Mid-week, intermittent showers soaked Manhattan. Whenever I hear that there is going to be rain in the forecast, I remember to pack my umbrella and resign myself to the reality of a lousy hair day. What I didn’t anticipate was doing a pratfall in the Chambers Street subway station where my feet fell out from under me and I slid across the slippery wet floor Looney Tunes style. When my slide came to a stop, I hit my head with a thud. Only flying feathers and the sound of a cuckoo clock were missing in my real-life cartoon.
A thought flashed through my mind, “Is this my Natasha Richardson moment? Will I be calling in dead at work tomorrow?” Then, I remembered that her tragic head injury occurred in an elusive spot above her ear. I hit the back of my head, possibly the portion of the skull that encases the scintilla of brain required to perform my illustrious job as Minister of Tile, a job that The New York Times, in a recent article, equated with “any job.” No need for Milton to arrange to have my ashes spread over Fairway (good food), Film Forum (good film), and the Public theater (good theater) just yet.
As three women hurried toward me, I sprang to my feet and waved them off insisting that I felt fine, even though every bone inside my body was vibrating like a tuning fork. As I descended the stairs leading to the subway platform, it occurred to me that I was feeling relatively okay at the moment, but I might not feel so great the next day. That was a fairly accurate insight. When I woke the following morning, I was so sore and so stiff, my entire being felt like it needed to be encased in a splint-style burka, or at least a modified pine box with cut outs for the arms, legs and face.
I considered calling out sick, but Elsbeth, my boss, is continuing to battle an offshoot of the Ebola virus. After missing all of last week fighting this persistent bug, she’s shown up at work every day this week, half-deaf, congested and miserable. What would I tell her?
Me: Hi Elsbeth.
Elsbeth: Where are you?
Me: Home. Sick. I fell down.
Elsbeth: Get up and come into work! <phlegm-filled cough>
Even though I have a full body sprain right now, it could have been much worse. I could have broken something. Some years back in mid-ski season, my old acquaintance, Felix Unger, broke a rib while skiing at a skill-level beyond his fetal-bunny slope area of expertise. He did not make a full recovery until summer. When his rib was almost completely healed in spring, a woman on a crowded A train, who didn’t want to hold onto a pole, slammed hard into him, subjecting him to immediate re-injury. Riding the subway hurt is something best avoided, especially around germ-o-phobic passengers with no sense of balance.
On the train ride into work this morning, my wants were few, I could content myself with either a morphine drip, or a seat. My express train downtown pulled into Times Square simultaneously with a local, so I crossed the platform and made a beeline for a row of empty seats. I did notice a woman carrying a Whole Foods bag standing in front of that vacant row holding the overhead bar. I assumed she felt like standing because she was getting off soon. The next stop, 34th Street Penn Station, is another major transfer point in the route. She saw me coming, she stepped aside, and I took a seat – right in a puddle of water! Once again, I sprang to my feet.
Me: It’s wet here!
Me (exasperated): Why didn’t you say something?
Woman (smug): I already knew it was wet.
She smiled slightly, revealing her pleasure with my predicament. I felt punked, but did not say anything further, even my tongue felt too sore to argue. I moved over by the door in this leaky train and waited for my soggy ass to dry. She continued to hover over that soaked seat for several more stops in apparent wait for more victims to do what I did. I was waiting too, waiting to bark, “Don’t sit there!” She eventually got off. No one sat in that row by the time I reached my stop.
I could not help but wonder why someone would be so nasty toward fellow passengers hoping someone would sit in a sopping wet seat. Was this her revenge for having to work in a carnival dunk tank? I’m neither spiritual nor religious, but I believe karma is important. When you consciously do something deplorable with the intention of making some unknowing sap miserable, having that stain on your soul will eventually haunt you somewhere down the line. It might be the difference between taking a tumble in the subway station and getting up dazed — or lying helpless on the floor with a cracked skull, the reward for behaving like a nasty turd.