Lost In New York

by Peggy Olsen

My heart was pounding. I knew I was somewhere in New York City, but had no idea which way to go. I was relieved to see a cafe open at midnight. Back home nothing was open at midnight - actually nothing was open past 9pm. The cafe would at least have a phone to call a cab. I walked in expecting a friendly greeting instead I was ignored. What were they saying? I couldn't understand word. It didn't sound like English. I wondered if I was still in the U.S. I felt so helpless. Wouldn't anyone even acknowledge me? I wondered if this would be my last night alive in the world. Would anyone in this city help me?

Ready to cry and too timid to approach anyone, I walked out of the cafe promising to always help others if I made it through this night alive. I gazed up and down the dark sidewalk. A man was walking my way! Thinking positively and believing in the kindness of others I knew he would help me! Oh no, could this be a dream? His face can't be cut and bleeding - and previously scarred! As I watched the blood drip off his face, I pinched myself. I felt it, unfortunately.

As frightened as I was of him, I knew I had to ask. He was my only hope. I wasn't sure he could be trusted, but what did I have to lose - besides my life - at the moment. "How do I get the subway to Manhattan?", I asked. He pointed and replied, "See that dark alley? Go down it." As I turned around I remembered I was not alone and saw my very relieved dad standing next to a taxi holding the door open for me. I have never been so happy to see a taxi in my life. The only thing I was happier to see that night was the hotel. I survived being lost in New York.

It all started innocently enough. My mom called on a Thursday afternoon, "Do you want to go to the World Series? We are leaving tomorrow for New York." My dad and I had always talked about going to the World Series. We watched the World Series together on TV every year. He cooked hotdogs and bought Cracker Jacks. It was our tradition. We had tried to get tickets for years! My brother-in-law was able to get game tickets from a relative and we were off to New York for game two on Saturday night. It was a dream come true for both of us.

I was estastic and had a million things to do. I called my boss and asked for Monday off. She said "What's his name?" with a chuckle. I said "I am going to the World Series with my dad!" I'm not sure she believed me, but I didn't care because one of my childhood dreams was coming true.

My dad and I were Red Sox fans, but I decided to be a Mets fan while in New York. I had heard about New York fans and wanted to live through this dream come true. For the game I wore a Mets World Series cap and a Mets sweatshirt. I didn't want the New Yorker's to question my team loyalty. I forgot to pack a coat, so I carried plenty of blankets instead. It was going to be a cold October night. I was confident the heat of the game would keep me warm.

We arrived in New York Friday afternoon and immediately began asking people how to get to Shea Stadium for the game. They all said the same thing. "The easiest thing to do is take the subway. You'll never get a cab after the game." I can't say any of them went out of their way to give us exact directions. As we were getting ready to leave for the game we asked at the hotel desk. They told us we would have to change trains! I wasn't comfortable with this subway idea at all, but according to the New Yorkers it would be easy.

My mom was going to watch the game at the hotel. We got a cab and were off to the stadium planning to take the subway back to the hotel. If you've ever been to New York you know how life threatening it can be to be anywhere near a cab. Being from the west coast we were used to a pretty laid back life. New York City cab drivers are far from laid back! The cab driver in his impatience was weaving in and out of cars all along the freeway and I swear he had the gas pedal clear to the floor. Obviously, he was paid by the mile, not the minute! As we rode with worried faces and white knuckles, my dad and I were both thinking about how our dream of seeing a World Series game may be shattered because we were going to die in a auto accident on the way to the game. We made it, but that ride was the most frightening car ride of my life!

The game was great. The excitement I felt in the stadium was beyond anything I could have imagined watching on television. I thought it was exciting on TV. Our seats were out in right field on the 3rd level. Billy Joel sang the National Anthem and Christy Brinkley was in the stands. Of course, from way up high in right field, my best view was on the big screen monitors. Sure I could have seen the game better on television, but I was there!

The Mets lost 8-2. The score was unimportant to me. I was cold, but that was unimportant. I went to the World Series! That was all that mattered.

It was easy to find the subway station after the game. We just followed the crowd. The people standing next to us on the subway were from Washington State too. They had a little too much to drink at the game and one man was obnoxious. In a subway car full of already upset Mets fans he commented loudly, "New York doesn't have a very good football team either. The Seahawks beat them today".

The train was silent except for this conversation. I was amazed that people didn't talk to each other. Did they really take the game that seriously? Were they just unfriendly? My dad began to ask people where we needed to get off. I fully expected someone to take us by the hand and help. OK, perhaps I was too innocent! My dad asked many people and all they did was shrug their shoulders and nod their heads no. I wondered how many of them took the train to Manhattan every day to work. The train was silent - except for the conversation we were having with the other people from Washington State about how to get back to Manhattan. Based on the man's comments about New York's sports teams I guess it is no wonder that no one on the train seemed to know how to help us.

We exchanged information with the other Washington people and found we agreed on where we were supposed to get off. We couldn't all be wrong! We watched all the signs and listened carefully to the announcements of stations. There it is! We all got off anxious to get back to our hotels. We walked off the train and up some stairs. We were standing on a street corner. There didn't seem to be anywhere to go. None of us knew what to do. My dad and I were less than ten feet away from the other group of people when they hopped in a cab and left us! I will never know if they forgot about us or purposefully left us standing on a corner at midnight lost in New York City. I don't know if I looked like a tourist or a homeless woman carrying around my blankets. I'd like to believe we looked like the vulnerable tourists we were.

The cab that came by saved us. I don't know where the cab came from. I didn't hear it or see it. On the way back to the hotel, I watched out the window of the taxi thinking about our adventure and how lucky we were that the cab arrived before we walked down the dark alley. Whatever one's belief system, fate, angels or whatever one calls it, something happened that night that saved us from being lost and frightened in New York any longer than we were. In our relief we gave the driver a big tip and went up to the hotel room to share the tale with my mom.

Was the game worth it? You bet, but next time I'll hire a limo.

Peggy Olsen enjoys life at Friendly Earth Farm in Washington State where she resides with her husband Brian, two daughters, eight llamas, three cats, one dog and many wild creatures who share her family's piece of the earth.

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© Copyright 1997 - Peggy Olsen. All rights reserved.