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New York Part II: Playtime Is Over

New York part II: playtime is over

Finally a story with some drama and not just fun sightseeing. And as it turns out the plastic mattresses mentioned in the last post would be the least of my worries. So I ask you guys do you want more or less drama stories? More! More! More! (No reference to Dutch politics intended).

But before I got into problems, I still had a nice calm weekend. On Saturday Christopher and Rachel took me to their favourite galleries in Chelsea. They had some very nice art including a video about a spy shot with multiple cameras simultaneously and shown on six screens on two sides of the room. We went for lunch at a good ramen place (Japanese food is so good. I might have to go back there). And Sunday was spend hanging/walking around a very sunny Central Park, visiting the largest church in the US, Grand Central Station and the Rockefeller Center.

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Signs next to the Cathedral in New York. Bottom left sign implies they knew I was coming…

For Saturday to Wednesday I booked a Airbnb room in a typical loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The reviews and descriptions had some warnings but overall it seemed good and I wanted to try the experience. Well, an experience it was. It was a large apartment in an old office/factory building. High rooms and big windows. Even though it looked like the owner just moved in and they just  started building it, she ensured me that she’s been living here and working on the project for over 10 years. There were three plywood rooms in the apartment one for herself and two for Airbnb guests (You have to pay rent somehow. None of the rooms had windows to the outside or any decoration. My room had a very wobbly high bed in it with plastic around the mattress and pillows (but with sheets over that). The owner wasn’t feeling too well so she had the heating on 30C. However, the building was very badly insulated so after the heating switched off at night it would only be some 15C in the morning. The walls were so thin that you could hear everything in the whole building. But surprisingly I slept very well all four nights and even more surprising the place was really clean.

Now the sightseeing days were over. My car was about to arrive and I still had to organise some stuff. On Monday I started calling around for my car insurance. My research had shown two groups of people giving advice on getting car insurance for a foreign car on a foreign licence. The first group consists of the locals who said it was impossible but also knew for sure that you can’t drive cars with foreign plates in the US. The other group of people were the people who actually tried it. They said it was easy but only could be organised locally preferably using a local address. So I started calling. The first 5 agents said no right away. Didn’t want to check it or ask any further. Couldn’t be done. The 6th agent I called I was referred to by one of the other agents. This guy was in upstate New York. He thought it was cool that I was from Europe (what languages do you speak?) And really liked my plan (I wish I could do something like that). He said that it should be possible. Asked me for some more info and said he would get me a quote as soon as possible. Perfect! That wasn’t too hard after all. And it made for a successful day. The weather was great so I decided to go read a book in the sun at the High Line park. I was only sitting for 15 minutes when the insurance guy send me an email asking about some documents. I had to prove 5 years of driving history (no accidents or other major problems) and three years of insurance history. Obviously in English. So I got out of the sun and ran back home. I had been driving my parents’ cars and rental cars in the past but I had never had my own car or car insurance so this was going to be hard. Luckily the agent let me use my parents insurance (because that was covering me too) and I could do the translations to English myself. My parents were still awake in the Netherlands and they send me the documents right away (Thanks!). So I spend all night translating insurance policies and records. The next morning I decided I needed more leads so I started calling other agents. To increase my stress levels a bit my Airbnb owner had decided it was time for some decent construction work (cutting the big steel staircase out of the living room). I couldn’t hear my phone at all anymore… In great panic I send a message to Christopher and Katie Sue to ask if they had/knew a place where I could work. Luckily Katie Sue’s parents were visiting from out of state and staying at here place while she was at university. They let me in and let me work from there. They apologised for the noise coming from the garden (gardeners fixing up the garden, but without electric tools, I could manage that). I started making more calls. Some people were friendly and trying to help (but never able to do so) others didn’t even want to think about it. The best quote of the afternoon was a lady who said completely shocked: “You’re not just from out of state… You’re from out of the country!”. As if until that point had never realised that those people exist too. After some 20 calls Katie Sue’s parents offered to call their agent and see if she could fix anything. I gladly accepted that offer. In the meantime I kept calling with my 35th and last call of the day taking an hour and a half. But this guy managed to get me a quote. I was so happy. I had already started considering shipping the car back to the Netherlands. However this offer was 1600 dollars for 6 months. Which is a lot. But it’s cheaper than shipping the car back… Ow wait… It’s not shipping it back would actually be cheaper. By the time I was done with this call all offices were closed and I had spend some 6 hours on the phone talking to 35 agents. I spend so much time on hold that I often didn’t know anymore who I was talking to our what we had discussed already. It clearly was a good plan that got the local phone subscription with unlimited calls. Tired I went home to the loft where I Skyped with Sanne to vent my frustration.

