Archives For February 2015

Miracle on Broadway

February 9, 2015 — Leave a comment

This story took place today around noon, within the geographic radius of W25th and W21st streets, Broadway and 5th Avenue, around the Flatiron building in Manhattan.

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It happened like this.

I decide to leave the office, the Flatiron Building. It’s around lunchtime. I have to go to Citibank three blocks away and to pick up something to eat.

Before I leave the office, I do the obligatory winter dance.

I change into my snow boots, layer on my pink fleece vest, wrap my green scarf around my neck to partially cover my mouth, and then finish with my bright neon green windproof, hooded pullover. I grab my cellphone and put it in my jacket pocket, which I zip close. I grab my wallet, which is more like a clutch purse. It’s made of wool, striped cream and white, and about five inches long, three inches high. It’s too large to fit in my jacket pocket, too thin to hold my phone, which is a Samsung Note 3.

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After pulling the hood over my head and putting my gray mittens on, the kind that turns into fingerless gloves, I tuck the clutch under my armpit, which has become routine when I don’t want to carry my backpack or handbag.

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I’m properly dressed when I’m outside, feeling perfectly warm and comfortable despite the wind and frigid cold.

I walk on Fifth Ave to my bank. There are two tellers occupied, and one man ahead of me in line. There is enough of a wait that when it’s my turn at the teller, he thanks me for my patience and apologizes for the delay.

I’m at the teller to get a certified check for my rent. After a few minutes, I have my check, fold it in half, tuck it into the purse and head out. Before leaving the bank I stop at the ATM and withdraw $60.

I walk back, pass the Flatiron. I’m on Broadway on my way to the corner deli where I often pick out a mix of things from their hot buffet when I can’t decide what I want to eat.

It’s busy as usual, lots of people in line waiting for whatever they ordered and others at the cashier ready to pay.

I fill my container with different styles of chicken and some vegetables, grab a bottle of Poland Spring Dark Cherry Sparkling Water and an orange, and walk to the cashier. She places everything into a white plastic bag. The total is a little over $9. I pull out $20 from my purse, pay, get change, and as I often do, walk back to the buffet and grab a few packets of hot sauce and throw them in the bag before I leave.

I walk back to my office building, swipe my ID card, which hangs from one of my belt loops, and then wait for the elevator.

I don’t have to wait long before one of the elevators arrives. I walk into the elevator with about three or four others–no one I know personally.

My office is on the 16th floor. Around the 4th floor, I free my fingers from the mittens, unzip my jacket, then unzip the fleece vest, put my hand in the jacket pocket, feel my phone, and decide not to pull it out. I look down at the plastic bag and then it slowly dawns on me that I’m missing my purse.

I recheck the plastic bag, pat myself down, check the pockets of my pants.

I hit one of the floors to leave, mumbling to everyone that I left my purse at the deli. I hope, I say. One woman consoles me and says, Oh yes, I’m sure it’s there.

I don’t bother to zip up my jacket, take a quick survey of the ground around the foyer, ask security if he picked up a stripes purse, No, he answers and I walk briskly to the deli, looking down at the dirty snow covering the sidewalk along the way.

Just in case.

When I get to the deli and ask if they have my striped purse, they say, No. There’s nothing here.

I believe them. I’ve been going to this deli for years. And if I’d left it, they’d have noticed and held onto it until I realized and returned for it.

I retrace my steps and head back to my building. I recheck the plastic bag. Check trash cans along the way.

I walk back to my office, tell everyone that I’ve lost my wallet. I get on the phone, cancel my bank card and realize that I need to get a new cashiers check. When I ask the customer service person on the line to also cancel the cashiers check, she puts me on hold for a few minutes before returning and telling me that I have to go back to the bank and only a manager can help me.

I haven’t taken my layers off yet, tell the marketing assistant I’m going back to the bank and hopefully I won’t be long.

When I get to the bank, I explain that I lost my wallet and the cashiers check that I had just gotten 20 minutes earlier. The teller remembers me, has a mixed expression of sympathy, surprise, and amusement on his face.

I’ll be back, he says. I’ll help you.

After a few minutes, he returns.

We can’t cancel the check, he says. And because it’s an official bank check, you’ll need to file a claim. Once you file a claim, the process of evaluation takes 90 days.

That’s unacceptable, I say. There must be something or someone who can and will override this process.

He asks me to take a seat and leaves again for a few minutes. While I wait, I google DMV and replacement drivers license. Before I find out the process involved, the teller returns.

Follow me, he says, and leads me into the branch manager’s office. She explains that she’s able to cancel the check, but that I’ll have to wait 24 hours in case the check has already been cashed.

I fill out the paperwork, the branch manager brings in a woman to notarize the forms. Before I leave she hands me a temporary ATM card.

