Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving, Rescues, Alfred Hitchcock and Rain

Per my brother's request, I now offer you a slightly more interesting version of Thanksgiving.


Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

I instantly jump out of bed, punch the "On/Off" button on my iHome, then roll back into bed, clutching the comforters to me for warmth. I open my eyes and peek out, in the general direction of the three beds that face me. My roommates are sleeping.

Iryna and I have planned to go to the Thanksgiving Day parade. I know I have to get up soon. I hear my other roommate get up, wash up, and then hear the door close. I don't know where she could be going but I assume I will soon find out.

Pumping my fist in the air, I decide to awaken. I jump out of bed and move the pile of books that is currently residing on my chair to the comforter, then wander toward the bathroom. After cleaning teeth and brushing hair, I find myself pulling on clothes and sitting down to open a present sent to me by my parents.

A box from Carsons. I smiled. I expected this. I open it to find a beautiful pair of long earrings, threads of gold and crystal. Underneath it is a beautiful box from Godiva, bearing truffles. Unfortunately, as I have left the gift box on top of my labtop, the truffles are melting, but the chocolate is welcome and makes an excellent breakfast.

I glance toward Iryna, who is still sleeping, and cross the room towards her. She opens her eyes briefly and then goes back to sleep.

I shrug. Check my email, glance at the blogs, then turn back to Iryna, and strongly encourage her to get up. I accomplish this by turning on the light and the radio. Z100 is incredibly stupid on Thanksgiving, airing some show called, "Can Greg T do it with a Turkey?" Apparently this guy named Greg has decided to take a turkey with him to Starbucks, in a cab, to a peep show and other places in order to see whether or not he is denied entrance. The logic behind this? I wouldn't know.

Iryna dresses and prepares to leave. By this time it must be nine o'clock, nine fifteen. We don our hats, scarves and coats and prepare to brave the cold and what appears to be a light drizzle. I realize that I need smaller bills, and resolve to go to Dunkin Donuts (quicker and faster than going to the bank.) I buy a medium cup of hot chocolate, which serves me well given the cold.

We walk hurriedly toward Broadway and thirty-fourth. We shove our way through crowds, almost reach the front, admire an aspiring acrobat who clambers on top of the phone booth only to be yelled at by the police, and realize that there's no way we'll be able to see the parade from her. Instead, we shove our way back through the crowd and walk to fifty-second street, at which point we find front-row standing positions, almost touching the police barrier. We stare in awe and amazement and click away with our cameras as Super-Grover, Pikachu, Candyworld floats, band-members and cheerleaders pass us by. We are sprinkled with confetti and wished a "Happy Thanksgiving" by clowns, ice-cream cones and the like. We are freezing. We stamp our feet and blow on our hands, but nothing avails. By this time, it is pouring. Iryna's hat is pretty but impractical, and her hair is soaked.

Once Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus pass us by, the parade is over. Iryna, desperate to get back to the dorms, ends up swiping her MetroCard for both of us only to realize that we've just paid to go Uptown. Needless to say, that will not help us. After a brief stint at the Phantom of Broadway to warm up a bit, we begin the walk back. I decided that singing will help us and enter into relatively loud renditions of "Kryptonite," "Raindrops on Roses," and "El Tango de Roxanne." Iryna joins me once she warms up a bit.

Iryna stops off to buy a medium hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts, and then we return to the dorm.

I carelessly sling my coat over the heater and remove my sopping sweater. I stop by the computer and then resolve to get lunch. Thinking that I'll go across the street one more time and get the egg-and-cheese on a croissant lunch, I step into the elevator.

There I meet Nina, who asks me whether I'm going to the free lunch at Mendy's. "Free lunch at Mendy's?" I inquire, confused. "I didn't know anything about it." She tells me that there were flyers everywhere about it. Grateful, I thank her and decide to join her.

Apparently Nina is occupied with something else, however, as her roommate has gone off to Canada for Thanksgiving but has neglected to bring her passport. Therefore, Nina is now in the process of attempting to fax a copy of said passport to its owner. She requires a copy machine in order to do this. Grateful, I invite her to use the one in my room. We traipse upstairs, copy the documents, return downstairs and hand them to a security guard while Nina informs her roommate-now-in-Canada that the documents are coming to her. After that bit of business is done, we cross over to Mendy's.

I didn't evne realize they had this restaraunt hidden behind the deli. The nice man takes my coat and assigns me a number. We are seated. I am given a menu, and order the turkey gumbo (apparently some kind of turkey soup) and steak, medium to well (but more on the medium side.) I dutifully eat my salad and sip at my soda. The soup is good. The steak is definitely not the best I've ever eaten, but hey, it's a free meal; who am I to complain?

It's 2:30, and I realize that I really have to get going if I want to make it to my hosts in Scarsdale. I rush out and over to my dorm, where I finish throwing the final items into my suitcase, wish my roommate a happy Thanksgiving, and head over to Grand Central Station. It's pouring and I'm freezing, so I simply limit my focus to the black of my boots as they splash into puddles.

