They say vitamin D helps with seasonal affective disorder and on this cool, cloudy and damp Thursday, I doubled up on my dosage.
It also helps my endorphins to ride a bike everyday — usually my Trek hybrid — across the Brooklyn Bridge to my job in lower Manhattan. Since there were plans to meet friends from my home state Alabama later that evening at a Midtown restaurant, and alcohol would likely be involved, I used the city’s bike share Citibike.
Despite the weather, everything that dreary morning was hunky dory until I logged onto my checking account and realized the nation’s fourth-largest bank -was experiencing a full-on crash of its online operations. Not only that, ATMs, the bank’s credit and debit cards, they were all useless according to the news reports popping up on Google. Visions of 1920’s era financial panic soon consumed my morning.
The conspiracy-laden theories of bank failure, talk of media cover-ups and word that some bank branches had shut the doors blowing up on Twitter fueled my stress. “I’m at the gas station, I’m on empty and I have no money,” said one poor soul online. Another tweeter said her direct deposit pay check had been rejected — the very thought of which sent chills down my spine since payday was the next day. I called my congresswoman and Senator Chuck Schumer’s office and even the (US or OCC) Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to register concerns and suggest an investigation.
Blinded by anxiety, blood had dripped all over my shirt and pants before I realized I had somehow gashed my pinkie, probably on a sharp piece of paper.
Stained with no time for wardrobe changes, at around 5:30 p.m I grabbed my jansport backpack and hopped on a Citibike and headed to Midtown. Just past 34th street, the 8th Avenue bike lane transforms into pedestrian-cyclist game of chicken where space is limited during rush hour. “Stop right there!” an older roundish gentleman stood yelling at a younger looking woman as she approached the pedestrian crosswalk at 44th street.
Sporting a long white skirt, boots and a shiny red helmet, the woman stopped, and then the gentleman continued his slow shuffle wesward, disappearing into the droves of fast moving souls walking south, presumably towards Port Authority.
After checking in my bike at the Citibike station directly across from the Al Hirschfeld Theater on 45th street, where the show Kinky Boots is playing, I made my way the one block over to the restaurant where my friends were waiting. My friend Jane — yes, the names are changed — and her husband Theo and their mutual friend Lucy were in a booth, waving enthusiastically. Jane, a friend from the high school we attended in a town outside Birmingham, said “hey darlin!”
“How are you doing?” she asked in that familiar sweet southern drawl.
Two hours passed before we’d finished finished our burgers, sweet potato fries, nachos and around four smoky margaritas each, it was time go. I’d join them on the subway because I was sufficiently lit. The Alabamians were actually staying on Long Island since Theo was working on a big project in Babylon. They would catch the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station.
“Let’s do some instagram pictures out here,” said Lucy as we made it just outside the restaurant onto the busy Hell’s kitchen boulevard.
I put my backpack on the sidewalk against the wall and the smartphones came out and we all took turns snapping. Then we walked down 9th, ave and then at 42nd street, we took a turn towards the lights of Times Square. At 8th Ave, we descended into the chaos of the Port Authority subway station.
Jane whipped out a credit card to buy the group a metro-card card from the machine. A young man approached her as she was using the machine. Me sensing that he assumed we were all tourists, I said, “We’re good, we don’t need help.”
The young man looked puzzled by my tone, and said, “Oh okay, well you just need to punch in your zip code when you use that card,” to which I said, “We’re okay, no!”
Then it hit me, the guy really was just being helpful. Sure, he asked for money, but so what, why so guarded, defensive? My friends are adults and if they want to give the guy a dollar or whatever, why should my arrogant, hardened New York City sensibilities get in the way of that experience? In fact, I dug in my pocket to for some money and remembered once again, my bank’s entire technical infrastructure is shut-down, so I had not a dollar to my name.
We all got on a local south bound C train where the Alabama friends would get off at Port Authority and I’d continue to Brooklyn. Once they’d left the train, I had just a few seconds of contemplation about the night, then I realized something was missing from my back. Jesus Christ, I left the backpack with my keys, work materials, and all manner of personal item on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.
When the train pulled into 14th Street, I hopped out to and crossed over to the uptown platform and stood there waiting.
“Thank you for calling, we are open daily from 11:30 until midnight,” the recording at the restaurant said. Perhaps it was the booze, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to a human. The subway platform grew more crowded as the minutes passed while we all waited for a train uptown.
I’d never been happier to see an arriving A train — express no less — which I made my way onto, my heart racing and by then, not even aware of the people around me. At Port Authority, I bounded up the two or three sets of stairs that millions use daily to climb up onto the streets and off I ran westward towards 9th ave.
I held onto hope the backpack would somehow still be there on the sidewalk and not taken by someone or worse yet, mistaken as it were a “if you see something, say something,” suspicious item where the bomb squad gets called in.
At 43rd street then onto 44th, I crossed over to the next block and low and behold, there it was in all its crumpled glory sitting in the same exact spot, right there as the passing masses, all too busy to notice, up against the wall of the restaurant just as I left it. The restaurant had obviously seated an entirely new group of people since we left. Different sets of friends sharing stories, laughing, eating burgers, and enjoying beverages now filled the restaurant’s windows.
The trip home featured a group of animated young people, clearly theater kids, who had just come from a show and were deconstructing Shakespeare, laughing, expressing themselves in that colorful smart way theater kids do. I looked at them and picked up on a sense of seemingly boundless joy that they too were living through at this very moment. That next day I still had my back pack, the bank was open, my finger was healing, and after I rode my own bike to work, I called my friends to thank them for dinner. And life in this big city, a beautiful testament to man’s ingenuity and spirit, was back to as normal as it can get for me and everyone else here.