I walk back to my office, turn my computer on, my coworkers want to know what happened and they repeat how genuinely sorry they are.

Then one of the marketing associates walks over to me and then mid sentence says, Hey. You have a message. Your phone’s blinking.

She and I look at each other and say in unison, No. No way. No.

Put it on speaker phone, she says. I want to hear.

I say out loud, to myself more than to anyone listening, No it’s probably just some random work related request. Michelle probably asking me about some schedule.

When I punch my phone’s password in, a woman with a heavy Queens accent fills my office.

Miss Estrada, I’m calling from Bellmar Realty. A gentleman left your purse with us. It’s at the security desk. We’re at 936 Broadway.

I kid you not, the associate starts tearing up and can’t stop saying, Oh my God. Oh my God. Karma, Marie. You have good karma.

As I’m googling 936 Broadway, I say to her, Wow, humanity. I can’t believe it.

As soon as I have the location, I bolt. While waiting for the elevator I run into one of the marketing managers and tell her what just happened.

Her voice gets high-pitched and she says how wonderful that is and how happy she is for me. Awww, she keeps repeating, the way one would while looking at an adorable fluffy kitten playing.

I find Bellmar. It’s literally one minute away, a building I’ve never noticed but walk past every time I walk to the deli.

I tell the woman at the security desk that I received a call and ask her if she has my gray and white striped purse. She smiles, opens a drawer, and hands it to me.

I don’t bother checking its contents. For whatever reason, I know nothing is missing.

When I walk into my office, the associate is all grins.

I still can’t believe it, she says.

I put the purse down on my desk, peel all the layers off, change into my office appropriate shoes, sit down and finally open the purse.

And I was right. The bank check, my drivers license, cash, pink polka dot pen, receipts… everything. I got back everything I thought I lost forever.

I pick up the phone, call the bank and tell them my purse was found. Fortunately they aren’t efficient and haven’t completed the claim process.

We’ll shred the paperwork, the branch manager says. You’re lucky. Your purse was found by one of the honest ones out there. That’s rare.

Yes. Yes. Thank you rare stranger, whoever you are. You’ve renewed my belief in humanity with your actions today. With the choice you made.

Thank you. Thank you. I’m forever grateful to you.

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Bike Thievery

February 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

Someone stole the entire rear wheel from my Trek bike, which is locked up in the rack next to my apartment building. It happened last summer.

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The thief couldn’t steal the entire bike since I have a Big Apple Kryptonite lock and chain combination securing it.

The bike’s not fancy and cost me nothing, passed on to me by one of my neighbors who in turn got it for free from a mutual friend who owns several top of the line bikes and no longer has a use for it.

But it worked fine and I had replaced both tires with fancy new ones. It was annoying that I could no longer use it if and when I had the desire to. I felt violated.

But I’ve come to accept that I did everything right in this case short of keeping the bike in my apartment, where there’s simply no room for it.

Not so with my previous bike that was stolen.

My Specialized Hardrock mountain bike was stolen several years ago in broad daylight on Metropolitan Avenue, one of the busiest high traffic streets that runs through Brooklyn (apparently busy streets and daylight are when bikes are often stolen). Instead of the Big Apple combination, I used one of those flimsy u-locks that I learned too late could be and probably was picked in seconds with a standard Bic ballpoint pen. Just google bike lock bic pen and numerous How To youtube videos like this one will pop up.

That was a beautiful bike. Probably too beautiful with its sparkly metallic blue paint. And too new. It was a little heavy hauling up and down the front steps of my apartment building. But it was solid and I felt relatively safe riding it on city streets with all the potholes.

The day that bike was stolen was an odd one. A double blow.

I locked up the bike on a pole right in front of my then boyfriend’s apartment building. We had been gone a few hours, having just returned after putting to sleep Juanita, his 16 year old 1.4 lb teacup chihuahua, whose health had deteriorated so rapidly over the previous week that she no longer left her bed and refused food and water.

I noticed that the bike was missing when we stepped out of the taxi.

Of course I started doubting whether I actually did park the bike where I thought I had parked it. Did I park it further down? Did I forget to lock it? We walked up and down the block for several minutes before the realization set in and I accepted that the bike was stolen.

For weeks after, I remember looking vigilantly at parked bikes, moving bikes, walking into used bike shops, irrationally hopeful that maybe I’d spot my bike and even better that the thief would be apprehended. One of my friends had had her bike stolen and a few weeks later found it parked in front of a random building in her neighborhood in the east village and was able to get it back. She waited next to the bike for the owner to return. Turned out that the new owner had bought the bike a block away from a bike shop that paid cash for it and didn’t have a paper trail. At least that was the story the bike shop gave to my friend.

But that’s not common. Still I couldn’t help but hope the same would happen with me.

Check out this checklist for proper bike locking if you own or plan on owning a bike in this city.

