Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Angry New Yorker

New York anger has surpassed all bounds which I once previously thought existed. Granted, I've become quite the angry New Yorker, but I would have never expected what happened to me on Sunday to happen.

After a stress-riddled weekend, I--believe it or not--looked forward to taking yet another practice LSAT on Sunday evening to cap off my weekend. Unfortunately, because Kaplan is a bunch of half-asses, their Brooklyn center is in The Middle of Nowhere, Coney Island. This meant finding a convenient way of getting there with time to spare. Too bad this is New York.

I called my car service--Arecibo in Brooklyn--at 3:45 PM to get to my 4:30 PM test. "Ten minutes tops," they told me. I waited.

4 o'clock rolled around, then 4:05. I started to anxiously watch my one-block street, jumping every time I heard a car coming down the road and then sadly plopping back down in front of the window to wait more. I tried to call Arecibo to make sure I wasn't forgotten, but no surprise--their line was busy.

This is always a bad sign as it means that not only is there someone already ordering a car and on the line, but at least a dozen other people are listening to the same bad Spanish elevator music as you. Finally, at 4:20 PM, I got someone on the line and griped, 'THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A CAR HERE 25 MINUTES AGO.' 'Yes, one minute,' the same monotone dude who always answers the phone said.

Yeah, about five minutes later, a beige van pulls up. At this point, I have five minutes to get to the godforsaken tip of Brooklyn (a 15 minute car ride at its shortest). I've neglected to mention why this test was so important. Let me tangentially tirade on another topic, Kaplan.

I signed up for this LSAT course, knowing I'd be on my TM, knowing I wouldn't necessarily have a big social life (I was wrong about that), and knowing (maybe) that I want to, at some point in the next five years, apply for law school. Why NOT do it now that I'm working a day job that's only an internship, right?

Unfortunately for me, the problems with Kaplan started right away. I signed up for an eight-week course that was cancelled and had to switch into a six-week class instead. My next big disappointment came when I realized that my teacher--Marion--didn't know how to teach. Aside from her poor communication skills (something I thought you needed as a lawyer), she cancelled classes, randomly, and rescheduled them for inconvenient times like Sundays at 9 am.

Then, after ten of our thirteen sessions, Marion decided to quit and didn't offer up an explanation for her sudden departure.

Nick, my new teacher, introduced himself and realized quite quickly that our class had become remedial thanks Marion's efforts. We did some crash-course catch-up when Nick taught us, and many of us realized we hadn't even received all of the benefits of Kaplan we're supposed to.

For example, practice test scores have yet to be posted. Our finished homework doesn't show online. Marion wouldn't bring back explanations of tests. Then, after one class with Nick--our "new teacher", another new kid who looks like he may or may not be seventeen showed up to teach us and introduced himself as our "new teacher."

My Kaplan experience has been so terrible that I've decided to take their "Higher Score Guarantee" and take the course again in the winter in Evanston and then take the LSAT again after that. I'm pretty much convinced I suck at the LSAT and that my mediocre instruction had something to do with it. In the meantime, I'm doing all I can to catch up to where I should be AND doing all of my homework required to cash in on my "Higher Score Guarantee."

Which takes me back to this Sunday afternoon, where I absolutely needed to attend this test in order to get my guarantee and if I did not get there in time for it to be proctored, I would not get to take it, would not get a score for it, and thus, would not be allowed to either get a refund or more classes.

So there I am on Sunday afternoon, oscillating between cursing the driver, his company and the traffic under my breath and practicing yoga-meditation techniques to calm myself down. This, I can assure you, is counterproductive. As I begin to feel less worried (I had called Kaplan and they said I'd have until 4:45 to get there to take the test), my driver misses the turn and plunges bumper first into worse traffic. I'm irate and quietly keeping it to myself. I will not, I vow, pay this guy. And I will never, ever, ever take Arecibo fucking Car Service again.

Another tanget--if you're not familiar with car services in the greater New York metropolitan area, there are two kinds of car service--the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind usually is a little bit expensive and will get you places on time. The bad kind doesn't always get you places on time, but it is cheaper and I always call the shots with how much I pay them. I do not, for example, ask, 'How much will that be?' I learned this after my first experience where I got charged twice the price for a ride. Since then, I've made Arecibo pay for their erring ways and give the drivers what they get. I tip really well when drivers are 1) Nice, 2) Don't swerve at other cars and/or pedestrians, 3) Don't play Hispa-rap super-fucking loud, 4) Don't drive patched-together ghetto vans with stickers all over the windshield to the point where you can't see out of it.

So as we pull up to the KAPLAN Center at 4:50, I ask my driver (who had been listening to Ricky Martin the WHOLE DAMN ride) if he has a ten.

'Why?' he asks.

I only have a twenty, I tell him.

'THIS,' he says, 'is a FIFTEEN dollar ride, MISS.'

Yeah, I say, and I am MORE than TWENTY minutes late because you and your company didn't get me here on time.

'I,' he says, 'am ONLY a driver.' (Here, I see his point, but all these drivers have two things in common: 1) They suck, 2) They work for the same company. So, no deal.)

And? I ask him, You are the driver and you also got lost and you're making me more late for something I don't have time to miss.

'It's fifteen dollars and I'm just a driver, MISS,' he repeats snottily.

Well, I can give you ten or I can get out of the car and never use your service again, I say. (Now, in the moment, I knew haggling for five dollars is not a huge deal, but was more concerned about getting to my test than anything and was not willing to give up even a buck to someone who had made me more than a half hour late.)

'NO,' he said, picking up his little radio as if he's going to tattle on me to HQ.

Well, I'm never calling your service again, I say and move to open the sliding van door.

As I start to step out of the van, Mr. Crazy-Ricky-Martin-Lovin'-Motherfucker starts TO DRIVE THE VAN!!

Here I am--half-out the van and it's moving! Cars honk and he swerves me toward the next parked car. I throw myself out and as the momentum of the stopping van thrusts forward, the van door SLIDES SHUT ON MY ARM.

'Are you crazy, MISS?' he yells at me.
Am I crazy!? I half-gasp back. YOU just drove with me OUT OF THE CAR.

At this point, I settled on the idea of either reporting him or suing his ass and threw him the twenty and yelled, GIVE ME FIVE AND EXPECT TO BE REPORTED. I HOPE THAT'S WORTH FIVE DOLLARS TO YOU!

I ran into the Kaplan test, where I took my test, totally frazzled, and shook out of anger the entire three and a half hours.


When I related this story to my mom, she said it's not worth haggling and "engaging with strangers." Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that's just how New York works. I love my mom, but Duluth, Minnesota and hell, even Chicago, pales in comparison to the seething, dirty anger of New Yorkers.

I saw a middle-aged woman claw a teenager in the face just the other day in Grand Central as the teenager pulled the woman's hair. Somehow, as I passed the two women, I figured the middle-aged woman was justified in her anger even if not her actions. The teenager looked like a touristy yip-yap type that says 'crunchy' and likes Ricky Martin. She maybe even drives a beige van for Arecibo Car Service.

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