June 27, 2001 +
As an eight-year-old in Livingston, New Jersey, playing in my first year of little league baseball, I stepped off base a lot. In training league, when we got on base, we weren't allowed to steal bases, or take a lead off a base; the less distraction for the young pitchers the better, I suppose.
Never content to be told where to stand, I would step off my base, briefly, in quiet moments. I had to keep one foot on the bag for the pitch, and once the pitch was in, I'd step off the base, kicking my feet a bit and moving around until the next pitch was on its way. I suppose I liked the freedom, and the ability to do as I chose, regulations be damned.
As a twenty-eight-year-old in New York City, when I am walking and encounter a red light, I step off the curb and stand in the street.
June 19, 2001 +
"Welcome to Citibank, my system is unavailable, please call back within the next 30 minutes so that I may assist you."
[tentatively] "Welcome to Citibank...?"
—Your system is down?
"Yes it is, sir."
—Are all of Citibank's systems down?
"No, sir, just mine."
—But Citibank's systems aren't down, so someone else can help me?
"That is correct."
—So why did you pick up the phone?
—Do you think you can transfer me to someone whose system is online?
"Yes sir." [pause] "You don't have to be rude about it."
Come on now.
June 18, 2001 +
Friday afternoon, 4 train to 86th Street, walking up the stairs. Man in front of me turns to the woman next to him.
Him, to her: "Can I help you carry that?"
She: "Oh, well, yes, I suppose."
He: African-American, mid-20s, baseball cap on a 15-degree tilt, bright faux gold chains, sleeveless yellow shirt, yellow sweat pants hiked up to the knee. She: African-American, mid-50s, conservative, carrying a very full red suitcase and a matching red bag. Me: fair-skinned, hardened, skeptical, trying to be matter-of-fact without being prejudiced.
He takes the suitcase and heads up the stairs in front of her. She follows, trying to keep up; he is faster than she up the steps. I follow them closely, one eye on her, one eye on the bag. Just in case.
At the halfway landing she goes to take the bag back. He says, "No, no, allow me," and heads for the large exit door. She follows him. I follow them.
He leads the way, turns left, up the secondary steps, turns 180 degrees, up the main steps to 86th Street. She is hustling behind him.
He turns around to see where she is. Then he waits for her to get to street level. She reaches the top of the steps. He hands her the bag. "Thank you very much," she says. "My pleasure," he replies, then turns toward the street vendor across the sidewalk.
I butt in.
"Hey," I call over to him. "Hey."
He looks at me without anticipation. We make eye contact. I speak.
"You're a good man."
He breaks into a big smile. He offers his hand. I take it. We shake, firmly, proudly. He turns back to the vendor, looking for the right pair of sunglasses to match his outfit, as I head home, a little less jaded.
June 12, 2001 +
Overheard from across the office.
She: "It's a world phone, I took it to London."
He: "Did it work over there?"
She: "I don't know. No one called me."
June 11, 2001 +
"There's four of us, so one of us has to sit up front with the cabbie."
"Dude, I'll rock-paper-scissors you for it."
"Best of three, okay? On three."
[together] "One, two, three."
"You went paper! No one opens with paper -- that's unprecedented!"
—Ah yeah. Don't mess!
"Let's do the next two once we get outside."
—No way, man, let's settle this right here, right now.
"One, two, three." Scissors. Rock.
"One, two, three." Paper. Scissors.
"Ohhhh! You get the front. But you opened with paper! That's amazing!"
I had a rather pleasant chat with the cabbie on the way to dinner. And I set some sort of rock-paper-scissors record.
June 8, 2001 +
People have been rediscovering "Lucky Penny" lately. And if you can't tell, while it took six months longer than the essay dared hope, I got my wish.
June 5, 2001 +
She left me to fend for myself, in her apartment, having departed before the dawn to produce a commercial in Los Angeles, but not without leaving me a note full of reminders:
1) AC OFF
2) RUN DISHWASHER
3) I LOVE YOU
4) I LOVE YOU
5) I LOVE YOU :)
June 4, 2001 +