Spilling Coffee on Strangers

Oh, how I wish the title of this blog post was a metaphor and not something I actually managed to do last week, but alas…


Last Friday morning began like any other work day: I woke up, showered, took the 7:29am bus into NYC, and stopped at the Port Authority Starbucks to grab some coffee for the second leg of my 3-part commute to East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Because I’ve been financially insecure (read: broke-ity broke broke) the past couple of weeks, due to some unexpected grad school-related expenses compounded by an unforgiving once-per-month pay schedule, I had been forgoing my daily Starbucks run. But I came into a bit of money and since it was Friday, I decided to treat myself, as one should every now and again. I purchased a white mocha & a croissant. Simple.

After stuffing some napkins in my pocket, I head to the Brooklyn-bound 3 train to find an unusually crowded subway platform.  There’s an empty train that it seems all the passengers were forced to vacate, so I join the crowd of disgruntled commuters and wait for the next train. When it arrives, we all pack in.

The train is crowded and at each stop it becomes more and more so. I start reading a New York Times article on my phone, so I don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable, accidental eye contact that inevitably happens when in close proximity with lots of people. I’m standing, holding on to the pole and my coffee in one hand and my phone in the other.

At Chambers Street, the train stops for an annoyingly long time. Train traffic ahead, they say. When this happens, people who have just arrived at the station run and push their way into a subway car, thinking that they *just* made it. (Wrong.) So, I’m reading my article and a gentleman bumps my hand while jogging into the packed train car.

I jerk out of his way, losing grip of my coffee cup, which flips in the air about four times—almost in slow motion—and lands on the lapel of the poor woman seated under me, spilling on her jacket and pants.

I. AM. MORTIFIED.

I grab the cup and hear myself apologizing profusely for what had just happened, “I’m so, so, so, so sorry”. The woman is quietly seething and I’m certain that all the eyes on that train car were burning into my skin. I rummage through my jacket pocket and hand her some napkins, to which she responds with a tight-lipped “thank you”.

Knowing that there’s no way I can stay in the same subway car as this woman whose morning I just ruined, I dash out of the doors and run two cars up. The new car is decidedly less crowded, so I slide into a seat, begin stress-eating my croissant, and try to calm my heart’s erratic beating. I try to quiet my mind with thoughts like: At least the coffee wasn’t hot anymore. At least you had drunken most of it. At least she was wearing black. At least the train was stopped, so you could run away.

Though, the only thing that allows me to continue my commute with relative comfort is the fact that in a city of over 8 million people, I’d probably never see that woman ever again.

And that I’d probably be able to laugh about this story in the near future, like right now.

 

A Lesson in Karma During 4th Grade Science

Did I tell you about the time my 4th grade science teacher put a curse on me? Yeah, that happened.

She was a slender thing, with dark skin and darker hair that was always tied in a low, thick ponytail, not unlike an actual pony’s tail: Ms. C. I remember exactly what she looked like, but for the sake of a good story I want you to picture Zoe Saldaña with glasses and anger issues.

Anyway, Ms. C was lecturing our class again on something “bad” we had done. I’m putting “bad” in quotation marks because I doubt that whatever deplorable thing took place was serious enough to warrant a 20+ minute talking-to, but then again, I remember Ms. C being quite the humorless individual. This part of her character, an utter lack of a funny bone, saddened me because she was one of the youngest teachers at our school. Unfortunately, she was no ally of ours.

Back to the story at hand: Ms. C was yelling at us, wasting all of our sweet time and putting us at a great academic disservice. I recognized that my peers and I could have been learning about the Earth, maybe even sparking a future career interest in geology in one or all of us, but instead a finger, a bony finger was being wagged at us. So, like all children past, present, and future in the process of being scolded, we stared blankly, counted our teeth, thought about why we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway; our minds were everywhere, but there.

When she finally wrapped up this speech, I was put in a mindset of praise. So much so, that before I had the chance to think about what I was doing, a whispered, but emphatic “Thank GOD!” escaped my lips.

“Who said that?! Who said ‘thank God’?! WHO?!”, Ms. C growled. Maybe this is the right place to note that I attended a parochial elementary school. Thanking God was serious business there, so saying it in the context in which I’d just done it was not small potatoes.

