Guest of the Day

I have arrived in Manhattan, that wonderful, busy place I love to visit. My husband and son will arrive in a couple of hours. I came on the train, they're on a plane. I expect that although my trip took a lot longer, it was more peaceful. I love traveling on the train, even if people talk on the Quiet Car and the wi-fi goes out a lot and the guy sitting next to me didn't have a ticket and didn't seem to want to get off the train or to buy one in transit.

My arrival coincided with rush hour. I haven't dealt with New York rush hours much in the last thirty-something years, but I remember them. One tries to be patient, while at the same time not letting too many inches open up between yourself and the next person so that no one breaks in line while waiting to get on the train or bus. One does that shuffling step that keeps things moving.

Then there's the bobbing and weaving through the sidewalk traffic. I can bob and weave with the best of them - spotting from twenty paces the slowpokes who are on their phones, or lost, or, heaven forbid, engaged in conversation with someone else and not rushing madly to get somewhere (only, often, to then stop and stand in line). I have been known to leave my family behind by half a block and admit to really enjoying solo visits here when I can rush around with impunity.

As soon as I emerged from Penn Station, however, as I stopped to button up my coat, I watched a young woman (probably the age I was when I worked here) going by so fast that her head was two feet in front of her feet, and remembered what someone said to me recently (someone who has my well-bearing in mind): how often do you slow down and savor where you are and what you are doing? How often do you just do one thing and not three at a time? How often do you go deep into your surroundings instead of skating along the top?

I vowed this time will be different. I will not rush everywhere. I will not leave my family a block behind.  We'll be here a week, so I know this will take some discipline on my part.

And then I set off for my hotel, conveniently located just a few blocks south of Penn Station on the edge of Chelsea in what was once called The Flower District.  I admit I still bobbed and weaved some (hey, no family yet). I just can't seem to stroll down a Manhattan sidewalk when it's crowded. But I did notice the flower shops and checked out a couple of restaurants as I went by (seeing if I'd like to come back for dinner later).  I really tried to just walk deliberately and to take in the environment around me.

Within a few minutes, I was in my room. A surprise awaited me. It seems that our family was chosen as "Guest of the Day" and there was a lovely spread of fruit and cookies waiting for us on the coffee table with a card asking us to please enjoy our stay.  I thought about the words "take and eat."

And so I did. Not all of it. I tried to only eat a third of the fruit (the photo is an "after" shot). The guys will enjoy eating the rest when they arrive in a little while.

And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the surprise of it and the taste of it and the feeling of welcome. I may be in a chain hotel, but I appreciate the gesture. I see it as a portent - a sign for me that slowing down and savoring will bring rewards.

Wish me luck.


Ray Barnes said…
Fantastic description Penny. I think it sounds much like my last visit to London, about 10 years after I retired.
Somehow I had forgotten the break-neck speed of life in the city and wouldn't even think about repeating it these days.
Enjoy your week, relax when you can and best wishes to your son in his exams.
Perpetua said…
I remember it well from my one and only visit to New York, Penny. Have a wonderful week with your family and good luck with bucking the Manhatten maelstrom. :-)
Thanks, Perpetua! The hard part is that I love the wild pace. But it's not the best plan for this time.