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From the Driver’s Seat: Bella’s Trip to Chinatown

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When 3-year-old Bella, her older brother and grandparents climbed into my cab at Madison Square Garden, we were all in a good mood.

Grandma and grandpa had just taken their visiting from California grandkids to the circus. Now it was time for lunch in Chinatown. They wanted to go to the corner of Canal and Mott – and did I know of any good Chinese restaurants around there?

Photo by Harris Graber

We inched along 34th St. as I racked my brain, “Actually, there’s wonderful dim-sum at Ping’s on Mott St. I just went there with some friends a couple of weeks ago. I could take you there.”

Grandma thought that sounded great. Except we weren’t moving.

I started to sweat and stopped trying to meet their eyes in the rear view mirror. Was there a faster way than the West Side Highway to get downtown? If there was, I didn’t know about it.

Grandpa started grumbling in a Johnny Cash baritone. Bella’s brother kept telling her to look out the window (“Bella, it’s the river! Bella a taxi!”).

Meanwhile, Bella squealed with delight and sang “We’re here!” every time I hit the brakes. I thought this was a little unusual. Why wasn’t she whining (like I would’ve been)? Wouldn’t most hungry 3-year olds keep asking “Are we there yet?”

Not Bella. Not even when we sat still for ten minutes at the intersection of Canal and Greenwich St. (Why oh why didn’t I pull off Canal when I had the chance? I felt terrible. Grandpa was ready to walk, and I could understand why.)

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By the time we squeezed through the Holland Tunnel gridlock and got stuck in the middle of NYPD ‘traffic control,’ Grandpa was still voting for walking the rest of the way.

Even grandma was wondering why the signals weren’t synchronized. And Bella? “We’re here!”

Her brother, who was probably around 6, laughed and said, “At least we’re moving.” Who were these kids?

Grandpa and Grandma were too desperate to get out of the taxi to have me drive them down Mott St. to Ping’s, so I just dropped them off at the corner, wondering whether I could have somehow turned that 46-minute saga into the 15-minute ride it should have been.

As Bella crawled out, she turned to me and said, “I love you.” And that’s when I noticed she had Down’s Syndrome.

She blew me a kiss and I blew her one back, fighting back tears. She didn’t care about the traffic or her hunger or her grumbling grandpa. She just wanted me to know that everything was OK, that she knew my intentions were good and that I was doing the best I could. I hope they took her to Ping’s.

22 Mott Street – Chinatown
Te. (212) 602-9988‎
Open: 7 days, 10:30am-midnight
Credit cards accepted
Note: Ping’s is known for its seafood, although it can be a little pricey. Dim sum here is both delicious and a great deal (Try chive dumplings with shrimp and baby bok choy with fried garlic).

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