To The Rescue

To The Rescue

I just received this email from a dear friend who lives in New York, and walked the walk last night in Staten Island.  I want to share this story with people in every way I know how.  I will keep my friend’s [and other] names out of this, but not for lack of pride.  Please read this:

Many of you know about my growing frustration about the lack of response to help those in need on Staten Island.
After an evening spent getting circuit/busy signal trying to call [   ]‘s friends who run a fabulous non-profit on the West Side to see if they had any way to get food and water I could purchase over to Staten Island….

And my Car Service being of absolutely no help as no cars had any gas.
I even asked the Amex Platinum Concierge to help finding me a Car Service.  No dice there.
Avis, Enterprise and Hertz had cars available.  Tomorrow.  With no GPS.
For a zillion dollars a day.  With zero gas, of course.
What, exactly, was standing between me.  And Staten Island.  And helping out tonight?
A car.
So.  I decided to do what New Yorkers do – Hail a cab.
4 cabs (when I could find one, after over an hour of waiting on First Avenue) left me in the dust when they heard what I wanted to do.
I finally found Sam, who was very willing to help.  And he had a hybrid!
Sadly, by the time I found Sam, our local grocery store, [    ] on 86th street was closed.
I pounded on the window, and pleaded with the Manager while Sam was GPS-ing a spot to deliver the food and water.
OK, I wasn’t pleading so much as I was doing a whole lot of emotional blackmail.
However, once I explained my plan, the doors swung open and everyone in the store helped me shop.
And, a coupla hundred bucks and a full SUV later Sam and I headed out — and into/onto Staten Island.
I gotta believe, I was not charged for most of what was in the back of that SUV.
We were directed to 15S exit — don’t ask me where in the heck that was.
Most of lower Manhattan was still dark.
As was most of New Jersey and a good part of Brooklyn.
It was anxiety provoking, to say the least.
I seriously hoped the pixie dust of ‘doing good’ would protect us.
There were a few moments when I thought I had ridiculously gotten us into harm’s way.  Right about the time all we saw were flares I felt really foolish.
As soon as we exited the bridge we were up to our wheels in an absurd amount sand.
There were a few cops who were totally astonished at the sight of a yellow cab arriving just before midnight heading where we were heading.
Where were we heading?  The place that was taking donations had been moved.
Eventually, we were told to follow an NYPD convoy.
With a boat.  A boat!
Now, that was comforting.
We were questioned and the contents of the cab examined.
I offered up my California Driver’s License.
I was told by New York’s Finest that I was no longer an LA Girl, I was now a New Yorker.
And we were directed to turn to the right.
It was insane.  I mean, seriously: Imagine Laguna or Corona Del Mar.
Just imagine it as a darkened, deserted set on the backlot of Universal Studios without a moon.
There were a few klieg lights.  A few.
And nary a sign of life, though there were people sleeping in cars.
It was an odd kind of empty-fullness.  No lights, everybody home.
We proceeded down a very dark, and totally frightening stretch of street, called Father Capodanno Boulevard.
Every single house or housing development was pitch black.   Our tires were skidding in the sand.
After what seemed like a ridiculously long amount of time: A crazy time where two total strangers chatted about whatever two strangers chat about when driving into a war zone…we finally stumbled upon a “Command Center”.
I jumped out of Sam’s cab and decided to get charming.
Again.  Remember: I am a passenger in a Yellow Cab.  I have a trunk full of supplies.  I have silver hair.  And a cab driver with a meter off.
And there is no one…and I mean nary a soul out on that road in Staten Island, at just past midnight.
Save the cops in that particular command center.
Our presence was more than a bit startling for them.
I knocked on the trailer door.  Yelled: Hello!  Good Evening!  Anybody home?
OK.  I pounded.
Kinda like I owned the joint: We’re here from the Upper East Side and we brought supplies!  I chirped.  Like Perle Mesta.
Suffice to say, they were totally surprised.
Actually, I forgot they were armed.
Hindsight, 20/20.
