The downtown bus on 2nd Avenue was crowded when I got on. Standing room only. I pushed my way to the back and found a spot behind a little old man. He was holding on for dear life to the top of the seat beside him. As the bus bucked and shuddered, on the rutted and uneven tarmacadam surface, every so often, he couldn’t help himself from touching the shoulder of the seated passenger. This guy suddenly erupts.
“Get yer freakin’ hands away and stop touching me. Goddamn weirdo..decent people can’t go home without some..
That’s when I stepped in.
Those in the immediate vicinity suddenly began to find the variety of shops very interesting, when observed from a moving bus. More were staring at the ground, like they were caught up in a religious ceremony, which they were, effectively.
“Look at you” I said…” you two gentlemen are approximately the same age and it’s just a matter of chance that you got a seat and he didn’t…you should be ashamed….
It could easily have been the other way round… and you’d be the one, who was getting knocked around.”
He looked up at me with a stern face. An eerie silence settle on our part of the bus. What would happen next. Would he give me a black eye..or maybe he’d pull out a Colt. 38 and fire a couple of warning shots into my head.
I’m suffering from New York fever just recounting that incident. A curse upon you, my aching back. Because of you it is three years since I was last in New York, more specifically Manhattan.
I miss Noo Yawk for the shot of adrenalin it used to give me. I miss breakfast in The Malibu Diner, where everyone, staff and customers are all involved in the loud, daily, improv sitcom, that shifts from the cash register, to behind and out front of the bar counter.
So The Malibu takes care of breakfast. Next food on the agenda is lunch at The Carnegie Deli. I had a memorable first time visit there. When it came to my turn to be served, the guy behind the counter pointed his finger at me.
Time and tide and The Carnegie Deli waits for no man. Or maybe it was because the server felt I was in danger of breaking his rhythm. New Yorkers don’t like extemporising on their schedules and detest interference with their routines. Upset the equilibrium and you can unleash the wrath of a thousand demons, when you least expect it.
I enter an elevator, in an apartment building, just a few blocks up from Broadway. The apartments are on a fixed rent and the building houses a lot of old people, who were involved in theatre all their lives. I press a button and hold the door open for an old man, who walks with the small footsteps of a Geisha girl. He is impeccably dressed in a black frock coat that had seen better days, black trousers and a beret which off sets his small, wrinkled face. His gleaming white shirt is fraying at the collar, but his clothes are all neat and pressed and his dignity seems to be intact.
Well somehow I hit 33 by mistake and then correct it. I tell him what has happened and he acknowledges this information with a withering glance. We stop at 33 and the doors open. Beside me, I can feel the old man’s patience coming under pressure. Tension is building. Suddenly he explodes from the back wall of the elevator and with arms outstretched and his hands curled into fists, he goes into a crouch and shouts at the elevator doors.
“Come on…. Come on.”
The doors, finally, close and when we get to Floor 34, the doors open and an apparently serene, little old man, exits the elevator, very slowly, shuffling along at zero M.P.H, like a geisha on her day off.
I like those short-lived bursts of New York rudeness, barbed exchanges,. Its definitely not Dublin and it’s the volatility that helps turn New York into the Big Apple.
So there I am, on a bus on 2nd Avenue, face-to-face with a testy New Yorker, who has just had a wigging from a guy with a funny accent, telling him he should be ashamed. You could hear a pin drop as he glared back at me, until suddenly his face relaxed completely.
“You know somethin’..yer right.”
The astounded and unbelieving nearby passengers, heaved a collective sigh of relief, as the two men shook hands. Erring on the side of prudence, I got off at the next stop, which happily was right outside Paddy Reilly’s pub and I celebrated surviving my first New York skirmish with a couple of well earned cocktails.
Next time I’ll take the subway.Article Written by Shay Healy First Published in The Irish Daily Mail, Saturday 28th December 2013 Shay Healy’s latest eBook ‘The Danny Boy Triangle’ is Out Now on Kindle 2.99 Free Kindle Reader – download app