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