Four years ago I flew to New York City for a business trip – another in an endless series of meetings. I took a taxi from LaGuardia to the National Coffee Association meeting, and after the hours-long affair where I barely said a word, I wheeled my suitcase into the November evening. “You can catch a cab right outside, no problem,” the staffer had assured me.
And I tried, I really did, in my tentative, Central Illinois way. Of course, to the city dwellers, all hurrying home from work, carefully avoiding eye contact, I’m sure it looked like I was waiting for my chauffeur.
First, I stood at the curb and stared, brow furrowed, down the street. As the first taxi approached, I held up a finger, emulating the wave perfected by farmers where I grew up: one finger raised from the steering wheel for a moment, then a quick downcut. That was a more than sufficient salutation. When this was ignored, I tried waving, and even ventured a timid “Taxi!” to no avail. Cabs rushed by, all occupied by businesspeople more important than me. Safe and warm – doubtless being taken to dinner.
I crossed the street, walking as fast as I could, but still not quickly enough to get all the way across before the light changed. My knee buckled at odd moments, such as in the middle of the street, and I had to pause to get it to lock in again.
I tried my technique on the other side of the street. I was getting cold and the wheeled suitcase and laptop were heavy. It occurred to me that if I sat down on the sidewalk in despair people would just walk around me. The idea of perishing on the streets of New York didn’t appeal to me, so I looked around and spotted a Sheraton with a taxi stand up the street. Desperate, I dragged my suitcase toward the hotel, where a suited gentleman was just emerging from a cab. I threw myself in front of a couple who were approaching the cab, and applied a little New York finesse to the situation:
“I need to go to Brooklyn. Can you take me?”
Not waiting for an answer from the cabbie, I collapsed in the backseat and prayed he would put my suitcase in the trunk. He did. As we sped toward Brooklyn, I called my business friends already at the hotel. “I had some trouble catching a cab,” I told them.
I arrived at the hotel, checked in, and rode the elevator upstairs, exhausted. Room 440. I gazed at the floor plan and realized that my room was at the other end of the floor. Facing a long hallway lined with closed doors, I summoned up my remaining strength and pulled my suitcase toward the room, silently cursing my lovely pointed-toe pink shoes that fell off at least five times during the long trek.
I unpacked my meager business wardrobe, set up my laptop on the desk, ordered a sandwich and a glass of wine from room service, and began to answer e-mail.
I had seen my doctor the previous week for an MRI after almost two years of medical postulating at what could possibly be wrong with me. The nurse had called with the results of the MRI – they hadn’t found any problems – so I had e-mailed my doctor to ask if I needed to keep an upcoming appointment.
The waiter knocked at my door and deposited my salmon sandwich on a nearby table, waiting solicitously for me to sign the receipt, including a generous tip. I sat back down at my computer, opened up my e-mail and saw, to my surprise, that my doctor had responded almost immediately.