Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meeting Angels in New Jersey

Hello and greetings from the 2011 BEA!

The adventure I’m reporting today, however, has little to do with books. The greater drama occurred wending my way back to the motel.

As you know, I’m staying in New Jersey this time for the economic advantages. But the bus that conveniently stops at the motel was supposed to take me to Gate 51 of the Port Authority terminal. It did not. Somewhere in the garment district, the bus stopped and the driver announced: “We done now.” And I was obliged to disembark.

And so, lugging a 3’x5’ poster, a box of 20 books, and a heavy tote – all jostling along on a rather wayward cart – I began negotiating the crowded sidewalks of New York. Since I’d been ousted mid-block, it was awhile before I found street signs to get my bearings. Hmmm. 40th Street and 7th Ave. By a joyous stroke of luck, there was a policewoman on that corner. The Javits? No problem. Just follow 40th to 11th Ave. Of course, what worried me all day was: where the heck do I find a bus that will take me back?

After the last meeting, I approached the concierge desk at the Javits. Then, armed with proper instructions – evidently I’d taken the wrong bus from the motel – I set off for the Port Authority at 42nd and 8th. No stupid poster and box of books this time, but still with the tote and cart. Several times I had to ask directions in that grim, gargantuan building whose grimy corridors flow upstairs and down like clogged arteries. But eventually I reached the correct sweaty dungeon, and Gate 51.

Once emerged on the NJ side of the Lincoln Tunnel, I craned my neck for the sight of my motel. Finally I decided to check with the driver. He couldn’t hear me through the bullet proof shield, but a trim little matron across the aisle leaned over to ask where I needed to get off. The Super 8 Motel? Oh, we passed that miles ago!

She called to the driver and invited me to get off with her at the next stop. She pointed out the bus stop on the other side of the street, and as if that wasn’t enough, she handed me money for the return trip. I protested, of course, but she really wanted to do this. Then, as I was waiting to cross the street, here came the bus. The dear lady flagged it down and the driver waited until I could cross. She went with me and explained how I’d made a mistake and overshot my stop. I thanked her profusely and climbed aboard, saying that if she was ever in Houston, I hoped someone would be as kind to her.

Then I offered the fare money to the driver. He waved it off and pulled back out into traffic. I was stunned. When we arrived at my stop he called it back to me, and again he refused the fare. I still couldn’t see the motel, but a man who’d gotten off with me pointed out the way: down the hill and around behind the Sonic Drive-In. No wonder I’d missed it! “When you see that filling station over there,” he pointed, “it’s time to call your stop.”

So here I sit, staring at that generous woman’s money on the dresser and feeling profoundly moved by the caring that has come my way today. No, I don’t like being caught up in this place of mind-blowing confusion, but I’ve just received a whole new attitude thanks to the people here.

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