Ms. C scanned around the room for a tell, a crack in the facade, of the guilty party, but we were a bunch of (angelically) poker-faced 4th graders. In my heart, I’d hoped she’d just let it go, shake it off, etc. However, she took the situation from 0 – 100 (real quick) and threatened that if the perpetrator wasn’t named, we’d be missing recess.

Now, if there’s one thing that elementary school students value most during the school day, it’s recess: The daily opportunity to step outside of the educational assembly line and be children. You take away recess, you take away what separates kids from lower species, like adults. To my surprise, no one called me out (Though, one boy did look at me, but I shooed him with a “Boy-if-you-don’t-turn…” look.) and I’ll forever be grateful for that fact.

Still, I wasn’t going to allow my classmates to be punished for my compulsion to add commentary to everything, so I took a deep breath and put my hand straight up. Ms. C looked at me and twisted her face into a wry smile. “Okay,” she started.

At this point, I was scared. Not of the impending punishment, mind you. I was fearful of the possibility that she’d go off on yet another angry tangent. My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take two of those in one day.

“Okay, just remember that whatever you say or do is going to come right back to you. It’s called karma, boys and girls, and it always comes back,” she stared straight at me with the final three words, “to get you.

Silence.

Me, in my head: Is she threatening me? Who would say this to a child? And why is she bringing Eastern philosophy into this decidedly Catholic environment?

And that was the end of that. She gave us an abridged lesson and then dismissed us (even me!) for recess.

Every now and then since that day, I think back to Ms. C’s karma talk and wonder if what goes around had indeed come around and punished me, yet. For the longest while I didn’t think so: life’s been pretty good to me. But, now that I think of it, I bet Ms. C is the reason I’m allergic to peanuts. Yeah, that’s it.

Laptops & Life

I know you can’t tell, but I’m typing this post on my MacBook Pro.  Why is that of any significance, you ask?  Well, my MacBook Pro has been out of commission since this past November.  Today is the first time in 9 months that this laptop has been fully-functional and I’m beside myself with happiness about that fact.  Getting to this point, however, was an uphill battle that somehow managed to teach me two very valuable life lessons:

1. Sometimes going back to basics is exactly what you need.

While my laptop was broken, I had to resort to using my sister’s terribly old, terribly slow Dell.  I even had to bring it with me to London when I studied abroad.  It was frustrating to have to go from my light, sleek, fast, and fashionable MacBook Pro to a laptop that had clearly seen better days and was way, way, WAY past its prime.  Even so, in all this, I grew to become more appreciative of what I had.  That Dell was BUSTED (I mean, if I left it unplugged for 20 minutes the battery would die), but it served its purpose.  It was able to do everything I needed it to do and a large majority of what I wanted.  I genuinely couldn’t complain.

The Dell forced me to see my MacBook Pro as the luxury it was.  I had taken it for granted in the past and now I was learning my lesson.

2. Once you no longer fear what you could potentially lose by making a certain decision, what you’ll gain in the long run (the big picture) becomes more apparent. 

After taking my sick little laptop to many a repair shop, I learned that my hard drive was the problem.  For some reason unknown to me, it was failing.  I got different estimates from different places, but the constant seemed to be that no one could guarantee that they’d be able to save my files.  And I had a lot of files, mind you: All of the academic work and documents from my first 3 years of college, thousands of songs, and two years worth of photography.  None of which, I had made the effort to back up.  (Stupid, I know, but in my defense, how many people really anticipate their less-than-three-years-old laptop just going berserk one day?)  The idea of losing everything was overwhelmingly depressing, but after much thought, I concluded that losing my MacBook Pro entirely would be even more depressing.  These things don’t grow on trees, y’know.  I accepted its fate and even managed to convince myself that losing my files wouldn’t be so bad; it would be like getting a brand new laptop all over again.

When I got my laptop back yesterday, looking just like new, I was so pleased with my decision.  What I’d lost was much less important than what I’d gained.  I got my baby back!

And the funny thing is, I didn’t lose all my files, after all.  My dad (bless his heart) bought me an enclosure for my old, dysfunctional hard drive, which turned it into a fully-functional external hard drive.  Now, I can transfer my documents and pictures back to my MacBook Pro with no problem.  As for my music, all of it is still on my iPod, so as the song says, “I ain’t got no worries.”

Life is good.