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9/17/13

New York Cityscape: MTA Miracle

for Ponytail Joe, MTA Rescue Worker

My eyeglasses are a historic landmark for me. I got them on the day that I was reborn, that is, when my paramour in a fit of public jealousy and manliness decided to grab them off my nose and squash their delicate frame, popping out the lenses. That, and other similar tokens of passion, got him in jail for one day and in anger management for six months, and a stay-away-from-her order of protection at least until fall 2008. He deserved much more than that, the detective said, at least five years for attempted murder, since he forgot to tell me he was HIV positive and twice the condom broke, but the DA’s office said they wouldn’t go for it, since I didn’t get infected, thank God.
This was on March 11, 2006. A week later I got new eyeglasses, the same brand frames back on my nose, compliments of the Crime Victims’ Bureau.
Now, summer 2007, they are still a pleasure to wear. Light, hip, they got a bit loose, though. Each time I am at the teacher’s desk looking down in the textbook they fall on the table, causing merriment in the back of the class where the slackers congregate.
Tuesday night I hurried to a rehearsal in Chinatown.
5:30-ish I am about to get out of the train, head down, stepping cautiously over the gap that so many people fell thru, but it’s a small crack, not even a palm wide and I see my eyeglasses falling down! My God, one handle was still on the train floor, I lean down to grab them, pick them up, but they continue the fall. Train leaves. I’m there on the platform, looking into the dark track bed, filthy with garbage and murky pools of rain. I can’t see a thing.
If they fell by the tracks, they’ll still be there when I get back from the rehearsal. If they fell on the tracks, good-bye, Columbus! They are squashed again, this time for good. Why is no one here? Where is the damn info booth? No info booth. Maybe it’s on the uptown platform. Go there. I can’t. I have to rush to the theater.
All thru the rehearsal, I couldn’t think about anything else but the eyeglasses. Perhaps it is a good thing they had an accident. It’s time to move on. No more memories. Move on. New eyeglasses. What are you talking about? It will be at least $500! You promised yourself a new life on your birthday, a new digital camera! You donated your film camera to the nonprofit American Opera team! These are your eyeglasses. You should have gone to the optician’s and tightened them up. You should have worn a string to hold them on your neck. Yeah, like old country accountants! I’m hip! Way hip. You can barely see! Buy a flashlight from the street vendors. It’s Chinatown, how much can that cost? You go back there and ask the MTA guys to get them for you! Remember that guy once on the blue line in Penn Station? He realized his golden diamond stud earring just fell off his ear on the tracks and he raised hell and they called the guys and they jumped in the pit and got him his earring! But who are these guys? I looked around for a policeman, but there wasn't any, neither in the station nor on the street. Too hot. No matter what, go get your eyeglasses back, or at least make sure they are dead. They are your eyeglasses.
So at nine I went to the booth, approached a policeman who was guarding a worker taking the money out of the ticket machine. He didn’t want to talk to me, had his bulletproof vest on, directed me majestically to the information booth guy, though he saw too well that no one was there. A good five minutes later he shows up. Grumpy. It’s Chinatown. It’s a Chinese man. I fear he doesn’t understand me at all.
He does, but how should I know? Most people can’t speak English in this part of town. He is frowning. He had enough of this noise and heat. But I’m there and I won’t go away. Give me my eyeglasses! He calls, the trains go by, metal noise screeching, people coming and going. I’m still here, give me my eyeglasses! He talks on his antiquated phone. “Where was this?” “On the downtown 6 line platform, by the street elevator.” “They’ll come in half an hour or an hour. You either go there, wait for them on the bench, or come back later and pick them up from here.” “No, sir. I’ll go there and stay until they come.” I’m prepared to wait for hours. Three ladies on the bench discuss a girlfriend, a jealous woman, who threw a fit and of course, the guy left her, she is like that. Train comes, they go. I peer into the gutter again. I can’t see a thing. The janitor sweeps the platform. “I lost my eyeglasses.” “Did you call them?” “Yes.” “Don’t go down there. The train won’t stop. Don’t go down there.” “I won’t.” I’m not an idiot!
Not even 15 minutes passed, two stocky guys with orange mat vests show up with mega huge flashlights.
One, gray ponytail, the other, crew cut. “Are you here for me? For my eyeglasses?” I asked eagerly. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“They fell down here, by this pillar.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “When was this?” “At 5:30.” “5:30?! They are gone by now,” says the Crew Cut. “Why should they be gone by now?” “Some kid saw them and jumped in the pit and took them.” “What for?” “Just for fun, saw them glittering in the mud, picked them.”
But the Ponytail, didn’t discourage me, did his job, worked his flashlight like a movie spotlight. All we could see were plastic bottles, cans, papers, pools of squalor. The Crew Cut went farther down the track, though I told them, “It was near this pillar here, or at the most that one there, before the turnstile. I remember I had to walk very little to get out of the train station.” Nothing. “I don’t know how you will see them, because they have slim black square wire frames. They are very delicate...”
Ponytail moves ahead one more column, then he gets his round belly on the floor! He forays into the mud and darkness. On the bench, a young couple. Instead of minding their romance, the young curly blond man is amused by my adventures! We were a sight to behold, Ponytail on his belly with flashlight in the track pit, me hopping about in my blue summer dress.
Train comes honking ablast. Stop the filming. Train leaves station. Action! Back on the belly. “I found them!” announces Ponytail. “Where? Where?” A passenger points excited, “Look, they are there! Look there!!!” “Please, please be very gentle with them, they are so fragile!” Now they’ll get squashed! They are brave, faithful eyeglasses! They survived the trains! And now they will get squashed.
Crew Cut comes with his long stick that has some gray pincers at one end. “Please, don’t destroy them!” He lowers the stick in the pit, and lightly raises it again. My eyeglasses! My dear, dear eyeglasses unharmed. Muddy! Crawling with germs! Soaked in disgusting squalor, the lenses with grit splashes. But my eyeglasses! I wrap them in a lump of napkins from the beef and mushroom on rice for $4.50 from the frowning Nazi vendor.
“You guys, I thank you so much. I can’t take you for a beer,” I don’t know why it seemed the right thing to say. Teachers don’t go out for beers with students, they might get sued for sexual harassment, so why should MTA workers have it easier? “but I will write you a poem. ‘The MTA Miracle Poem.’ What is your name? Oh, don’t worry, it’s not that kind of poem!” Pony says he’s Joe. Crew Cut I don’t know what he said or if he said anything. “Can I e-mail my poem to you? Or mail it?” “It will never get to us...” “Then where is your office?” “On Chambers.” “What is your office name? What are you exactly?” “Good question. I guess we are the emergency intervention unit, aren’t we?” “Yeah.” “Thanks again, and I turned around, not knowing if I should shake hands or not, might be misinterpreted again...
Behind me, I heard Crew Cut, “I’d like new kneecaps, that’s what I would like. Six pairs of new kneecaps.” Were it for Crew Cut I’ve never gotten back my preciouses.
At home, I washed them with soap and peroxide and sprayed them with Lysol, and washed them again. I always fold them when I get into the subway station now, first thing. Before the train arrives, I put them in my purse. Look at the gap in terror. Swallower of eyeglasses!
I stopped by the info booth tonight, and asked the worker, “Remember me?” I pointed to my eyeglasses. “Thank you.” He looked morosely at me.
I’ll go take Joe out for a beer, what the heck. I need friends like him. No bitching, get the job done, no raining on distressed people’s hopeful parades.

 New York City
September 17, 2013


 
 
Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being some of them, I’d be grateful.

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