Following my debut filming Unusual Suspects, and learning so much from people on the set that day about booking jobs and auditions, I immediately signed up for several of the NYC based casting sites. After I uploaded a picture of myself, my sparse (and very old) acting resume – I started submitting myself for roles. At the beginning, with few credits to my name, background/extra type roles were mostly what I applied for – while always searching for audition opportunities that I thought I might be good for – in order to land ‘real’ roles. (However, I would soon learn “There are no small parts, only small actors,” as taught by the great Constantin Stanislavski.)
Within a week, I was called to be in a two-day shoot for NBC’s 30 Rock - I was ecstatic! Just fourteen days earlier, I was working out of my home office in Guilford, CT – now I was going to be sharing a set with Tina Fey in Rockefeller Center. That was the good news. The ‘interesting’ news was that the call time – the exact time actors need to be on set – was 6 AM! For folks living in NYC, probably not too much of a problem. For me, living 90 miles away and being a ‘chair user, my day would start a whole lot earlier, as I decided it would be best and easiest to drive into the city. While I knew Metro-North ran trains from New Haven to NYC, I didn’t know what I would do once I got to Grand Central Station. On my previous trips to the Big Apple, I had never seen an accessible cab. I also knew that some, but not all of the subway stations were accessible. Also, though most city buses could accommodate a wheelchair, getting to the exact right location at the correct time could be an enormous challenge. So, I drove out of my driveway at 3:30AM, allowing 1.5 hours for the drive without traffic – but an extra hour as well, knowing that the NYC rush hour starts at 5:00. Good thing too, as after finding parking and walking to holding (where the actors/actresses congregate between scenes) I arrived at 5:59.
AND IT WAS AWESOME! Working two days on an outdoor set with Tina Fey (Liz) and Jane Krakowski (Jenna) was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It got dang cold when the sun went down, as we were dressed in summer shorts and shirts for the 10-12 hour shoot. Never felt the chill though, as being there under the lights, with 70 production people working like a well-oiled machine, following the director’s instructions before ACTION! was heard, and then performing – I knew I found ‘It.’ Where I wanted to be, what was rekindling my passion. Meeting and making friends with my fellow background actors was a great experience too, as I soaked up knowledge and made connections that exist to this day.
However, a major problem presented itself during that shoot, and subsequent NYC jobs that followed. Driving in was proving to be a daunting and expensive task. There is never a good time to drive into or out of Manhattan. Day or night, traffic is extreme either because of rush hour or construction during off peak times, I-95 is a potholed minefield obstacle course, and there is no predicting when a collision ahead can cause an hour-long delay. Add to that the high cost of gas, the rattled nerves after such a drive and the exorbitant cost of parking ($35-75 a day), coupled with the low pay that beginning actors can expect – it was fast turning into a losing financial proposition. The final blow came, and the date I almost quit NYC altogether, on the day I was three hours late for my very first audition.
I had been selected to audition for a special that Kay Jewelers was sponsoring, they knew I used a ‘chair, and I drove off 3.5 hours before my audition time. I was psyched! But, as soon as I hit the NY border, traffic just stopped. Completely. A jack-knifed tractor-trailer had blocked all lanes, and took over an hour to clear. Finally moving, I thought ‘Okay, we’re on our way.” ONE mile later, traffic came to a dead stop again - Another tractor-trailer had jack-knifed, across all lanes – again! I called the studio numerous times while I sat there, being assured that ‘It’s ok, we’ll take you whenever you get here.’, but by the time I got in three hours late, my nerves were shot. I did horribly at the audition, sweating and thirsty as I tried to say my lines. After arriving home ten hours after I left, I had decided that either I had to find an alternative method of travel, or the world I worked so hard to return to would fade away from my grasp. With little hope, I googled ‘Accessible NYC transportation’…and much to my surprise and elation, the first site I found stated: Accessible Dispatch. At your service now. The new way to book a wheelchair-accessible taxi in Manhattan. No advance reservations necessary; available to you 24/7.
Transfixed by what I read, I learned that just Three weeks previous, an incredible service had been launched by Metro Taxi of West Haven, CT. By either dialing 311 from a NYC area code, 646-599-9999 from any phone, texting to 646-400-0789 – or the method I chose – downloading the World on Wheels (WOW) app on my phone, one of (at the time) 233 accessible taxis in Manhattan would be immediately dispatched. With the app, I could either type in my pickup address, or tap a button – and GPS would locate me - and send a cab my way! With no premiums or added expense for using an accessible taxi vs. a regular car. Such incredible timing; talk about serendipity! But, did it really work? The very next day I would find out.
Coming next: The taxi service that can, and Ralph Lauren is looking for me.