First I went down into the right subway, which felt wrong, crossed the street, down into the wrong one, then back across the street to the right one. (Trains weren’t labeled Manhattan bound, and yes, I can handle that, but a lot of my brain was busy keeping my game face on.)
First interview turned out to be waiting an hour, doing a crossword puzzle, and then having a chat with an assistant principal who was encouraging and told me what to emphasize in future interviews, as the job I had come to interview for was already filled. Mind you, this is the interview I had flown halfway across the country for. Ha.
I stopped and ate half a burrito from Chipotle. Out of all the varied and beautiful food culture of a huge city, yes, I went to Chipotle and got some blessed beans and rice. I was halfway down the block when I realized my bag was still at Chipotle. I went back and got it.
That morning I had gotten a call from another principal, out of the blue, from a school I knew nothing about. That was interview #2. Her office has three huge stained glass windows with images of three mothers from three parts of the world. The building was built by the WPA and, as usual, they did a hell of a job wasting our hard-earned tax dollars on enchanting, elevating artwork that would inspire generations and put food on the table of lots of nutty artsy types.
We had a good exchange. She said she would call me and let me know.
Walking down the street, I got a call from interview 3. This place was a million miles away. Subway to Times Square, subway to Grand Central. I went up into the station to pee and to eat a little more of my burrito. Subway up into the Bronx, way up into the Bronx. The subway becomes the El.
This was only my second time in the Bronx, and I don’t understand it at all. I’m a little sad it seems I won’t be working there, because it strikes me as a damn interesting place. The Bronx is New York City, but looks more like a midwestern city, being more spread out, with mostly smaller buildings, except for projects. There isn’t any of this Brooklyn pride, and it isn’t an embarrassing place like Staten Island, and it isn’t a place you give up your pride to live in, like Queens. A lot of it is poor, and of course it’s known for being tough and badass, more now than Brooklyn or Harlem.
Anyway: around the train station, there are short buildings, row houses and small local businesses. Mostly black folks, but some of every other kind, too. There was a circle of green and benches, and people were sitting on the benches talking, mostly old people, as it was the middle of the day. The way people live their lives in public here is great. I wandered around looking for my bus stop, got on one bus, told the driver where I was going, and he said I was on the wrong side of the street.
On the right bus, the driver said, “Hello, happy Monday,” as I got on. I told him where I was going, and he considered, and a lady piped up with where the school was, and the driver thanked her and told me he would let me know when to get off. The bus, again, was mostly people old enough to be retired. Every time it stopped, the driver told everyone happy Monday in the kindest way, like you might actually have a happy Monday. At the stops, he listed what was there: “Popeye’s up the street, Wendy’s the other way, Staples.”
A lady got on and asked the driver about her stop, and he told her she would be the stop after me. The old man next to me said very slowly, “Oh? Is that where you’re going?…It’s the next stop….Right behind the post office.”
I thanked him.
I did the third interview, which was okay, but not as good as the second, and I had personal experience now of what a haul it was to get to this school.
Bus back, subway back.
On my last subway, which was rush hour packed, we crammed in, and a lady said to me, “Hey! You’re pushing my stroller!” in a very aggressive voice.
“Sorry,” I said, although I couldn’t understand the problem of pushing a stroller, which is, after all, intended for pushing. She had a dozen white roses in plastic wrap set on top of her stroller.
“Could you step just a little forward so the doors will close?” someone near the doors said.
White Roses snapped back like someone was trying to rob her. “No, I can’t! People are already pushing on my stroller!”
“Look,” a man said. I couldn’t see him because we were crammed and I was facing the other way. “Don’t nobody want to go to jail today.”
A noble sentiment.
“Who said something about that? Why you talking crazy? Who you think you are?”
“I been in fifteen years for homicide,” he said. “I’m done with that. We all just gotta be polite.”
I thought about how glad I was he had been rehabilitated. And how odd was it that he wasn’t the scary one on the train.
“Yeah? Don’t talk to me. You think I’m one of those pussy women who aint gonna talk back?”
Then a little girl started screaming, “I’m tired! I’m tired! I’m tired! I’m tired!” Her tone suggested that she was five to ten minutes away from preschool-style nervous collapse.
Half of us in the subway car had headphones on and didn’t know any of this was happening. The rest of us were pretending it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t find anyone to meet my eye for that confirming look, “Wow.” I have exchanged that look with plenty of people on the subway in the past, and it’s always a sweet moment.
Once I got “home,” I saw I had an email offering me a job. I had thought I would want to celebrate this news, but instead, all I wanted to do was put on my pajamas and watch TV until I felt a little more normal.
I told the dog that I had gotten a job, and he just looked at me. He’s a nervous thing, so I know he understood.
Note: Most subway rides are not like this. New York is a very safe place. I have been on a million subway rides, and this is the first time anyone proclaimed himself a convicted murderer, and also the first time anyone was such a weird bitch about getting smushed because duh, it’s rush hour, we’re all smushed, lady.