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Bushwick loft with my room right behind the staircase to the basement (before removal).

The next morning I called the agent from Katie Sue’s parents. She is very nice and has a great Virginia accent. She jumped into my case and two hours later she had an offer for me. 600 dollars for six months. That’s a 1000 dollars cheaper than the other offer… And with better coverage too. I happily exclaimed that she just saved me a lot of beers. She recommended me not to drink that many beers. An other hour later I had moved to my new Airbnb at a nice apartment in Brooklyn from a girl with her own hairdresser shop in the house and bowls of candy everywhere.  And I had also received all paperwork for my insurance for the US and Canada. Perfect!

Now it was time to check with the US shipping company to see when my car would be available. Turns out it was already there and could probably be picked up the next day (Thursday). Only thing needed was payment of the fees. Two small problems: their fees were higher than expected because I have to pay a bond (money that I get back when the car leaves) and after all the insurance and shipping costs my credit card didn’t have enough money on it anymore. So again I turned to my parents to ask for assistance. I would use their credit card and pay them back by normal transfer. Sounds good. but nope… The big international shipping company only accepts US credit cards, because… I don’t know. So that wouldn’t work. I could transfer the money but that would take at least 4 business days to get through. In the end they settled for a screenshot from my Dutch e-banking that shows that the money was deducted from my account. Now we were reallly getting somewhere.

 Time for some relaxing again. Christopher asked me if I wanted to join him and some of his friends to go watch the Bernie Sanders rally. I said that would be interesting as long as I didn’t get arrested .  When I arrived at the park it was clear some big event was about to happen. Loads of police roadblocks helicopters flying over and hipsters selling T-shirts, handing out stickers and newspapers. There was a queue to get in that went around a few blocks (turns out 30.000 people showed up). We decided that was too much effort and went for burgers (wild boar) and a (ice) hockey game at a bar instead (New York vs. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh won).

The next day I got a reminder that the shipping company in the Netherlands had send me some documents with DHL that I might need for the car. Only problem: it didn’t say more than “DHL, New York” and surprisingly DHL has more than 100 offices in New York. Couple of phone calls later I found out which office. On the way there I got the email telling me that the car got through customs and that I could pick up the car the next day (Friday) at 8 in the morning. As celebration and goodbye, Katie Sue and I went for burgers (again) in the sun in the park. When I got home I got a second celebration: my Airbnb host had a friend over who really likes travelling to so we had a glass of wine talked about travelling, UFOs, how observations are selective, and everything else.

Because of all these good stories I did not have time to check out some of your recommendations (sorry Sean and Jacob, I’ll try them next time). But keep the tips coming. Next part is the way from n new York to Montreal Canada.

Time for the big thank yous: Katie Sue, Christopher and Rachel: thank you for showing me around, introducing me to your friends, letting me use your places and all the other good fun. My parents for organising paperwork and credit cards in the middle of the night. The biggest thank you ever to Katie Sue’s parents: you have saved my trip and my wallet. I was getting closer to calling the whole thing off. I can’t thank you enough for helping me out.

Next time: picking up the car at the harbour, having to do the first fixes to the car, seeing the first roadkill and cooking my first camper dinner on a campfire.

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