Paul Svane



Having spent most of my 33-year career at the Bus Terminal in midtown, there were many great times to be on duty. The 9th Avenue Food Festival, the 4th of July, even St. Patrick’s Day, were all enjoyable, but nothing could ever compare with the satisfaction of working the overnight shift on New Year's Eve. I loved working New Year's Eve. I often volunteered to work New Year's Eve.

A well-kept secret at the time, the rooftop corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue provided an unobstructed view of Times Square, the crowds of revelers below, and just one block east, the grand ball drop. Every year a small group would gather here at midnight to ring in the New Year together. On one occasion, approaching 11:30, management stood in a small circle on the main floor of the North Wing, with their clipboards and radios, holding a briefing on the operation.

Although a mere FM-2 at the time, I stood among the group preparing to take direction, when a frail, elderly, African American woman appeared, toting a small plaid suitcase, asking if someone could help her get a cab. Well, I knew 8th Avenue was shut down, as well as 42nd Street, meaning, at this point, 9th Avenue was the closest place one could catch a cab. I watched the heads of state all looking around at each other, while an awkward silence ensued, before I finally spoke up, offering to help the woman.

It was still 20 minutes to midnight, and I knew a shortcut to 9th Avenue, so we began our trek. It was slow going until I took her bag, which weighed about as much as her, escorting our customer up and across the Suburban Concourse and down to our destination. I stepped out into the street and with about 10 minutes to spare, I held up my hand and in no time at all became fully aware, that at this time of night, on New Year's Eve, there were no cabs, and those few that did approach raced by “In Service.” I wasn’t too worried, although by 5 minutes to midnight, my hailing became a bit more exaggerated.

Finally, a taxi stopped right in front of us. I opened the door and helped the woman with her bag from the sidewalk into the cab and as I closed the door, she looked up at me and said, “Thank you, son,” adding, “Happy New Year.” I looked down at my watch and realized it was indeed the new year, further concluding, as I watched her cab speed away: this was the best New Year's Eve I’d ever spent at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.



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