Today I decided to walk from school to Grand Central today because it was so beautiful. Crisp air, bright blue afternoon sky…no need to be crammed and sweating in a subway car. Each time I’ve walked to Grand Central I’ve taken a different avenue or have zigzagged my way uptown. I like to get a feel for each avenue, see how they’re different, see what’s around me. Today I took Lexington Avenue and I’m glad I did. Besides how narrow it was, compared to other avenues, it was beautiful. Old buildings, more residential on the stretch I walked than other avenues…
But the main reason I was so happy to be on Lexington was because, as I was stopped at a corner waiting for traffic to pass, I heard a little voice call out, “Ms. Coggio?” Had I heard the voice say, “Gina?” I probably wouldn’t have turned around because no one knows me by my first name in New York City outside of the school. But because my ears are so trained to small voices calling me by my last name, I turned around immediately and there in front of me was one of my students. She was getting out of a cab with her mother right where I was, and after a few surprised seconds, they invited me up to their building’s roof!
It was the first rooftop I’ve been on in my life in New York, and I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful vista or two more lovely people to be up there with. The building has a view of the East River, where I’m told the 4th of July fireworks explode before their eyes, and, better yet, the Empire State Building basically leans over them. We were so close I could almost see into the building’s offices. I exaggerate of course, but the view was really beautiful. Being up so high in the late afternoon, watching the shadows grow long and deep purple across the city while Queens remained golden in the distance brought such calm to my day that had been agitated by some work stress. It was so nice to be up there with my student and her mom; the conversation flowed so easily, and I learned more about their family. I left the roof feeling patient and forgiving.
Much needed qualities, it turned out, because as soon as I did get into the subway at Grand Central, I witnessed some embarrassing behavior (more embarrassing than the woman I saw squatting against the side of the building urinating in broad daylight on my walk over to Lexington Ave) from passengers in the subway: privileged, self-righteous, impatient behavior that made me cringe. A man had held the subway door waiting for his teenage daughter (or neice?) to run in behind him. Three different people spread through the subway immediately clammored at the man to stop holding the door—-a wait that was certainly no longer than five or six seconds. “Jesus Christ!” one man directly opposite the man holding the door. “What the f***?!” He went on swearing to his friend about how inconsiderate the man had been, dropping a few more vulgarities throughout the rest of his (rather loud) complaint session. Another woman seated across from me moaned with an older lady about how “this is exactly how the trains get held up!” And there were a few more whispers throughout the train. All I could think was, for those few seconds of waiting, we had probably made a big difference in that daughter or neice’s day. How nice is it when people hold doors for us? Any kind of door? I wanted to shake my head in shame at the reaction of the complainers on the subway, but I just shot them teacher stares. Had they caught my eye, they would have felt the ice, I’m sure.
Now I’m back at home with a purring Otis and some string cheese. My neighbors are shouting again and I’m about to watch some television. Today from my perspective was pretty good.