“You can see a war out there, or you can see a friendly place. Or you can simply see and skip the words.”
-Charles Bowden, Some of the Dead are Still Breathing: Living in the Future
So, this story is not an RV chronicle, but it is RV adjacent.
We were in New York City for the weekend. Mark took the kids to an M&M store in Times Square. I opted to go to a large independent bookstore in Chelsea to be amongst my people. I love to go to independent bookstores because the staff are not only really friendly, but incredibly knowledgeable. I wanted to find a travel book based on RV adventures.
Although I didn’t find one, the person helping me showed me a book of essays entitled, Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future by Charles Bowden. I loved the title, so I that was an easy sell. Then, she showed me some books by French authors traveling around the U.S. I bought the one that was most critical of America, as I love a little snarky adventure.
When I approached the cashier, he looked at me with disdain. It was as if he was saying with his eyes, Here she is. Another middle-aged white lady. What is the book of the day, ma’am? Ah, Meditations on Menopause? Good choice. It is a typical look and I have seen before. The NYC intellectual look, I call it. I usually wilt when I see this look as I still have an “also-ran” attitude when it comes to NYC. I am from Cortland, NY, which the New Yorkers view as basically, Canada. Definitely not New York. Although, as I have gotten older, I do not shrink much anymore. I met his gaze head on.
As he was ringing up my purchases, he grabbed the Bowden book and asked, wide-eyed, “Where did you get this?”. I looked around, my Catholic guilt showing, and said, “From the travel section?”. My statement was posed as a question because I was stunned by his. Then he asked, “Who gave you this book?”. This time, I stared him right in the eye and said, “Someone who works here.” In my mind I was thinking, Listen, Skippy. I don’t know what this is, but don’t try to pull anything on me. I’m a New Yorker, too. Upstate New Yorker.
I was relieved when he started gushing about the author. His love for Bowden’s work made me just happy to be alive. This kid went from sullen and dark, to sweet and puppy-ish in a matter of seconds. He said, “Oh, do you want a bag?” and I responded, “Yes, the tote bag that I picked out before.” He shook his head, apologized and blushed brightly like a Christmas ribbon.
I like to surprise people, and it’s even better when they surprise me.
When I left, I checked my Google Maps app. It looked like I had a 15 minute walk ahead of me to our hotel. No big deal. I started walking down Houston and then up 6th Avenue. It was so great to walk in the city and see real life in front of me – men playing basketball, old couples walking arm in arm, kids in strollers. Although it was only 33 degrees, I was feeling quite warm basking in the NY glow.
I had been walking for a good 20 minutes and my face was starting to sting from the cold air. I decided to double-check the hotel address. 827 6th Avenue, OK, and I am now at…..127. WHATTTTTT!! So, I misread Google Maps. The directions from before were for driving distance, not walking. I was in for a 60-minute walk. Ah, no big deal.
I kept an eye on the blocks as they rolled by – 200 block, 300 block….whew!!!
I got to the hotel feeling pretty good about myself. I had some cred after that walk, I tell you. I announced to the front desk staff that I just walked there from Little Italy. I got a lot of accolades and we laughed about my Google Maps guffaw.
I remembered such an important lesson after these two situations. Even though I am a control freak, I definitely enjoy the unexpected.