Reason Number 9,999,999 why India is kicking America’s ass in the global economy:
When it snows, Dunkin’ Donuts employees whine and complain and end up going home early to sit on their asses eating cruellers and watching the weather reports on TV.
The Bollywood Bistro, on the other hand, remains open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., rain or shine, snow or sleet, wind or water.
And they have a liquor license.
After nearly losing my top layer of nose-skin to the frosty glass door against which I had plastered my face, I took a step back and contemplated my surroundings. The Dunkin’ Donuts sat in a barren, windswept strip mall that also housed a dry cleaners, a real estate office, a Domino’s Pizza—all of which were closed up tight for the evening—and a mysterious-looking storefront at the very end that, upon further investigation, turned out to house a tiny Indian restaurant called The Bollywood Bistro. With people inside!
I burst through the door, bedraggled, tearstained, and soaking wet. “Are you open?” I cried.
The waiters all stared at me like I had six heads, no doubt debating whether to answer in the affirmative. Fortunately, there were no other diners in the establishment and their pecuniary instincts carried the day. I was ushered to a tiny table in the back of the restaurant and handed a menu.
I set my laptop down carefully and removed my coat, hanging it on the back of the chair opposite me. First things first. I was cold, wet, and hungry, so I ordered a glass of white wine and some Chicken Vindaloo and then plodded into the bathroom to clean myself up.
It was worse than I had imagined. My hair hung in strings around my face and dark streaks of mascara rimmed my eyes. I brushed out my hair and pulled it back in a giant hair clip I found in my bag, then wiped the ruined makeup from my face with a paper towel. Better. Not great, but at least I looked halfway human.
By the time I got back to the table, my food was there, and I sank mercifully into my chair to partake in what was undeniably the best Indian meal I had ever eaten. The wine was crisp and dry, the chicken moist and spicy, and the na’an warm and spongy, and I inhaled it all without once lifting my head up from my plate. When I finally did sit back and look around, the waiters were all still staring at me, but I felt stronger, more attractive, and bolder now, so I beckoned one of them over to my table.
“Do you have a Yellow Pages?” I asked. “My car broke down and I need to find a cab that will take me back to Boston.”
He retreated to the kitchen, and, after a whispered discussion with another guy I assumed was the manager involving a lot of gesturing, waving, and finger-pointing, he returned with a scrap of paper which contained the phone numbers of the local cab companies. Both of them.
Cursing the limited transportation options available to stranded urbanites trapped in backwater hellholes, I dug my cell phone out of my purse and dialed the first number. It rang for about a hundred years before an automated voice came on telling me to dial “1” for a cab. I punched in the “1” and was transferred to another line, which also rang for about a hundred years before transferring me back to the automated voice, which told me to dial “1” for a cab. After several similar loops, I gave up and dialed the second number. Amazingly, a dispatcher picked up on the second ring.
“We’re not sending any cabs out tonight, ma’am,” he told me unsympathetically. “It’s snowing.”
I felt fresh sobs rising in my throat—I had been so close to rescue! It was cruel to snatch it away from me now. “Look,” I said, trying very hard to keep my voice from shaking, “I’m in a really tough situation. I’m stranded in Lexington, none of my friends who have cars are home, and I need to get back to Boston tonight. Do you know of anyone who can help me?”
He hesitated, then I heard some papers shuffling in the background. “Here,” he said, “try this number.” He rattled off a few digits and I scrambled for a pen. After thanking him profusely, I hung up, dialed the number, and was connected with Arlmont Taxi. And this time I didn’t screw around.
“I’m trying to get from Lexington to Boston,” I said. “I’ll double the meter fare if you can get someone to pick me up in under half an hour.”
“Ten minutes, ma’am.”
And, sure enough, just as I was signing for my check, a green and white taxicab came swirling out of the mist and pulled up out front. I grabbed my laptop and purse, threw an enormous tip at my waiter, and headed out.
Forty-five minutes and sixty-eight dollars later, I was relaxing in a hot jacuzzi, buried in vanilla-scented bubbles and surrounded by tiny candles, reflecting on my day.
I had left my office at 2 p.m. It was now after 9:30. My ordeal had lasted seven and a half hours. I still didn’t know what was wrong with my car, but I had a feeling whatever it was, it was bad.
As I finished drying myself off and bundled into my robe, I heard the familiar strains of “Soul Bossa Nova” emanating from my purse. My cell phone.
I flipped it open. “Hello?”
“Hello, Miss Talbot?”
“This is Ray from Triple A. I just wanted to let you know your tow truck is on its way.”
Epilogue: I called Al’s Towing & Auto the next day to inquire about the repair job. A very rude man told me they wouldn’t be able to look at the car until midweek; furthermore, they would also be charging me $40 a day in storage until then. I instructed them to tow it to my regular mechanic, Philip, who confirmed my worst fear: the engine was shot. The only bright side, he told me, was that it appeared to have been a natural death that was utterly unrelated to the six years of animosity and neglect my car and I had inflicted upon one another. Given that I still owed $9,000 on my auto loan, I instructed him to replace the engine with the cheapest used one he could find, then took it to the nearest Infiniti dealer where I traded it in for a shiny new G-35 Coupe in Diamond Graphite with automatic transmission and rosewood trim.
As I began transferring my belongings from the Saab into my new trunk, I felt a tiny twinge of guilt.
"What will happen to it, do you think?" I asked Sherrad, the salesman who had handled my paperwork.
He shrugged. "I don't know. I guess they'll take it to auction and see what they get for it."
I finished loading the Infiniti, climbed into the driver's seat and gazed back at the Saab one final time. It sat haughtily in the parking lot, defiant even in rejection, daring me to change my mind and take it back.
"Go ahead," it sneered, bitter to the last, "I dare you to leave me here! See if I care!"
I looked at Sherrad. "Crush it," I said, and rolled up my window and drove away.