After a few weeks in an old hotel just off Times Square, I had found a little fifth-floor walk-up apartment in a Greenwich Village townhouse that had been built before the Civil War. Across the street was a synagogue that, the first weekend I was in my apartment, had a rummage sale.
I purchased a floor lamp, but when I took it home, across the street, I noticed that it had a strange socket for a bulb. I asked the building’s super (superintendent) about it, and he gave me directions to a little hardware store some blocks south where I could find any bulb I needed.
I headed out, found the crowded little store, and bought the bulb, which was so expensive that I could calculate its price as a percentage of my weekly pay. Maybe my weekly pay, in 1974, was just so low.
Walking along a street of old townhouses with distinctive high stoops, I let my mind wander about the past weeks, when I had suddenly had a chance to move to New York. A friend in my little home town in south Georgia asked me if I had been drafted. My mind was wandering about the Broadway show I had seen, plans that the people for whom I was working had shared with me, and my delight in walking the grimy sidewalks of Manhattan Island…
…when an elderly woman tumbled down the steps of one of those high stoops, so abruptly that I almost stepped on her. I had lived in New York long enough to expect dog souvenirs on the sidewalks, but an elderly woman sprawled on the sidewalk was more than I, the too-soon jaded New Yorker wannabe, could deal with.
As a good Southerner, I wanted to do something, but I did not know what. Suddenly, people poured out of the buildings, similarly wanting to do something but not knowing what. A woman walking two dogs on leashes appeared, about as suddenly as the woman lying on the sidewalk had. The newcomer announced in a crisp British accent that she was a nurse, that someone should call for an ambulance, and that pillows and blankets would be appreciated.
I offered to hold her leashes. One dog had settled down into a nap, while the other dog seemed determined, from moment to moment, to climb either the gingko tree (one of the few trees that can endure the pollution of New York City) or the front of the townhouse.
Someone announced that the ambulance had been summoned. Pillows, blankets, and even a silver flask materialized. After she had had gotten the elderly woman as comfortable as possible, considering the situation, but not considering the flask, the nurse pointed out the difference in the two dogs. I do not remember the name of the sleeping dog, which I was glad to let lie, but I remember that the hyperactive dog was named Lady, and Lady was half-coyote.
Obviously, I still had much to learn about life in New York City, because the thought of holding a leash attached to a coyote in one hand and an expensive light bulb in the other, while a British nurse tended to an elderly woman on the sidewalks of New York, had never occurred to me. Neither, I suspect had the idea that New Yorkers would be so caring.
The ambulance appeared, the elderly woman was loaded in, pillows and blankets were returned, as, I assume, was the flask (I never did find out what was in it). Thanking me, the nurse took her leashes in hand, and I was left alone with my expensive but unbroken light bulb, to return to my fifth-floor home.
You can find an index to all my unforgettable New York City stories, “My Experience of Unforgettable New York City,” here.