At 7:00 in the morning, the south-bound lane of the FDR Drive was all but empty, the north-bound jammed nearly solid. A couple of police cruisers, lights flashing, barged their way through the north-bound traffic. Another took up residence by the exit to the service road.
The FDR is a preferred route for visiting dignitaries. When the UN is in session, it's not uncommon to see convoys of black SUVs racing up and down. This, however, was something else. By 7:20, another police car had taken up position on the Williamsburg Bridge overhead. By 8:00, the north-bound lane was almost empty as well, and even the pedestrian footbridge over the Drive had been barricaded. A Black Hawk helicopter flew low up the river.
A small column of cars – five vehicles, with a tow-truck bringing up the rear – raced south. I suspected that the Pontiff's motorcade probably wouldn't include a tow-truck, but perhaps he was fulfilling some childhood fantasy. Maybe he'd always dreamed of driving a tow-truck in New York. Was there some equivalent of the Make-A-Wish Foundation for popes?
Ten minutes later, however, the actual motorcade appeared and it was clear that this was the real deal. It began with a phalanx of twenty motorcycles. Behind came more police cars, a succession of black SUVs and an ESU truck. The Black Hawk was back, flying slowly alongside. Bringing up the rear of the procession were two more squad cars and a huge white truck that presumably held the papal luggage, or perhaps the college of cardinals. The SUVs flew US and Vatican flags. I assumed that the Pope was sitting in one of them, waving politely to the handful of onlookers gathered on the far side of the Jersey barriers. From where I was sitting, there was no way to tell.
It was probably a comfortable ride, but I still think he'd have had more fun in the tow-truck.