What follows are two strange stories about the strange behaviors of a pair of strange old people. They both actually happened, and as such, these tales don’t end with very much razzle dazzle. But they are still quite bizarre…
The other day on my train home, I noticed an old man wearing a baseball hat that said “Korean War Veteran.” I of course have tremendous amount of respect for all the brave men and women who have served their country, but I wonder why someone would want to announce that via a baseball hat. I was pondering this very mystery when a young, attractive woman pointed to this gentleman’s hat and said, “Thank you. Thank you for your service.” Aha, I thought! No wonder he wants to advertise his past; it gets him attention from the ladies! But the man just gave the young woman a blank stare, seemingly annoyed that she had bothered to talk to him. Listen guy, if you don’t want people to talk to you about your status as a veteran, why not just wear a Mets hat?
This next story could also fall into the “only in New York City” category, because it is just that out there. One morning, I was walking out of Penn Station when I saw a small elderly woman trying to cross 34th Street with a very large suitcase. She had taken a few steps into the street when the light changed, and she had to back up. But getting back to the curb with her luggage was hard for her, so I helped her get back to safety. When the light changed again, she was still struggling, so I offered to help her with her bag again. That’s when I got my first surprise: this thing weighed a ton.
OK, not literally, but it was heavy. Really heavy. To the point where I wondered how this tiny woman, not 4 feet 10 inches and well into her 80’s, was able to move it at all.
So I asked her where she was heading, and she pointed to Macy’s. Well, heck, I thought, I might as well help her cross Seventh Avenue as well. No harm in that, I figured.
Now that she was unencumbered with the weight of her suitcase, this lady proved herself to be surprisingly nimble, darting through the throngs of people and practically sprinting to the Macy’s door. I fought to keep up, but it wasn’t easy. As she got to the store entrance, she turned around suddenly, as if she had just remembered that she had given her precious bag to a complete stranger. Not that she had any reason to panic; even if I wanted to steal it, I wouldn’t have been able to run very fast lugging that thing behind me. And she could have used her sprightly pixie powers to pounce on me before I got too far.
Of course that wasn’t an issue, and I brought the suitcase into Macy’s. Now this should have been where my journey ended, but my arm was feeling a bit sore from pulling the bag across only two streets, and I didn’t want to make this poor woman carry it any further than absolutely necessary. I asked her where in Macy’s she was going (since, ya know, it is the world’s largest store and all), and it was at this point that I learned that she was not a native English speaker.
So not quite sure where we were ultimately headed, I continued on with this woman into a store that I truly despise. In her broken English, I was able to pick up that she wanted to go to the third floor, and that thankfully, she was leading me to the elevator. Along the way, I was able to ascertain that she was going to her job, only because I remembered that “trabajo” means “work.”
Once we were on the third floor, it seemed like she was taking me on the scenic route, winding this way and that, and I was beginning to wonder exactly where our final destination would be. That’s when she led me to the escalator.
To the second floor.
Then on another one, back to the first floor.
It was at this point that I started looking for hidden cameras.
Seriously, I thought that the most logical explanation for what was happening was that I was being recorded for some new hidden camera reality show. I figured there was no way they could have gotten the clearance to shoot in a store like this, though there easily could have been a full HD studio camera in that bag of hers.
As we were going down yet another escalator, I asked her why we went up to the third floor if we were just going to end up in the basement. I didn’t understand her answer.
Nor did she understand me when I asked her if she actually dragged this monstrosity of a suitcase with her every day.
Oh, how I wish I had paid more attention in high school Spanish.
In the basement level, we soon arrived at the entrance to an area marked “Employees Only.” It was here that the woman thanked me, and I realized this was where we would go our separate ways. She started to rummage through her purse, saying “Five dollars” over and over again in a heavy accent. I told her that wasn’t necessary, and I said goodbye.
As I walked away, I was still expecting a host to come running towards me telling me I had just been “Prank’d” or “Bamboozl’d” or something like that. But no, apparently this was not the plot of some quasi-reality show. It was just a thing that had actually happened. In real life.
I don’t think that there’s really a moral to either of these stories, other than the fact that when you hit a certain age, you can apparently get away with pretty much anything.
I just hope I remember that fact in about four or five decades.