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. It is not technically on the island of Manhattan but apparently it has identity issues.
In any case when I hopped on the bus with my bag of woods and irons I couldn't help but notice that I appeared to be the only golfer on the bus. Not that the bus wasn't full. No, it was jam packed with people. People headed for the nut-house - I mean the Psychiatric Center.
It would be unfair to say that everyone on the bus appeared to be an escaped mental patient because the bus was actually heading toward The Center and an escaped mental patient would have to be crazy to...Okay, strike that.
I took an aisle seat next to a disheveled older gentleman who was staring blankly into the distance, seeing things that only he could see. I scooted toward the aisle a bit until I was hanging off the edge of the seat.
The bus bounced along uneventfully until it reached the stop for the driving range, which was a mile or so short of the psych unit. I got up and, awkwardly lugging my clubs, “excuse me”-ed my way down the aisle toward the rear door. As I stepped off with great relief I heard from behind me “Hey, fellow, you dropped this.”
It was the disheveled older gentleman. He was holding the cover for my 3-wood, which was in the shape of a rather startled looking kitten and had been given me as a birthday present by my niece.
I thanked him and gently placed it over the spoon, next to the lamby-kins (which covered the 5-wood) and the driver's Mr. Bunny.
“What do you shoot?” he asked as he joined me on my walk toward the entrance to the driving range parking lot.
“Oh, I can usually break a hundred”, I said modestly as I picked up my pace. He seemed to have no trouble keeping up. Just to be polite, I asked “Do you play?”
“Well, I used to be a scratch golfer, but lately I'm a 3 handicap”, he said. He must have noticed the surprised look on my face, because he added, “I'm the pro here.”
“Ah,” I said. “Well, nice to meet you. I'm just here to hit a bucket of balls, myself.”
“I figured you weren't going to the nut-house”, he said, nodding toward my clubs. “Can I give you a tip?”
“Sure”, I said. Any golfer is ready for a tip.
“Before you even take out a club, before you get to the range even, try to visualize your swing. Just look off in the distance and see yourself swinging and hitting the ball. Works every time.”
“Well, thanks,” I said. “I'll give that a try”.
Just not on the bus to the nut-house.