What do you do when your best friend is told that the only way he can get a visa to study abroad is to drive 10 hours from his home in northern New York State to New York City? You go with him, of course.

Over break, my friend Kevin received a call from the Italian Consulate telling him that they wouldn’t issue his visa until he came and signed some papers. They wouldn’t accept a notarized copy – only him coming in person to sign it in front of someone at the consulate.

After lots of thought, planning and gnashing of teeth we thought we had it all figured out. He would come and visit me in Rochester and then we’d go down there, get everything done and come on back. And all on the Tuesday before the first day of the semester.

Our friends Susana and Jill found our idea very appealing. and decided to come along too. They made us promise, however, that we’d visit this sex shop they’d heard of. So we all decided to leave at 3 a.m. to get there before the consulate closed for the day at noon.

Of course, things never go as smoothly as planned.

Somehow Kevin and I both managed to sleep until 3:30 a.m. After rushing out the door to pick up Susana and Jill we ended up on the road about an hour late. Not too bad. Then crazy things that happen only on roadtrips started to occur.

Our first crazy road incident involved a guy in a late model Pinto.

He was undoubtedly the scariest caricature of a real person I’ve ever seen. This Unabomber lookalike was rocking back and forth rapidly in time to the screaming voices in his head. After slamming on the gas and him trying to follow us in a car that had more rust than metal, we finally ditched him.

We drove along 81 and were looking for the turnoff onto route 6, when we suddenly realized that we’d passed it! So we were on 87 and heading into a tollboth zone. Meekly, we asked the guy in the booth where we could make a U-turn. He said, “Here if I don’t see it, and I won’t look.”

Caught between excitement and terror, we screamed as Jill slamed on the brakes and fliped a U-turn, cutting off a Jeep Grand Cherokee and driving across four lanes of traffic.

Finally back on track, we were enjoying the music, the scenic bridge we’d passed and taken photos of and the Hudson River on our left. Wait. On our left? The map showed it on our right.

Quickly, we realized that pretty bridge about an hour back was something we were supposed to have crossed. Mapquest wasn’t nice enough to tell us that detail.

We ended up stopping in some town called Nyack. Subsequently, we decided it should be pronounced like yak with an “N” in front. Don’t forget the obnoxious Brooklyn accent to go with it.

After buying some maps we realized that we were in luck – we could take the Tappan-Zee bridge to Hawthorne!

We found our way to Hawthorne, parked at a friend’s house and then walked to the station. We got there at 10:55. The train left at 10:45 and the next one wasn’t until 11:49. No big deal normally, except the consulate closed at noon.

Kevin started calling to try and see if anyone would be there. The first time, he got left on hold forever. He called back and after telling the secretary “I think I got forgotten,” she informed him, “No. You weren’t,” and hung up.

He wouldn’t call back because he was pretty sure that he’d start swearing at the people he needed help from. We decided to just go in and start lying about our “political” connections. I was in favor of threatening to call immigration on them, but for some reason no one else thought that was a good idea.

On the ride in, I pointed out that the four of us wouldn’t fit in one taxi and that we’d have to split up. Since Susana and I are used to large cities, and Jill and Kevin are from somewhere within a few miles of nowhere, I decided to use the Metro with Jill and Susana grabbed a cab with Kevin.

We very quickly found out Kevin gave us the wrong address of the consulate – 960 Park Ave – and told us it was between 38th and 39th Streets. Susana and Kevin’s cab driver took them to their wrong address and then helped them find the right one.

Poor Jill and I ended up walking 6-7 blocks before noticing some Italian flags at 690 Park Avenue. Not 960. I gave Susana a quick call and found out that Kevin had been wrong and he had just signed the form that was so important for him to sign.

It was a quarter-page document printed from WordPad that had him promise to buy $40 health insurance and register with the local police in Italy. 10 hours each way for such a weighty document. Bastards.

We quickly decided what to do with our limited time in NYC. We wanted to be gone by 5 to get home by 11.

We hopped a train downtown to bear witness to Ground Zero. After about an hour wandering around the area and looking at the cleanup efforts along with the blocks of memorials, we headed back to the train station for our other destination – Toys in Babeland, a porn shop.

It only made sense to follow the mourning of death with a celebration of life.

After ending up on the wrong side of the East River from missing our stop at Delancy St., we backtracked, got some nice photos of Manhattan and walked to the porn shop.

Not a large place, but filled to the gills with books on bondage and how to please your lover – as well as near a hundred dildos of all shapes and sizes and condoms and lube in candy jars – this was sex heaven. And a speculum. It was scary, so don’t ask what it is – look it up.

We bought our fill of “supplies” and made our way back to Grand Central Station to catch the commuter train back to Hawthorne.

Heading back, this time on the proper side of the river we talked about the great time we were making and what a blast we had.

This time – after crossing the pretty bridge instead of looking at it – we get to Scranton, Penn. when it started snowing.

At this point Jill a.k.a. “I love a throbbing V6!” takes the wheel as we plow deeper and deeper into a snowstorm on an unsalted freeway where we were continually being passed by tractor-trailers going about 30 mph faster than we were.

Jill was all woman as she coaxed the car through blizzard conditions.

It took a painfully long time and we were all extremely tired from being up for 20 hours without much rest. We only stopped once during that nasty stretch of road when we needed gas.

It seemed to take forever to hit Syracuse, and all of us kept asking variations of “are we there yet?” When we finally got there we gave her a well deserved break and Kevin finished off the drive back into Rochester.

Though it took us seven exhausting hours to get back, we were triumphant.

At 1:30 a.m. we pulled into Rochester, said some quick but heartfelt goodbyes, and dragged our butts into bed to rest for our first day of classes and Kevin to go home and prepare for his trip to Italy.

Paris can be reached at tparis@campustimes.org.

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