E.B. White said, “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” I know this because I just looked it up to make sure; I wasn’t feeling lucky enough to risk looking like an idiot.
Yesterday, my husband and I spent our first day in New York in shifts. We were waiting for UPS to deliver God knows how many boxes of our clothes, my husband’s new hot-shot computer, his professional books. To avert disaster, one of us had to stay in the apartment at all times. My husband had already gone downstairs to make sure the buzzer worked. It sounded roughly like a five-alarm fire siren; you’d have to be dead or completely deaf not to hear it.
At lunch, I headed out to Zabar’s, which is only two blocks away, and promptly fell in love with the place. I swooned over the knishes, the already-prepared soups, the fruits, the vegetables, the caviar, the crazy mixture of customers, the world-weary, seen-it-all clerks. With Zabar’s only minutes away, I told myself dreamily, I’ll never have to cook again. Then I reminded myself I’d never cooked in the first place — so get over it, honey — and ordered two sandwiches to take back to the apartment.
“UPS delivers until seven p.m.,” my husband said as we ate lunch.
“You hope,” I pointed out.
“It will get here today,” he said confidently. He’s like that. Everything will work out, he’ll tell me as I collapse in a tornado of nerves and begin to drool uncontrollably. Calm down. Take deep breaths. Blah, blah, blah, everything will be fine.
After lunch, we went our separate ways — or as separate as you can get in a 1,000 square-foot apartment. I enrolled us both for mass transit tickets. I looked up nearby yoga studios. I got Saturday matinee tickets to see “Our Town.” I let everybody I know in New York know that we were here, in case they were wondering.
I read Time Out to see what was going on — and promptly got overwhelmed. The Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright show! The Fringe Festival in the Village! The Frick, the MOMA, the on and off and really off Broadway, the music, the Shakespeare in the Park. I decided that Time Out was a little too exciting for someone like me, who tends to spiral out of control on a regular basis. We have months and months to do these things, I told myself. We can’t do everything, after all. Then I decided, to hell with Time Out. I’ll rely on rumors and The New York Times, as usual.
Time passed. Four, five, five-thirty. No boxes. My husband started to get nervous. He began to moan softly about his computer, the book he’s going to write, the utter mess our lives will be if our boxes didn’t arrive. “Don’t forget our clothes,” I told him. “I packed some of my best clothes so I wouldn’t look like a total hayseed.”
Six-thirty. I noticed my husband was beginning to lose his usual buoyancy. He looked, in fact, a bit down. I hate it when my husband looks down; it’s so unnatural.
We decided to go to an outdoor table at the pub next door, where we could simultaneously drink and watch our front door. Seven o’clock came and went. We began to joke about life in the big city with no computer and no clothes and a minuscule insurance payment about as big as a 10-year-old’s allowance. I almost reminded my husband –not for the first time — that he should have insured the boxes for more. But he looked too downhearted to be teased.
Seven-fifteen. A UPS truck pulled up with all our boxes in it.
I watched my husband barrel up the stairs with a big grin on his face. Optimism had once again prevailed. In New York — and everywhere else he’s ever been — he’s always been more than willing to be lucky.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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