The One with the Aerobed

There are two irrefutable facts about living in New York City:

  1. It is easier (and probably more life-affirming) to get to the summit of Mount Everest, than to get across town in Manhattan. To achieve the latter, you will need a minimum of three subway transfers, a pocketful of dollar bills (don’t ask), this guidebook listing all the food carts en route, a small flask and a first-aid kit with extra bandages.
  2. No matter where you’re going, whatever you’re carrying will only get heavier by the time you reach your destination, seemingly defying the laws of physics.

While I make every effort to avoid going cross town (“You mean you want me to go from the West Side Highway to Alphabet City for a personal meeting with George Clooney? Damn, I don’t have any dollar bills on me.”), sometimes carrying heavy, awkwardly sized objects is unavoidable.

Take the Aerobed incident.

Years ago, I bought a new sofa, the kind that discourages house guests. (“Oh, what a shame. My sofa is soooo uncomfortable. And don’t you have problems with your sciatica?”) This plan worked well for a while until I learned family members were coming to town, and despite my feeble protests, they would not be persuaded to stay elsewhere. (For example, the Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Heights.) (I jest.) (Not really.)

That is how I found myself at a Big Box Mega Super Ultra Store in urgent need of an inflatable mattress. Perhaps brainwashed by my surroundings, I decided to buy the diva deluxe model: a queen-sized, pillow-topped, motorized, elevated Aerobed. This was the Aretha Franklin of inflatable mattresses. R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Exactly how long are you staying??

Exactly how long are you staying??

For those of you living in a car culture, your story would end here. You’d wheel your purchase to your car in a shopping cart, deposit the box in your trunk and drive away. My adventure was just beginning. In the store, the Aerobed seemed manageable, light even. A cab from point A to B would have cost about $50, which I didn’t really have, so I planned to take the subway home. The sales clerk attached fantastic plastic handles to the cardboard box, necessity being the mother of invention in a city where everyone has to carry everything. The subway station was a mere two blocks.

Beyond the revolving doors the Aerobed immediately gained thirty pounds. I’d barely made it to the sidewalk before I had to stop to rest, panting and heaving like an emphysema patient. I switched the box from my right hand to my left. I tried carrying it like a bag of groceries, and I tried hoisting it on my back, sherpa-style. I even contemplated balancing it on my head, similar to these women. The Aerobed just kept getting heavier and heavier so that by the time I reached the corner, I was using the plastic handles to drag the box along the sidewalk. Then, of course, the plastic handles broke.

They make it look so easy.

They make it look so easy.

At the entrance to the subway station and the long flight of stairs underground, I gave up. I may have been incoherently mumbling phone numbers to nearby hotels which my relatives could use after they found my body, keeled over from the exertion. Sweating profusely I perched the Aerobed on the edge of the stairs and gave it a swift kick. The box tumbled, flipped and skidded to the first landing. I did it again (Take that, you stupid Aerobed) to the bottom of the stairs.

The next hurdle was a literal hurdle: the turnstiles. How would I negotiate them with a box that now weighed nearly as much as a baby elephant? Then a hero came along. A burly man, who looked like he burrowed holes in the ground for a living, had been watching me. “Can I help you?”

My motto usually is I got this, but on this day, sweat dripping down my face and back, I nodded yes. In the name of all that is good and right in the world, yes! At that moment it was the kindest offer anyone could have made. He carried the Aerobed through the turnstiles and all the way to the platform like it was a box of toothpicks. I watched him with my heart full of longing and admiration, wondering if it would be asking too much to have him come home with me to help on the other end getting the box up the subway stairs. Then with a nod of his head, he wordlessly turned and headed along the platform to another train line. I always remember that small act of kindness when I think about how a simple gesture can make someone’s day, but William Blake said it best: “He who would do good to another man must do it in Minute Particulars.” Meaning, it’s less about the grand gestures and more about everyday acts of kindness.

By the time I got the Aerobed home, another good Samaritan helping me up the subway stairs, the bottom of the box was in shreds from having been pushed along the sidewalk for blocks. As I opened the box, I noticed in small print on the side the weight of the Aerobed: forty pounds.

If you’re ever in New York City and you’re in need of a place to stay, I know of a great Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Heights. (I jest.) (Not really.)

Have you purchased something and immediately regretted it?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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36 comments

  1. I’ve avoided NYC much of my life because of the stereotypes of brusque New Yorkers. Lately I’ve spent a little more time there and I’ve been finding folks friendlier and more helpful than in DC. I’ll have to check out that Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Heights. It sounds nice.

    Also, it’s worth noting that you never see those women carrying Aretha Franklin on their heads. I’m guessing this is because it’s not as easy as it sounds.

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    1. It is a bit of an unfortunate stereotype that New Yorkers are rude. They are rushed and direct, but I’ve seen many locals go out of their way to help someone else.

      On a separate note: I would pay good money to see a woman balance Aretha on her head.

