Saturday, June 12, 2010

Aaron H.: Vanpool Rider

My friend Aaron rode on The Vanpool. Here is his story of the chain of events to make this happen.

Thank God for the demise of the NBA. If the league wasn't at one of its low points in history then none of this would have ever happened for me.

Without the free ticket promotion Dave W. and I decided to take advantage of my knowledge of the VanPool would be like most of yours – only second hand through Gregg's stories. Thankfully, I am one of the lucky few that can say they have waited on the side of the road for a bus, and instead decided to climb into a rapey van.

Thursday, January 7th, 2010. Dave Walk and I headed to New York to attend a Knicks Bobcats game at Madison Square Garden. I couldn't really care less about either team, but I had never been to The Mecca before, and you can't go wrong with free tickets to a game and a cheap MegaBus ride to New York and back to Philly. Our friend Pete was supposed to attend the game with us, but could not at the last second – so he gave his tickets to Gregg.

Getting the tickets was a bit of a problem – Gregg had to run to Columbia University from Midtown on his lunch break to pick up the tickets from Pete – and then at the last minute Pete got a call from Stub Hub telling him his tickets were actually invalid. Undeterred, Gregg tried to enter MSG with the fake ticket and was denied entrance twice – at two adjoining ticket turnstiles. Dave and I entered the game with Gregg's reassurance that he would find a way into the game.

Sure enough, he did – he only had to travel a few blocks to the Stub Hub office with his ticket that wasn't in his name and call Pete (who was about to go on stage) to confirm that he could be given the tickets. Gregg has an uncanny ability to just make things happen for (and sometimes to) him.

The game was actually great. It was well-played and close and came right down to the wire – and the New York fans were excellent. There was more passion and love for a 15-20 Knicks team in the doldrums of an NBA January than there was for the 76ers in the playoff series I attended the previous year (a series that was actually competitive against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.)

The game should have been the highlight of the trip; it was what we came for, and it was exciting but when Gregg told us the story of his morning commute to work everything changed. Fate had made it so that Dave and my trip to New York happened on the infamous Day One of The VanPool.

We heard the story, fresh, from Gregg and I ate it up. The image of him waiting for the bus on the side of the road and having a mysterious van pull up and tell him to get in and him just saying “fuck it” and doing it was crazy to me. It was the type of thing I would never do in a million years. When I was young, I once made my 70plus year old Great Aunt walk home over a mile in the heat of August when I refused to accept a ride home from someone I didn't know (even though my Aunt knew him.)

Dave and I stayed at Gregg's parents' house that night so we could spend some time in the city the next day before heading back to Philly. The previous night we bought our tickets at the Port Authority for our bus ride into Manhattan – fully expecting to make the commute the boring way. As we waited at the bus stop – the Van pulled up and told us to jump in. Gregg told the driver that Dave and I were from out of town and already purchased our bus tickets, so we would just wait for that. Stepping up to the plate was one of the Van Pool regulars (EDIT: It was Nick) who offered to buy our tickets from us – which opened the door for us to experience the Van Pool first hand.

The ride into New York was great. Gregg, Dave and I crammed into the far back seat of the van and watched the sitcom characters come to life in front of our eyes. If you've read anything on this site already then the phrase “Barbara being Barbara” should mean something to you. She read The Post, commented on stories, complained about the level of heat in the van, and told Gregg to shut up on more than one occasion. As we passed through the Lincoln Tunnel talk turned to post 9/11 worries and travel in and around the city. Charlie drove like a champion: We got to Midtown with plenty of time to spare for Gregg to get to work, so we had breakfast and talked about how there needs to be a VanPool! Television series.

Realizing the similarities to failed Jerry O'Connell vehicle Carpoolers we thought we had to add another element to the series, so we thought of the hook that every time they emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel they are transported back in time and have to complete a task to save history. Which I just now realized is kind of like the failed Jerry O'Connell vehicle Sliders.

I think we found our leading man.

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