I don’t ride bikes often enough any longer that I feel the loss of that Specialized or the use of the Trek. Ever since that tire was stolen, I’ve literally done nothing. I pass the Trek every day but rarely give it a second thought.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do with it.

Now that Citibikes is literally next to my apartment building it seems almost unnecessary for a bike rider like me who seldom rides one, to own a bike.

I’ve had the occasional thought of taking the lock off and seeing what happens. Will someone take it? Think it’s been abandoned? If they’re willing to go through the hassle of moving it, buy a new tire, give it some love, and actually ride it more than once a year, then they deserve to have it more than I do.

I’ll likely instead make a little effort. Ask the original owner or the neighbor who passed it on to me if either wants it back. Or ask around, post a sign in my building and see if there are any takers.

Who knows, maybe I’ll change my habits, move to a new place where biking more often makes more sense.

But for now, in the dead of winter, when snow storm advisories are in effect more often than not, I’ll wait until Spring when the weather’s a little nicer and the sidewalks and streets don’t look so darn menacing. Then I’ll make my move.

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Blue Skies

February 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

It’s been one of those lazy wintry Saturdays for me–hoping no one calls, rationalizing staying in and delaying anything that involves going outside because of the gray skies and crummy weather.

I actually love the winter in New York, the fresh crisp air and pretty snowfall. But sometimes I just don’t want to leave the warmth of my space and bother with putting on endless layers just to step outside if I don’t really have to.

But during on the fence moments like these, I usually end up feeling glad that I said Yes and Go instead of No, Stay.

It’s also during these times that my mind inadvertently starts playing games with me.

Today was no different.

If the Sky stays gray, Stay. If it turns blue, you’ll go outside.

Deal?

Deal, I say.

Promise me?

I promise, I say.

Around 10am, I looked out my window. The Sun seemed to be having a mini battle against the gray Sky.

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I had just eaten a satisfying no-hassle breakfast of ramen and kimchee and was perfectly content.

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So what comes next shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Don’t win. Don’t win. I begged the Sun. Don’t turn blue, Sky. Don’t do it. Don’t succumb…

Well.

Just short of noon, the Sun was proudly blazing against the most perfect hue of blue. And a bird, all alone, soared, making broad loops, simply having a ball.

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I honored the deal, kept the promise I made to myself, and well… the day only got better.

Willie Nelson, take it away: Blue Skies.

Assess and Purge

February 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

I can’t shake the desire to throw out, give away, and say my fond farewells to things. Objects.

People often do this during Spring. Spring cleaning.

But I do it every month. Assess my surroundings, move things around, look at wear and tear.

Admittedly I have an emotional attachment to certain items that serve as reminders of experiences. I keep pretty things that I simply like looking at.

But even these things sometimes get chopped. Or at least put safely away outside of my view.

The people in my personal life are currently all safe. I’ve carefully assessed and determined at least for now that they’re all worthy of my time and attention.

Seems like a cold selfish approach. Maybe. But it helps me see things more clearly. What I want. What’s right for me. If you’re not a source of inspiration or admiration, you’re excess weight.
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Fortunately, my true loved ones and I have a mutual understanding. There will be punctuated moments of noncommunication before that reach out. Barring emergencies, it’s how we operate.

I was about to state an exception. My weekly call to my parents every Sunday who live thousands of miles away.

But then I realized, whether it’s a function of routine or simply respect for them, I actually want to call them. Check in. Make sure they’re doing okay, that, as my stepfather always macabrely answers when I ask how he’s doing, they’re still vertical.

With my parents, true friends, and loved ones, the understanding is the same.

The time we spend together is special. We’re not doing so out of duty or simply maintenance. It’s not work. It’s pleasure. Fun. We choose to expend the effort.

They have a place and function in my life and I make room for them. Make the time. It’s effort. Not work.

There’s a difference.

Daily rant. Sorry.

February 2, 2015 — Leave a comment

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I catch myself and others around me using Sorry as filler. As an interruption. A question. An entrance.

And when the word needs to be used as it was intended, it requires a qualification.

I’m really sorry is a common one.

I consciously stop myself now from verbalizing or writing Sorry for minor things. Being late. Bumping into someone on the subway.

I’ve found that other words or an explanation go further.

Excuse me.
Pardon me.
I didn’t hear you. Repeat what you just said please.
The train was delayed. I hope you haven’t been waiting too long.

Maybe I’m making a mountain of a molehill. But it bothers me that we’re saying Sorry when we’re really not. Or if we haven’t done anything wrong.

The New York Times, in an article, Do you apologize too much? explored this same issue. Read the article.

And, what the hell, do this little experiment tomorrow. See how many times you catch yourself saying Sorry or hear others using it.

Mountain? Molehill? Did you mean it? Did they mean it?

I’m forecasting lots of Nos.