Apr. 22, 2019

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT.

 

The thought of working in New York City sounds glamorous to some people but, speaking from experience, I found New York City to be inconvenient, crowded, and, dangerous. 

In 1981, as spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, I traveled from my home in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, to the heart of New York City.  Whether I took the New Jersey train, the bus, or drove my car, nothing about the commute was easy. Each afternoon, I tried leaving my office no later than four o’clock; the commute from New York’s Penn Station to the Little Silver Train Station took almost two hours. 

One evening, after missing the bus to Penn station, I opted to take the NY Subway, a bad decision.  It was six o’clock and, by now, most commuters were off the streets; some were already home.  I knew I was over-dressed for the subway wearing a silk blouse with a matching straight/slit skirt, high heels and jewelry consisting of a gold medallion around my neck, gold earrings, and gold bracelets.  Although I almost- never rode the subway, it was the fastest way to connect with the train to New Jersey.

It didn’t take long to sense trouble.  Within minutes of finding a seat, I watched two guys race from the back of the subway car to sit directly across from me.  Instead of looking at my face, they were staring at my neck.  Uneasy, I glanced around the train, hoping to locate another seat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two very hippie-looking guys crammed their bodies into the small bench seat beside me---one on either side.   I felt my pulse accelerate; I held my breath. This was it. The enemy had me surrounded; the bad guys were across from me and their buddies next to me.  I was about to be grabbed, raped, and killed! 

The man on my left, the one with the biggest earrings and longest ponytail--- made the first move.   Roughly hooking his right arm through my left arm, he whispered “Lady, get ready to stand up and move toward the doors—one—two---NOW!!!!!!  Before I realize it, the other man had grabbed my right arm and, when the subway doors opened, both men propelled me through the open doors and onto the platform.

Everything happened quickly and they wouldn’t release my arms.  The subway door closed, the train pulled away, and the head man--- the spokesperson--turned and shouted in my face: “Lady, do you realize you were seconds away from being murdered?!?!?”   First of all, you shouldn’t be riding the fuckin subway this time of day and second of all, why the hell are you wearing those expensive clothes and damn gold jewelry on the God Damn Subway?!?! Lady, do you have some crazy-ass death wish?  Those guys sitting across from you were professionals!  They were ready to kill you to get that fuckin gold out of your ears, off your arm, and from around your neck!”

For the first time since he’d begun speaking-- I noticed the guns.  Seeing me eyeing their weapons, both guys dropped my arms at the same time and flashed police badges in my face.  “Lady tonight was your fuckin lucky night!  You must have brought your damn guardian angel along for this ride.  My name is Lennie and this is my partner, Steno.  We’re undercover cops and it’s our job to ride the subway looking for criminals, murderers, drug dealers, and thieves. Officially, we were off-duty and headed back to the station to sign out when we saw what was going down with you. The minute those bastards swapped seats we knew you were the target.  Those shitheads were only seconds from grabbing you so we had to get you off the train. 

Lady, those assholes make their livin by robbing and killing women like you!   You wanta know how long it’d take them to get that gold necklace off your neck?!?!?  It would take about three seconds for one of them to hold you down while the other one sliced your fuckin head off!”

What a sight we must have been, standing on the subway platform.  Evening commuters saw two long-haired, bearded men in dirty tennis shoes, ragged jeans, wearing grateful dead sweatshirts, each holding a gun, and standing on either side of a tall, fashionably-dressed female in high heels. Together, we climbed the crowded subway stairs to the busy streets above.

 Before stepping on the bus bound for New Jersey--- I listened again to Lennie’s stern warning: “Never take the fuckin Subway Train when you’re all dressed up---fit to kill!”  Steno stood close by, silent and unsmiling.  They helped me on the bus and, as it pulled away from the curb, I looked out the window, hoping to wave goodbye to my heroes. 

Both had disappeared into the crowd.