They certainly didn’t know what to do with me.  Or Sam.  Or a cab laden with food, water and shampoo.
We can discuss my shopping choices at a later date.
I was in a hurry.
I was in a closed Gristedes and not sure what flooded people really needed at that red-hot moment so I bought a whole lot of everything
Grooming supplies seemed very important to the Cashier, so I added them to the water and sports drinks and power bars and cereal.
So, once New York’s Finest got over the shock of our arrival, they helped Sam and I unload “the goods”.
At first, they weren’t really sure where to put them/store them and I assured them, “somewhere close to the Verizon Truck might be a good idea”.
I am so bossy.
I offered, perhaps, they could take what they needed if they were hungry.
I was, of course, mocked for bringing the donuts.
We were both surprised at the total lack of organization.
Surely we couldn’t be the only people who had done this?
There were a whole lot of hugs, and quite a few tears, and a whole lot of astonishment about the fact that Sam turned the meter off.
Honestly, they were beyond taken aback that we drove out of Manhattan to do this.
The only thing I asked the Command Center was that when the people of Staten Island asked if ‘New Yorkers forgot about them’, to tell them that we did not forget about them.
The ride home was a whole lot to deal with after everything we had seen: The City seemed darker.  The Empire State Building glowed brighter.  Half a bridge illuminated?
Home?  How do you manage home after what we had seen?
Sam was quite embarrassed when I handed him 200 dollars for the evening of our little NGO of Two.
I assured him that my payment was small compensation – he had a tank full of gas and he was more than willing to forego making money for the night to help a whole bunch strangers.
Including me.
It was a perfectly imperfect evening: We discussed his kids, and growing up in Ghana, and how the storm affected his family.
We talked about his experience of New Yorkers before and after Hurricane Sandy.
He asked me why?  Why was I so insistent on doing this: No cabs. A closed store. Driving into hell and back.
I told him: Because I could. And because I should.
That tonight was about remembering something I learned a long time ago: When there are really big things going wrong, one person cannot fix everything.
But one person can do one thing.
This was my thing.
And I needed his assistance to help me pull it off.  I simply could not do this alone.
Perhaps this is the greatest lesson of the last decade: Learning how to ask for help.
Honestly, I got a whole lotta help tonight — The entire staff of Gristedes on 86th who really wanted to go home after a long day, chief among them.
I asked Sam why.  Why was he was so willing to do it?  Why did he turn off his meter?
Sam said that it was the right thing to do: He was one of the few who had gas.  He had time.  And there were people out on Staten Island who needed our help.
Together, we could offer our help.
So, there you have it.
Get me frustrated enough.  Angry enough…I will surely find a way through it.
I guess the magic key was asking the right person to help me.
And whatever money was spent giving comfort.  It totally pales in comparison to the great gift of having done it.  Together.  I like the thought of waking up tomorrow knowing that someone out on Staten Island has Cheerios.
And nice shampoo.
Embarrassing indeed, that Eric and I spent far less money last Friday night at the “Fete Du Bordeaux” at The Four Seasons restaurant.
I look at those photos of the 11 wine glasses.  Shit.
Hard to believe.
One week ago tonight I was swanning around in Louboutains.
Totally reckless excess.
Sitting next to that bubbling pool with our short ribs and cotton candy and cheese courses and feeling as if we deserved it.
Earned it.
Certainly we savored every drop of that glorious wine.
And we were endlessly grateful for our good health, and fine company, and sublime surroundings — delighted to devour a meal for the ages laughing together about the folly of it all.
There is no balance.
No reckoning of accounts.
No “Fair Book” as my old friend Jerry used to say.
It is not “fair” that I have power.  Water.  Walls.  Cable.  Phone.  Food.  Or Heat.
I am, however, incredibly grateful for Sam.
It is a night I will remember for the rest of my life.
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