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  2. I have gotten to where I appreciate these seemingly small acts. I found them on airplanes with tiny kids and 8,000 things that had to accompany us everywhere AND also had to be out somewhere within reach once seated. I now force both my children to lend a hand on airplanes to anyone struggling. Just because it is the nice thing…and I also make them lug all my crap around.

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  3. There are kind people everywhere. They come out of the woodwork when you most need them. But you were awfully brave to walk out of the store with that thing. Obviously, New Yorkers have a ton of confidence.

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    1. I’m not sure if it was bravery… or the emptiness of my wallet that forced me into that situation. I probably should have gone for the mini-diva model and saved the extra cash for a cab ride home.

      I agree — people are usually willing to help me if I’m just willing to accept their help. 🙂

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  4. Years ago, during that long gone time when I was young and buff, I carried a TV that seemed made out of solid concrete from a store about four long city blocks to my sanctum sanctorum, a third floor walkup. I was drenched in sweat, but I did it. At this stage in my decrepitude, I always have anything backbreaking heavy delivered. Then, I arrange to have the people who manage my building accept the delivery and carry it up to my garret. They never give me guff and always refuse a tip. Whatever they’re paid, they’re precious gems to me — like that great guy you encountered.

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  5. Oh, dear Jackie, I understand, as we no longer live in a car culture. Fortunately, taxis here don’t cost more than 3 or 4 dollars–sometimes as little as 1.50, but I have tried carrying bulky items on and off buses here and nearly wanted to shoot myself. It happened even this morning.

    Glad you got the mattress home. Good to know you have that sucker! Hmmmmmmmmm—

    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    1. Oh the bus is definitely not the place for awkward or heavy items. It’s so hard to maneuver around the aisle, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. Are there any subways in Cuenca?

      PS – you and Sara are welcome on my Areobed anytime! 🙂 No Comfort Inn for you!

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  6. Was the mattress worth it after all that?? I walk a lot and nothing makes me hotter or crosser than having to carry heavy items. It was great when my kids were small and I could hang heavy items on the stroller – although not so good if the child got out of the stroller, which would then tip backwards, scattering shopping everywhere 😉

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    1. This mattress is quite fancy, I’ll say. It’s really not a bad night’s sleep. But certainly not worth that effort. 😛
      I do have one of those “granny” carts — the tall metal shopping carts with wheels. Too bad the bed wouldn’t fit into it!

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  7. Oh, Jackie… I was laughing so hard as I read this — not because of your miserable plight– but because you shared the story with such humor. Being a country girl, I honestly can’t fathom city living, as our pickup and its spacious bed (which would have served as a lovely transport device for YOUR bed) has become like a second pair of arms and legs. Then again, the closest store is 45 miles away and we’ve got ZERO public transportation options and tons of mountains. Ain’t no way I’d consider lugging that thing down the side of the highway! And I’m pretty sure I’d be hard pressed to find a burly helper along the road… But maybe … A cowboy?

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    1. I would absolutely loved to have had a cowboy wrangle my air mattress. 🙂

      Even though you don’t have to worry about transporting heavy and bulky items, I know you have other concerns living in the desert. Scorpions and bats to name two!

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  8. Can’t get my family to stay at a hotel either. I’ll even pay, but no, they don’t want to. We’ve lived without a car for years now. I’ve done this on many occasions. Most recently I was crossing a busy street in London and the plastic handles of my bags broke in the middle of the street right when the light turned green. It was a bad afternoon, but I lived to tell about it.

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    1. Going from a car culture to a public transport culture takes some getting used to, doesn’t it? I remember tossing all of my groceries and shopping bags into my car with abandon and not thinking another thing about it.

      Oh, dropping our bags in the middle of the street is not fun, but it certainly makes for a good story!

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  9. For years we had no vehicle, but when our 2nd child was born we bit the bullet and got one and life got so much easier. We were just reflecting on how we used to go to one store, buy stuff and then walk over to the other one. One of us would wait with the 1st purchases while we bought other stuff at the 2nd store and then catch a taxi home. We would buy enough to make the taxi trip worth it and walk or use transit for additional small trips during the month.

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    1. Isn’t that the truth! With a car, you don’t need to be concerned about how heavy or bulky the items you’re buying are. On my last grocery trip, I realized I couldn’t buy the milk and all the canned goods at the same time because I couldn’t carry it all.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  10. Oh my gosh this is classic! I went to NYC for the first time two years ago and it was stifling hot!! Any time someone suggested walking more than half a block I insisted on paying for a cab. I’m such a baby, I would have been just like you…hugging that sweet man for being so strong and helpful! What a hero!

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  11. Geez, that is the WORST! I’ve been in those situations and they are not pleasant. And I always seem to feel like an ass. Thank the Lord for good samaritans. Where would we be without them?

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    1. Yes! I was kicking myself all the way to the subway. If I’d only planned better, I could have ordered the thing online or tried to find a location closer to home.
      What a nice guy…and he probably didn’t even think twice about it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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