Did I tell you the one about the hippies and the one-armed woman?

I’m a writer. I tell stories. I have an active imagination. I’m not a liar, though. My husband B often doesn’t believe me when I tell him how my day went. I wish I was so talented as to invent some of this stuff. Like the day the Europeans, a mumbling woman in a wheelchair, hippies, and a one-armed woman made me almost miss my train. I’m not saying they conspired together. That would be crazy. I’m just saying it really did happen the way I tell it.

It was almost five o’clock on a summer Friday in Grand Central Station. I was disoriented, hot, and cranky amidst the swarms rushing to catch trains. I needed to catch a train, too, but didn’t know which one. A European family of four almost trampled me when I stood in front of the departure display screen. They were gone before I could recompose myself enough to say anything.

The information booth was fully manned, so I approached the window of an available clerk. I opened my mouth to ask what train would get me to Fordham University before 5:30 p.m., but instead yelled, “OWW!”

A heavy set woman in a wheelchair had rolled onto my foot – I guess to keep me pinned to the spot behind her so she could be next.

I had only a few seconds for some serious consideration. It wouldn’t look good if I, a very able-bodied female, swore at the older woman parked on my foot. The hordes in Grand Central might not notice, but God would. I’m not highly religious and I have beef with the Big Guy, but I do believe the creative force of the universe communicates through signs. I had the strong sense I was getting a message: I was on my way to meet B at the Religious Education Department on the campus of a Jesuit university. It looked like I was in for individual religious instruction in the form of a test of my very limited patience.

Man, this is what I get for skipping mass, I thought.

I’m stubborn, though, and always up for a challenge.

Okay Big Guy, bring it on.

I nudged the chair to get it off my foot. The woman sat well below the height of the counter and the clerk behind the window couldn’t hear her. When I asked if she needed help, her lips moved, but I couldn’t hear her, either.

Oh no, I realized. She’s a mumbler.

She was an angry mumbler, too, as she wheeled back onto my foot. She glared at me accusingly, like my offer of help was a ploy to cut in line. She backed up again to reinforce refusal of my assistance, and I heard clearly, “Pushy bitch.”

“Hey now, listen here, lady…” I began.

“Where you going?” yelled the clerk through the window.

“What? Me?” I asked.

“Yeah, you! Whaddya need? Where you going?”

He thought I was with the mumbler! She had crushed my foot to cut me off in line, yet I still had the opportunity to be attended next. It had to be Karma.

“Fordham. Which train to Fordham?” I asked.

“The Harlem line. Track 121-A. There’s one at 5:03,” he barked.

That gave me less than 15 minutes to purchase my ticket and get to the track. I shoved the chair off my foot again so I could sprint to the ticket machine.

“Thanks!” I yelled over my shoulder.

The line was long, but moving – and I’m too cheap to pay the obnoxious surcharge for on-board ticket purchase. So I stood behind the twenty-something, hippie-dippy couple who were too distracted by moonbeams to close the gap between themselves and the moving line. I calmed myself with the deep ouija exhalations I learned in yoga class, determined not to tell them to pay attention and keep up with the &%$!@# line. I thought it, though, and wondered if that counted when someone did step into the gap. It was a one-armed woman. With a crutch.

“OH COME ON!” I yelled out, though not to the hippies or the woman. It was meant for God. Talk about not playing fair.

“This is too much!” I whined.

The hippies and the woman looked at me.

“Hey, peace and love, amiga,” said the boy hippie.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” said his partner. She looked like a Violet. Or maybe Sunflower.

“Oh, is this the line?” asked the woman with the crutch.

“Yes! Yes! This is a line and that is not the end of it. You are not next. They are!”

My announcement sounded pretty good, like it was in defense of the hippies.

“Oh well, excuse me,” the woman huffed.

“Hey, no worries. You can go,” Violet or Sunflower, or whatever her name could be, offered.

“She’s not next!” I protested.

“Well, somebody goddamn go next! I’ve got a train to catch,” ordered the man behind me.

“Me too!” I cried. I could hear the seconds ticking.

“Hey, then go, if you’re rushed,” hippie boy said to me, offended by my adherence to line etiquette and train schedules.

“Thank you! I will.”

He gave me permission and I said thank you, I thought as I purchased my ticket. I ran to Track 121-A and onto the train with less than two minutes to spare.


“So, the one-armed woman was in cahoots with the hippie couple to make you late?” B asked.

“NO! I never said it was a conspiracy. I’m not a loony. And I’m not late, either,” I reminded him, but he had that look.

“You don’t believe me.”

“Oh, I didn’t say…” he began.

“You didn’t have to.”

We were silent.

“It’s quite a story, Nan,” B said after a moment.

“Yeah, well, I guess I got quite a life, baby.”

I didn’t tell him the best part of the story: I may not have aced the challenge, but I did learn. Yeah, I fumed at each obstacle I encountered, but didn’t explode, as I would have done normally. I curbed my bad behavior because I was anxious that someone was watching. Yet I should be patient not just because I might be under heavenly surveillance, but because everything isn’t about just me. None of the annoyances I encountered was a conspiracy to delay my travels. It’s all just part of life, and each of those people had their own issues to deal with.

B would understand that part of the story, but I decided to let the conversation rest and share it later. Trying to convince him my stories are not tall tales really pushes my buttons, and I know my limits.


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