I enter Grand Central Station only to puzzle over how to take a train. The last time I took a train I was young and with my grandmother. I ask a policeman how to get to Scarsdale, and he informs me that I should purchase my ticket and ask the saleslady which track I want. I purchase a one-way ticket for $6.25. Luckily, the next lady in line is also going to Scarsdale. I awkwardly ask her whether I can follow her (oh, what a great beginning!) because I need to get to Scarsdale as well. She tells me she's going to track 27. I head over to track 27 right behind her. She begins to run. I urgently follow. She pauses merely to ask, "Going to Scarsdale?" and when someone answers in the affirmative, follow her onto the train, which is curiously dark.

I seat myself in one of the "backwards" chairs, the ones that look in the opposite direction to the direction the train is going. A lady in her twenties sits across from me, while an elderly woman who looks rather elegant and wears her hair long and blonde is seated in the next seat over. I nervously ask the lady in her twenties whether she happens to be going to Scarsdale. She answers that she's going to Tuckahoe, which is one or two stops before Scarsdale. The blonde elderly lady begins a conversation with me; she's very nice. She lets me see her schedule and informs me that no, it is not normal for half the lights to be out in the car. We discuss college and Chicago and other exciting topics. I learn that she's deaf in one ear. I also learn that I'm not supposed to remove the nifty little sheet the conductor sticks in the seat pocket behind your shoulder, because that's not mine to keep, that's for the conductor so that s/he can recognize stowaways (who don't match the destination indicated by the number punched.)

They are having some trouble with the doors. The doors to our darkened cars won't open as we stop by the Botanical Gardens, but the rest of the train doors will. As we move away from the Botanical Gardens, the lights suddenly wink out and we shudder to a stop. The train is entirely still. We look at each other confusedly. We're aboveground, so the fading light filters through our windows, shading us in hues of black, blue and brown.

We wait for five minutes. Ten minutes. Out come the cell phones. Suddenly the car comes alive, as all of us inform concerned parties of the fact that we are sitting in the dark on a train that has decided not to move, and that we will likely remain here for some more time. I reach for my iPod, but notice, to my horror, that I cannot turn it on. I assume this means I forgot to charge it.

Two conductors suddenly appear, bearing flashlights and walking quickly and effiiciently through the aisle. We eagerly note this to whomever we are speaking to at the moment. Some passengers begin to complain of hunger. Others, including the lady in her twenties across from me, try to sleep.

The elderly blonde lady informs me that her friend called the Metra-North line, and they claim that our train has mechanical problems and should be moving in five minutes. We wait the five minutes. Nothing happens.

Two conductors enter our cells. They inform us that those of us in the darkened cars have to get out, because they plan to "cut the brakes" or in some way cut or detach the cars. We gather our things (you have to imagine this- I have a large rolling dufflebag and my backpack) and make our way into the crowded, brightly-lit cars. I want to sit near someone I know, so when I see the elderly blonde lady take a seat, I decide to stand near her. I hold on to a pole right near one of the exits. There is a man with flowers alongside me. It appears that he bought them for his girlfriend. Perhaps he planned to give them to her upon arriving for Thanksgiving dinner.

Another man, with very beautiful blue eyes, is alternating between the phone and his mp3 player. He seems anxious. He says, half-sarcastically, half-hopefully, that he hopes the reservation can be postponed another forty-five minutes. He scowls as he realizes it cannot be.

Another man begins to text someone else, standing elegantly with his coat flung across one arm, while his right finger carefully punches out letters. He affects an air of quiet resignation and simultaneous suffering. He seems regal, made noble somehow by the train's refusal to continue.

I call several of my friends because I find myself amused by my situation. After a while, however, I am not so amused. It's been forty-five minutes. Now fifty. The whole time we are standing here, we can hear the engineers calling to each other, hear the rev of the train as it heaves its dying gasps. The engineers try to cut the brakes loose, leave the last two cars behind, charge the train, attempt something with override and control panels, but nothing helps. At last we are informed that a train is going to come up to push us to Woodlawn, the next stop, at which point we will all get out and transfer to a new train that will be sent along to collect us.

By this time it is dark outside. Dark and rainy and wet, the perfect setting for a short story. I smile, but I am no longer entirely amused.

When we move at last, a half-hearted cheer goes up. "Movement," my fellow passenger says, smiling, and I answer, "Precisely." We move along until Woodlawn, the doors open, and I rush out and into a small, enclosed area that serves as shelter for this, Track 3.

Little children are scared and frightened, crying all around me while parents try to soothe them. People are muttering about their Thanksgiving plans, about how hungry they are, about the time and how late they are. Most are left outside in the pouring rain. I notice a dog near the closed glass door. The elderly blonde lady manages to find me and says, "What an introduction to New York!" She asks me what I plan to do. At this point, my relatives would like me to simply stay put, as we have not been told when the train we will be transferring to will arrive. She nods and agrees that this is the only sensible thing to do. At this precise moment we hear an announcement that the "rescue train" will be coming. The words, "rescue train," are higly entertaining.

