It was turning out to be a rather fair afternoon, about 75 degrees outside with a slight breeze. It almost felt like the office, except that nearly everyone else was breaking the business-casual rule. I walked from 6th Avenue and 42nd Street to Broadway to catch the yellow line down to Union Square, so that I could pick up some food and hay for my rabbits. This errand never takes all of my lunch hour, but it’s a fun excuse to get out of the office. I get to see dogs; I get to walk through the farmers market and advocate earth preservation through organically-grown foods and anti-war protests.
As I dipped below ground level I got my wallet out to get my metrocard ready for swiping at the turnstile. My nonfaulty card helped me achieve the perfect swipe, and just like that, I was in. I was ready to ride. I looked for the signs pointing to the yellow line going downtown. I descended another staircase onto the platform. A yellow strip, probably 18 inches wide from the platform edge, designates a clear zone for when a train is coming. Basically you’re supposed to stand away from the train as it slows to a stop. Common sense. I stood in the yellow and looked down the tunnel to see if a train was approaching. No such luck.
At about that time a sudden pressure had built behind my eyes. My sinuses had been giving me problems, and at times my eyes felt as if they would be pushed out of their sockets. I was wearing my glasses. They’re rimless and extremely lightweight, and for those reasons I sometimes forget I am wearing them. So, while I stood in the designated danger zone, I closed my eyes, reached my hands to my eyes and pressed on them, behind the glasses lenses, so that I could try to reduce some of that sinus pressure. As I lifted my fingers from my eyes, I also happened to lift my glasses from my face. My hands were not in a position for a grip reflex, so within one second, one very slow second, I watched my glasses fall down onto the tracks.
Within that one second, everything became blurry. I looked around. I could make out a few blurry people looking at me. My hearing was fine, no one had offered to retrieve my glasses or tell me I could always get another pair. I looked down onto the tracks. I could see my glasses. I looked down the tunnel. No train lights. I decided I wanted to get my glasses. But I needed help, and I needed it quickly. I guess the crowd saw the resolve in my eyes, for when I started looking around for an able body, it seemed everyone stopped looking at me. I was feeling a little embarrassed and nervous, because I didn’t want to walk around without my glasses. What if I got the wrong rabbit food? Would my dear lagamorphs get mad at me?
For some reason, I sensed an urgency to get my glasses, and quick. I turned around and saw a young man leaning against the wall listening to his mp3 player. He had dark hair, wore glasses and an oversized black and grey striped shirt and jeans. I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hi. My glasses fell onto the tracks. I want to hop down and get them, and I was wondering if you’d help me back up.” He accepted.
I quickly jumped down, picked up my glasses, put them back on my face. I raised my hands, the young man lowered his, then I grabbed his hands, used a pipe that was situated below the platform as a step, and we lifted me back onto the platform. That took less than five seconds. My hands were a little dirty, but I came away from that rescue mission unscathed. I thanked the young man, twice. Then it occurred to me I should be grateful my glasses didn’t fall into a puddle, because now I was wearing them, and well, all that matters is that I had them back and that I was fine, but still, that would have been pretty disgusting.
About five seconds after I stepped back onto safety, we saw the lights and heard the engine. My stomach knotted for a split second. The young man and I looked at each other and we simultaneously exchanged a loud and wired “heh-ha” kind of a laugh. I thanked him again.
I picked up my rabbit supplies in peace. The train ride back was uneventful. I kept my hands away from my face, I stood away from the platform edge. Whenever I thought back to how I was 5 seconds from a bad ending, I’d laugh. Not a defiant, laugh-in-the-face-of-death type of laugh; nor was it a laugh because the situation was all that funny. Heck no. I think I laughed because I didn’t want to cry.
As long as we’re counting miracles, I’m grateful for the urgency that I felt. I’m grateful that young man was willing to help me. I’m grateful I wasn’t self-conscious about jumping down and getting dirty so that I could perform the task quickly. I guess we all should do our best to recover from our mistakes without stalling or questioning, procrastinating or messing around. I’m grateful to have been reminded not to abuse this life that I only get one of, because, really, it’s only a loan. Be smart. Keep it safe.