“I think there is a storm coming…” someone mumbled while hurrying past me down the steps of the Bunker Hill Monument. We were in Boston for the New Year’s weekend and we had hoped that the weather would be fine as forecasted. A sudden storm was the last thing we had expected on such a beautiful day. The Bunker Hill Monument was at the end of the Freedom Trail that covered 16 sites, starting at the Boston Common.
The Freedom Trail includes famous landmarks such as the elegant Massachusetts State House, the Granary Burying Ground where the Boston Massacre victims are buried, the (non-existent) Old Corner Bookstore, and the Old State House; Boston’s oldest surviving public building from where the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians. Right below the Old State House balcony is the site where the Boston Massacre took place in 1770. The whole experience is very educational to say the least. And it is hard to imagine how things looked like here around 250 years ago.
The Bunker Hill Monument includes a 221-foot obelisk that commemorates the battle of Bunker Hill where 500 patriots and 1000 British regulars died or were wounded. This is the site (actually another hill nearby) where the Revolutionary War was first launched.
We were standing at the base of the monument. I was looking up at the heroic statue of Col. William Prescott who had led the colonial forces against the British. Through the corner of my eye I noticed that people were leaving the Monument. Why were they in such a big hurry, I thought. It was suddenly very dark. There was the sound of thunder in the distance and a flurry of rain mixed with snow started to fall within moments.
We were not carrying umbrellas and there was no place nearby to seek shelter. I looked up at the ominous sky. Alas there seemed to be no escape…getting drenched today seemed inevitable…
Wiping the cold raindrops off my head I suddenly realized that we had no car. No car – really?! How did we even get here? Oh - we had decided to walk. Remember it was a beautiful day. And Boston is eminently walkable. Except when it is not.
The last of the regular taxis at the base of the monument was now gone. By the time I could fish out the number of the friendly taxi driver who had said, “Call me anytime sir…”, it was already very dark, and I wasn’t even sure I was calling the right number. How do we go back to the hotel? We looked around again but there were no taxis in sight. Surely this cannot be happening - not in this modern day and age – not in this most beautiful of all cities…
Meanwhile the rain and snow kept falling with growing intensity. A large raindrop mixed with snow fell on my neck and moved slowly and decisively like a cold metallic hand. As I took off my glasses to wipe them clean, I might have blinked in the twilight. I looked towards the monument. Wait a minute - where is the statue of Col. Prescott...it seemed to have disappeared from its high pedestal. I swung around to look but he was nowhere to be seen. Where did he go?
I tried the hotel number next, thinking they could just send us the shuttle and we would be back at the hotel soon. I was put on a long hold. At this rate they would take forever to send us the hotel car. I disconnected impatiently. I remembered there was an old taxi receipt somewhere in my coat pocket, it must have a number. I found the receipt and tried calling the number on it. It went to someone’s voice mail. I wanted to leave a message full of expletives. But then a cold hand on my neck seemed to distract me.
It was Prescott. Standing right next to me. He was saying “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes”.
I wanted to take a selfie of Prescott standing next to me, so I quickly searched for the camera icon on my phone. Well - the camera icon seemed to have conveniently disappeared just when we needed it most. Did I accidentally delete it? No way - it is not possible to delete the camera icon.
Then I heard Prescott say: Look above!
Above where? How? But as I looked up towards Prescott to ask him that, he seemed to have gone back to his pedestal in a flash.
Look above, he had said. What could that mean?
A white square gleamed through the darkness. The light came from an icon on my phone. Of course – the Uber app. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
Life came back to normal within a few minutes. As we boarded our Uber taxi, all of us heaved a huge sigh of relief. The whole incident had lasted less than 10 minutes but the uncertainty of transport in the midst of bad weather had brought me to the verge of losing my cool and even firing expletives into an unknown voice-mail box.
As the taxi made a turn from High Street to Pleasant Street, I looked up at Prescott for one last time through the window. Look above. Of course! Uber means “above” in German. Huh - I should know that.