Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I want to be a part of it: New York, New York!

I could go into great detail about my job and my Big Apple experiences so far, but as hundreds of things have occurred which have left their imprints on my mind without being of great significance to most people who might read this, I won’t. I have, however, included here below a few little snippets.

Bundled and clutching my borrowed umbrella, I walked from the bus stop to the crosswalk, where my light was red, and as I waited, I considered the many amusements of my day. It was dark, cold, and wet, but I was in a good humor and close to home. A car drove by and splashed a bit of water close to my feet. Cautiously, I stepped back. A bus approached, and as the front wheels rumbled by, I stepped back even further. Sure enough, the splash was bigger, and as I congratulated myself on having narrowly avoided a minor soaking, the back wheels rolled into that very same puddle, and a tidal wave of water rose viciously into the air, smacking me first clear in the face, then pummeling every part of me from my neck to my feet. I was wet. Immediately, I erupted in a rather giddy solo of high-pitched giggles, and I looked around to make sure I had no audience. I also spit. I mean, I didn’t want any street water festering in my mouth.

I have decided that interesting things happen when I am late to work. Don’t assume this means that I make it a habit of being late to work – it’s happened only twice thus far, but both of those times I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was worth it. My first late-for-work experience happened one Saturday when it seemed that someone had decided it would sure as heck be super fun to play around with the subway trains instead of letting them stop at their normal stops and come as regularly as they normally come. No, really, the subway construction folks were just doing their jobs and repairing some tracks or something, so I can’t complain. Coming back to the story line, I had waited about half an hour for the number 5 train, only to find that I had to transfer to the number 2 almost immediately, and then eventually transfer back to the 5 if I ever wanted to arrive at my destination. It was on the number 2, which I do not normally take, that the Interesting Thing happened: I heard a woman speaking Romanian on her cell phone. Having just spent three years in Romania, I had been open of ear and eager of mind to find Romanian speakers in New York City, but to no avail until this very moment. As I usually am not inclined to initiate dialogue with absolute strangers, I stood there, nervously, as well as impertinently, eavesdropping on her conversation (because I could), and frantically working up the courage to talk with her when she finished. Finally, my opportunity arrived when, after a couple more phone calls, she closed her cell and dropped it into her purse. “Sunteti din Romania sau Moldova?” (“Are you from Romania or Moldova?”) I asked. Smiling and clearly surprised, she said that she was from Romania and asked about my own country of origin. When I responded with “Sunt americanca” (“I’m American”), she again adopted the look of surprise at finding an American who had somehow or other learned the Romanian language. She was actually from Bucharest, which is where I lived, and after chatting a bit on the 2 train, we then got off to switch to the 5, chatted some more, realized that the 5 was not coming to that station, got back on another 2 train, chatted some more, got off again, and parted ways. I was 20 minutes late to work.
That was Saturday. Sunday I was off, and then Monday I ran into the exact same problem. I went through most of the same rigmarole, and when I finally got back onto the 5 train for the last leg of my commute, two loud hip-hop-looking guys with a stereo jumped on the train and started shouting for us to pay attention, as we were, according to them, about to see a pretty darn great show. Turning on the music, they then started dancing. Alright, I thought, they’re going to dance around a bit. That’s nice. I watched with modest curiosity. And then the Interesting Thing took place: they began flipping and jumping like a couple of kernels of popping corn up and down the aisle of the train car! No one was standing in that part of the car, but there were plenty of people sitting, and I was certain that one of the entertainers would kick someone in the face by accident, or land flat on someone’s lap, and all of us wide-eyed passengers pulled in our feet to be on the safe side, but no one was so much as grazed. Towards the end of their show, just to be sure we were truly impressed, they each grabbed each other’s legs, forming a circle, and rolled down the aisle till they were just about to hit one of the poles… and then they rolled around it. Again, I was 20 minutes late to work.

“Caroline Kennedy is here doing a book signing,” I found myself explaining to quite a few customers who wondered why we had closed off a section of the store to their perusals. This explanation was met with various reactions:
“Oh, really? No wonder there are so many people here!”
“*%@#! Every time I come to this store there’s a *#$@ book signing!”
“Who’s Caroline Kennedy?”
Despite the more negative comments, I decidedly enjoyed the event and got something of a kick out of one particular suggestion, offered by a little middle-aged woman with some kind of accent that made it just hard enough to immediately comprehend what she wanted:
“I tell you my name, an’ you tell Mrs. Kennedy. She know me. Maybe she be surprise to know I here. But I know her. An’ then I can go to front of the line.”
Nice try.

Were I a cartoon character, my eyes would probably have been bulging out of their sockets. On this quest to catch a glimpse of the legendary Saks Christmas windows, my brother and I had gotten sucked into a teeming, sardine-can mass of humanity, positively violent with Christmas Spirit, demonstrated by such joyful remarks as “Quit pushing!!” and “Why don’t you #$@* move already??” Jostled and squeezed and feeling closer to complete strangers than ever before, we edged our way through the crowd, laughing and endeavoring to come up with a parody to the song “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” (substituting “Chaos” for “Christmas”), at which we partially succeeded. Finally at the end of the window display, we rounded the block to get back to my sister-in-law. Miraculously, her pregnant cousin had taken her little daughter and my little niece through the same crowd and had come out unscathed.
Ah! Christmastime in the city!

1 comment:

lmorales said...

Glad to see New York is such an experience! I'll have to visit you sometime :o)