Yesterday was the second day of the year that I felt good about riding my bike to work. It wasn't too hot, nor too cold, and I woke up really early so I didn't have to rush or feel stressed about figuring out the complicated locking system that also has a rusty part where the key doesn't easily turn the tumbler. What I forgot was that after work I was supposed to go all the way to Rector St. to pick up theater tickets for Father's Day.
One look at the map convinced me that getting from the West Village to Rector Street would be a dream, as the theater is on the same block as where I work, and it would be a straight shot downtown. But OOPS I didn't consider the big dig that was the World Trade Center. Nor did I consider that at 5:30 there would be HOARDS (is there a word that describes a crowd bigger than a hoard because that would be what I mean) of Wall Street workers rushing to the Path train to get home to New Jersey. Wall to wall people, a giant construction site and a lot of security blocking me from riding in the street. I had to walk my bike all the way around the construction, like a fish swimming upstream against those throngs of day traders rushing to the train.
Finally I made it, finished my complicated ticket transaction with a theater so alternative they don't have a credit card machine, and realized that I had no idea how I would get back to my cozy East Village neighborhood and avoid the Wall Street crowds.
Turns out that once you enter the core of the Wall Street area almost all the little streets are either closed to traffic, closed because of construction work on the Fulton Street train station, or so crowded with people that cars don't dare drive there. It actually wasn't so bad cutting through the moneyed capital of the world, I really only almost hit a couple of people, and once was when I was trying to figure out why there was a line of men in suits queuing up at a booth outside the stock exchange. It looked like they were waiting to get their photo with Santa.
And then I was in Chinatown, on those streets that appear to be going neither east nor north. Madison Street. I have always had a problem with this street. The giant Pathmark is there, but usually I drive to it (the only grocery store in downtown Manhattan with a parking lot) and the big Hong Kong supermarket where they sell those yummy spicy peas really cheap. Finally I came to Clinton Street, a familiar name, turned, and knew I was on my way home. So close.
Until my chain popped off. And when did this happen? At the single moment when I was actually riding my bike a little bit fast. I had to stop with my feet, which was pretty difficult. I dragged it to a stoop and poked at the chain, pretending to know what I was doing, all the while pondering how long it would take my husband to come get me with the car (and give up a luscious parking space for doing so).
And just then, a very short and very tattooed man approached me and offered to help. I thought he was going to steal my handbag from my basket, but in fact, he really did help. He turned it over (and a ton of water poured out which was plain weird) and he got the chain on, reminiscing about his childhood bike chain adventures. Turns out he owns a "smoke shop and tattoo parlour" on Clinton Street and was getting out for a breather as they were painting the store. He told me his name, which I ought to remember, but I don't. Who said New Yorkers don't help each other? Not me.