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It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood

May 14, 2014


Today, around 3:00 I was ready to go home. Not because anything bad happened, but just because. This would not have been a noteworthy thing at any previous job, but amazingly, it’s the first time in the nearly three years that I’ve worked at the Toy Factory that it’s happened. More often than not, I’m looking up when I hear the toymaker behind me pack up for the day, shocked to find it’s after 5. But to have a day when I’m not quite as engaged? I think it’s actually a good thing for me. I hope it means I’m moving toward a better balance.

For some reason, this made me think of my first trip to the Toy Factory, when I came out for an interview around this time of year three years ago. After my interview, I wandered around the city for a couple of hours before meeting up with an old friend who, as it happens, works in another part of the Toy Factory. We headed down to Greenwich Village to grab some dinner, stopping at the NYU bookstore so she could buy books for a German class she was taking. Moments after we walked in, this song started to play over the store’s audio system:

Anyone who knows my obsession with Veronica Mars knows that this was significant. And weird. It’s not a song you ever heard on the radio. Certainly not more than a decade after it came out. It felt like a good omen (and as it happened, it turned out to be one). My friend and I ended up sitting in a tiny bar, eating tapas and drinking sangria, watching people walk by the open windows, while I thought, “I could live here.”

It’s been a week of loving and hating New York. I’ll spare you the details of the hating part. Suffice it to say that this has been a week where the subway has never reminded me so much of the truth of the phrase “l’enfer, c’est les autres.”

But the loving: The day after a really hellish ride, I was exiting in a long line of people through the gate instead of the turnstile. I had my headphones in, as always, listening to a podcast. I held the door behind me, but didn’t look. When I didn’t feel someone grab it behind me, I let it go, but didn’t hear it clang. I pulled out my headphones and turned around and saw a woman pushing a stroller trying to hold open the heavy gate. I apologized to her and grabbed the gate and helped her carry the stroller with her sleepy toddler up the stairs to the street. She thanked me and we headed off in opposite directions. All wa well, but I still felt bad. It was the second time in as many days that I had been inadvertently rude because I wasn’t paying attention. I made a note to myself to either be more aware or lose the headphones and walked home without them.

When I got halfway up my block, I saw a guy I’d never seen before leaving my building. he was in his twenties, wearing a read T-shirt. Maybe he was visiting someone, I thought. When I got inside, the apartment just inside the door was wide open and I didn’t see anyone nearby. I heard footsteps up the stairs. Feeling vaguely ominous about what this meant, I started up the steps when I heard the footsteps ahead of me turn around and come back toward me. It was the young woman who lives in the first floor apartment. She was holding an envelope with a piece of duct tape hanging off the end.

“Do you know who this is?” she asked, showing me the envelope. It had Mr. Spy’s name written on it and our apartment number. “Yes, that’s my husband.”

“Oh, good!” she said. And she told me that someone had found a check on the sidewalk and rang the bell to bring it back. She put it in an envelope and was going to tape it to the door, but she wasn’t sure which apartment was ours, as they aren’t numbered. I thanked her profusely, took the envelope an headed upstairs. When I opened it, I found a check for a month of Mr. Spy’s work. With a post it note on it. “Hey, I found this on the street. Thought you’d probably want it back. Your friendly neighbor, Dave.”

Yes, we did. Thanks, friendly neighbor. We owe you one.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2014 2:06 pm

    Whoa, the Veronica Mars song playing on the radio. That is indeed not insignificant.

    You know, I think New Yorkers subconsciously spend a lot of time wishing they could do a good deed. It’s discouraging to always be ignoring everyone around you, but you sort of have to do it most of the time in the city or you’ll lose your mind from how crowded it is. So when the opportunity presents itself to do a good deed — with the personal specificity that implies, like YOU are the person who did the good deed, YOU, particularly, are not just another face in the crowd but are a good-deed-doer — they leap at the opportunity. At least that has been my experience.

  2. May 15, 2014 7:38 pm

    I’ve never thought about it that way before, but I think you are exactly right. New York turns everybody into an asshole. You have to do it to survive. But who wants to be an asshole?

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