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Monday, August 01, 2005

Welcome to New York!

by D.S. White

Here’s a little rough excerpt from my memoir-in-progress, done journal style so it’s choppy in spots.

The Big Apple (with the big bucks! No piddling MD teacher's salary for me! With my shorthand/transcription skills, my typing speed and my Spanish I can command a salary equivalent to dear old Dad’s). Off with the old, on to new things, as the valedictorian said at graduation: “Our lives have just begun!”

###

Hello roomie! What? Still a 10pm curfew! I'm seventeen and a high school graduate! Stop playing! I'm calling mom!

Five minutes later, “What? Do what my father says?" This stinks! (Of course these arguments are all carried out in my head...cause a sistah likes having teeth, thank you very much).

Okay, so dad is not buying the roomie theory and mom is suddenly a June Cleaver clone, nevertheless, I can do this! It’s just a hiccup in the scheme of things.

Job hunting time! My sister is going to show me the ropes.

First Day of Interviews:
I'm wearing my favorite off-white suit, polka-dot red blouse with ruffles, red shoes and red lipstick. (Somebody made a mistake and told me red was my color. What? Oh you mean the polka dots? Hey...it is 1983!)

Train Riding:
My sister's instructions are, “Do what I do. When we get to Utica Avenue, get in front of the doors and take a deep breath. When they open, spot a seat, develop tunnel vision, and don't stop moving till you're in it!”

With the bravado of the unknowing I confidently stated, “I can do that.”

Day One:
Success! I'm in a seat, glowing a little from the exertion, with just enough deportment left in me to refrain from giving my sister a high five. The interviews are all promising; the train ride home is uneventful. My nightly phone call to Mom, who is still madly packing to join dad and me yields nothing but threats to leave my substantial book collection behind. One pleading phone call to "Uncle" Arthur...and that problem is solved.

Day Three:
An old pro by now, I take a deep breath as I mentally choreograph the upcoming dance to my seat. Five, six, seven eight...elbow, elbow, swivel, spin, kick, shin change, turn, slide-into-seat. It all goes as planned--oh wait, pleated skirt, must fix pleats before sitting. There we go, and now the well-programmed-look-before-I-sit turns up...a pair of eyes looking up at me from my seat!

There I am poised in mid-squat, beginning to blush from anger, indignation, embarrassment and betrayal. I look to my left and my sister--stalwart, overprotective, warrior-babe--is not hauling him out of my seat by his collar or cussing him out in proper English as I expected. What is she doing?

She's laughing. So hard she can hardly respond to my hissed, “Why didn't you warn me? Or better yet, why didn't you stop him?” And the question of the day: how the heck did he get around me to land in my seat? I'd done the famous pole move and cut off the left side, and my sister was supposed to have the right. But noooo...

After a puff of her inhaler (an asthmatic, she'd laughed herself into a wheezing fit) she communicated her disbelief and fascination with the fact that I thought my pleats warranted that much fixing and that I hadn't considered the possibility that someone would slide into the seat.

My arguments:
1) I'm going on an interview (wrinkles not good).
2) White skirt (gotta be careful and ladylike while wearing white).
3) You were sitting right there... I thought you had it!

At this point, I'm sure the tears filling my eyes couldn't be attributed to my fake laughter. Thankfully, the lights in the train car went out and my dignity was saved.

Ah well, my first lesson learned in NY. That incident was the precursor to a not-so-great interview, but I consoled myself with the thought that I wasn't too thrilled about the location of the job anyway. It was on the 35th floor, and I've a problem with heights.

Tomorrow’s got to be a better day.

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