The rescue train pulls into the station, and I wish the elderly blonde woman a happy Thanksgiving. The train pulls out, leaving me and three extremely well-dressed black men behind. The black men speak with beautiful British accents. They start talking about how ridiculous all this Thanksgiving business and Turkey-Day insanity is. They mean it in jest, not in any malicious way. One of them states that by this time he's so hungry he could eat the whole turkey. I don't know how I joined the conversation but I did. The three of them had also decided to stay behind and simply be picked up by their party here at Woodlawn.

A slim white woman in a black coat and high-heeled patent-leather shoes enters the small, brightly-lit shelter. She inquires as to whether we've seen a little African-American girl. We haven't. She goes away, tripping lightly off into the darkness.

The three black men continue their conversation. At one point, one of them spies a little African-Amerian girl and decides that he will "make himself useful" and find out whether she's the one the white woman is waiting for. As he goes up the stairs, around and across, one of his companions remarks, "I wonder how he'll do it. Just go up to her and say, 'Hey, you waiting on a slim white woman in a black coat?'" They amended that, then, to 'a slim white and cute woman.'

Well, their party came for them, and they elegantly inquired as to whether I would be all right by myself. I smiled and said, "Of course" but thought it was so sweet of them to ask. One of them laughingly stated, "I bet you take Tae-Kwon Doe or something." Surprised, I answered truthfully, "Actually, I do. I'm almost a black-belt." He laughed. "I'm a yellow belt. I know, you could kick my a@#$." And then the three of them went off into the gloom and up the stairs.

Picture this. Here I am, in the middle of the night (and it really is the middle of the night- about 5:10 and extremely dark)- in the wet and cold, watching the rain pour down. I stand within a small shelter made of glass and lit by a few coldly sterile flourescent lights. I am separated from any other human being by two to four tracks. I turn around and realize that this glass wall is not whole, but actually made up of windows, small framed squares of glass that repeat over and over again.

In the gloom, I hear and see another train approaching. As the wheels grind against the track I see sparks, a shower of golden sparks that flash through the night.

I realize at this moment that this would be the perfect setting for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Dark, wet, rainy, alone in a small and sterile flourescently-lit shelter, staring out into the night and the twisted traintracks, to my back a pattern of repeating framed squares of glass. I began to see the night through the lens he would use, the way he would use a camera to film me. He would catch my image in the glass as I looked at myself, as the rain fell on me in the mirror-light.

I waited there for about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes in the dark and cold, punctuated every so often by the mournful and simultaneously harsh sound of the train going by, the golden sparks showering the tracks.

At last my relatives came and fetched me, who gratefully followed them to their car. Apparently my setting was even richer than I had thought- I was in the middle of the Bronx, where it seems the gangs are, and where the frightening people ought to be, and just across the street there is a cemetary.

So, imagine this if you will- a seventeen year old girl with an entertained smile marooned in the glare of a harsh flourescent light, surrounded by darkness, the symbolic twists and ugliness of the train-ties, and the cemetary she does not know is so nearby, but still encroaches upon her.

Will anything that romantically story-like ever happen to me again?
It remains to be seen...


Anonymous said...

Glad it all worked out in the end. Have a good shabbos!

Sara said...

Wonderful story!! I loved reading it.

Yesterday I was thinking about you and last Thanksgiving. I missed you this year.

NY sounds amazing.

Good Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

Now that was a great exiting/scary Thanksgiving story.

Your brother

Lela Harbinger said...

heehee... my dad apparently went to mendy's all the time back in the day...
so what are your views on going to the high school you did for the second half? you really did increase your american culture, did you notice? and yet i'm still impressed you sing raindrops. ;-) (but for someone who listened to B96, you take painstaking efforts to keep your nivel peh under control. honestly, choose your direction, woman!)
my gosh, you really are one of those college girls! say hi to dunkin for me ...

Anonymous said...

Talk about hashgacha!

Ezzie said...

That's a crazy story. See, Queens is *so* much easier to get to. :P

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Wow, you turned a delayed train ride into an epic journey! I hope the Thanksgiving dinner at the end was worth it!

ilan said...

Such a well-told story! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Your post was amazing- you made me laugh by the positive attitude that you had the whole time.
Now the question to ask your freinds in sem is: who is having a better time??? (could they relate to such a story)

enjoy yourself- and let the posts continue coming

Lela Harbinger said...

i can relate several such stories, thank you very much.
darn seminary haters ...

Chana said...

Don't worry, anonymous, I suppose I'm a "darned seminary hater" as well.

SJ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SJ said...

What? Chana, that's beneath you...just cuz you didn't choose to go to sem doesn't mean that you should put it down!

Great post, btw :)

Chana said...

SJ, the point was that anonymous was not expressing any hatred of seminaries (but merely asking whether my friends had some good stories as well), hence, if s/he for that innocent post is labeled "darned seminary hater," how much the more so I?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Chana - That was a wonderful short story for thanksgiving (ok, I know I should have read this FOR thanksgiving, and not 2 weeks later).

I look forward to reading more of your short stories in the future! (Strange things happen in NYC all the time...I doubt this will be the last time you have something like this happen to you thats so...blogworthy)