November 2012


I was coming home on the train after a long delay sitting in a tunnel. Exhausted and not paying attention to much, I found myself sitting close to a large woman in pink sweats who seemed even more tired than I was.  She was asleep or trying to sleep and every now and then as she began to slide into a deeper sleep, she would lose her balance and then wake herself up.

After one time too many of nearly falling over, she awoke for good and began talking:

“I like your shoes.”

“Thank you. I like them too.”

“I’m hungry.”

“You know I just came from a party and I have a huge tub of salad. You want it?”

“No I don’t do salad.”

“How about a burrito? I have a chicken burrito.”

“Let me see it.”  I pull the burrito out of my bag and offer it to her in a clear cellophane wrapper.

She looks interested, then makes a face and asks, “Is that beans in there?”

“Yes, its chicken and rice and beans and -”

“I don’t do beans.”

“You don’t do beans?  Beans are good for you.”

“I just want money for McDonalds.”

“McDonalds? There’s McDonalds around here.”

“But can’t you just give me money for McDonalds?”

“Sorry Miss, no I can’t.”

I wish I’d said “Sorry Miss, I don’t do McDonalds.”

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This past week I had a brief elevator conversation with Mr. O, a porter who works in my building. Among the things he does are empty our recycling, assemble our garbage, and sweep and mop the floors. He is unfailing cheerful and helpful. I once paid him a mere $20 to get rid of my futon couch to make way for the delivery of a real couch. Before he was a porter, Mr. O worked 8 hour shifts at our front desk as a member of a cadre of friendly men who provide ’24 hour security’ that real estate ads for our building boast of.

That morning, I was heading out @ 7.45am to meet a friend who was swinging by in her car to pick up a bike rack of hers that I had kept in my apartment for far too long. Mr O. was just coming in from his ride deep in Brooklyn as I was stepping out of the elevator.

I’m not sure why I asked him how long his commute was but since it was early, I felt prompted to inquire. He told me 2 hours – one way! (That means he leaves his home at 5.45 – yikes.)  And then I asked him how long he’d been coming from Brooklyn to northern Manhattan and back again and he said 18 years! I almost fell over.

If that isn’t a mark of one who is faithful, I don’t know what is.