Things that I learned today about Brooklyn

Today I flew roundtrip from Chicago to Brooklyn, and learned a few things:
  • you can't get back to LaGuardia by flagging down a cab. You know that iconic image of New York City in every television show and movie, where the main character steps out into the street, waves down a cab, and takes off for the airport? Not in Brooklyn. You have to call a service, or try to flag down a fairly nondescript black sedan that looks like every other car on the street, and hope that it's the limo.
  • a cheap manicure-pedicure shop is a good place to hang out while you're trying to figure out how to get back to LaGuardia. And those pedicure chairs lined up next to one another? An even better place to ask folks for help. The young woman in the chair next to mine, who was busy texting throughout her pedicure, was so helpful. She had two numbers for car services, and patiently waited while I laboriously typed the name and number into my cell phone and finally saved it.
  • In Chicago, they give you a pair of flip-flops made out of the same Styrofoam as take-out containers to wear home. Not so in Brooklyn: you can't wear the flip-flops out of the pedicure places in Brooklyn, at least not Cindy's on Flatbush Avenue, which I otherwise recommend for the $10 pedicure. I walked toward the door to check the address, and people leaped out of their chairs in order to stop me from making off with the flip-flops.
  • people in Brooklyn. Everyone - families leaving after attending church in one of the many storefront churches on Flatbush Avenue, the ladies in the pedicure shop, the limo driver, the taxicab driver, the young woman sitting next to me on the airplane who asked about my knitting - was kind and helpful and very willing to stop and answer my questions. I learned that New York is the same as Chicago, just bigger. So much for New Yorker stereotypes.
  • and they call it the Brooklyn Bridge because it connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. I know, it seems obvious. But you know how a famous building or landmark, like the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge or the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids, seems to exist in a special zone, isolated in space and memory, unrelated to real surroundings? Today I actually looked at the Brooklyn Bridge instead of seeing it in a book or movie. And I noticed that it's timeworn, and surrounded by expressways, and there are your typical green overhead signs announcing which exit to take for the bridge, and suddenly it struck me: the bridge is there to connect two pieces of land so that people can travel from one place to another. And that realization made me feel better about leaving my younger daughter in Brooklyn, starting her first job after college, because it made everything seem more ordinary and all right.