Rob Pollak: American Hero

Although I’m not usually one to draw attention to my own accomplishments, last night I had a moment so life-defining and heroic, that I had no choice.  I had to tell you about how I single-handedly saved New York with the help of three others.

It was 9:00 pm and almost a foot of snow had piled up on the roads.  For many people, the conditions were treacherous, but I learned how to drive a storm when I lived in the tundra of Central New York.  In Central, NY, it’s not appropriate to even wipe the snow off the front windshield until it has piled up to at least 14 inches.

But in New York City, which Central New Yorkers refer to as “the South,” things are different.  The mayor holds a full press conference at the sight of a little kid with a sno cone.  And if we get three inches (god forbid), schools shut down for a week and Whole Foods sells out of bread and water.  But not English muffins or fizzy water.  Who can afford such lavishness in the face of our own demise?

Last night the roads were bad.  Not “we need to plow” bad, but bad enough that a number of inexperienced snow drivers spun out like crazy and freaked out when they had to go up a hill.  I had a good laugh at these people.

By Rob Pollak By Rob Pollak

At least until I hit the spot where the Bronx River Parkway merges onto the Cross County Parkway.  Things had been moving steadily at 15 miles below the posted speed limit up to that point.  But as I approached the merge, traffic halted.  A slight incline in the road caused a few drivers to freak the fuck out, stop, and then rev their tires as fast as they could while not moving.  This created a doubly bad result:  They didn’t move and they turned the drivable snow into a slush-ice combination.

At first, cars sputtered and then figured it out.  But one dickwad in a van started spinning like crazy.  And then he spun some more and some more until he was basically stopped.

All the while, I was sitting in my toasty car listening to a book on tape. My current selection is Willful Blindness:  Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, a book about, well, exactly what the title says it’s about.  Anyway, right before the insane snow drive, I listened to a chapter discussing the ways people conform to expectations when in a group setting and don’t help others out if a lot of people are around.

With that in mind, I’m sitting there watching these cars literally spinning their wheels (I bet that’s where the term comes from!!), and everyone else is sitting in the car thinking “man, I hope a plow comes.”  But, I was not going to sit around and be willfully blind to accepting that my night was ruined.  I flung open the door and started sprinting past all the cars in front of me.  Five cars to be exact.

Note – it’s hard to sprint in a foot of snow while wearing sneakers.  I almost fell and busted my face/ass.  That’s probably why most people sit in the car.

Anyway, I finally get to the van and start pushing.  Less than a minute later, three other good citizens were by my side pushing the car with me.  If I hadn’t run out there and started pushing, science says that no one would have.  Because we conform to the pressures of society that say it’s embarrassing to get out of the car and go out in the snow.  We may even make the problem worse.  Then everyone will be mad at us.

By rob pollak

Then we pushed three or four more cars up the hill.  Per usual, I was very sweaty.  But I got back in my car and climbed up that hill with no problems of my own.  Thank you Hamilton College for actually teaching me one thing:  how to drive in the snow.

And that’s how I saved America.

Epilogue:  Three of the four cars that I pushed up the hill were in accidents or stuck again on the other side of the hill.  But at that point, I was moving.  So fuck ’em.


Ireland blog: dingle

our next stop was dingle. Stop laughing. No seriously, stop laughing. You can’t, right? Dingle. LOL.

Ok, now that we have that out of our system, dingle (!) is a small town on a peninsula in southwest Ireland.

Just like everywhere else in Ireland, it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. By this point in the trip, I have to admit that I am getting a little tired of the natural beauty. I could really use the convenience of a Duane Reade right about now. For example, as we drove into dingle with the ocean hugging the left side of the road we could see from afar a small cluster of people riding horseback on the sandy beach and galloping towards the sunset. I mean, c’mon, right? Am I in a Kevin Costner movie?

We arrived in the early evening after our long drive through the ring of Kerry, so headed out for dinner and then a couple of pints (half pints) at the dingle pub. The dingle pub was everything one might hope for in an Irish pub. A nice relaxing atmosphere. Good live music. A bartender who is probably a fifth generation owner of the establishment. It was all very quaint. The musician was playing old Irish tunes and everyone sang along. I loved it unconditionally. And then, the singer said, “who is from Scotland?” silence. “anyone from the UK?” Crickets. “how about the USA?”. The bar erupted. We were essentially in the times square of dingle. But I didn’t care. I still loved it.

That experience got me thinking about tourism generally. I always want to seek out the things that are off the beaten path and more local in flavor. But maybe that’s not what I really want. Maybe we just want to experience things the way we expect them to be. I always get frustrated by tourists that come to new York and spend too much time in times square. I feel like they miss so much of what makes the city great. But if youre not from new York, times square probably feels epic. Why would you want to find a quaint little bistro in soho?

With that in mind, anne and I were headed off to Galway. I hear there is a great hard rock cafe there.