A month ago, an older family friend said her life didn’t turn out as she’d hoped. She didn’t think she would be divorced or working 14-hour days in her sixties. She thought she’d be a tenured English professor by now rather than a saleswoman. Like most people, she didn’t get everything she wanted for herself.
Her disappointment helped me realize that I’m lucky. For the most part, I never dreamed of leading the kind of life I have today. Though I’ve known since age seven that writing was my calling, I never thought I’d have the luxury of doing it full-time or have a thousand or so published articles in my name. I never thought I’d get to interview celebrities, authors, politicians, and other public figures for my job. I never thought my first two places of employment would install kegs in the kitchen and fund office-wide party buses. Most of all, I never expected to reside in New York City. Though my dad, a Fordham graduate and taxi driver, knew everything in the book about New York, I always viewed it as his city. He’d be proud to know I’m exploring his territory and possibly staying here for the next twenty years.
My life is much more rewarding than I ever pictured, but the good times followed a parade of bizarre and unfortunate ones. Just as I never thought I’d actually make a career out of writing in the first person (or, as my nephew Sawyer says, “whatever I want!”), I never thought I’d have to live in the “rudest city in America” to do it. That’s not an awful trade-off, but the other downsides aren’t so easy to shrug off.
Another thing I never thought I’d experience would be hearing one of my roommates say about our bedroom view, “Did you see all the snow outside this morning? The junkyard looked SO GOOD!”
I never thought I’d have a roommate who would follow that up with, “It’s so sad the snow is all melted. Now our junkyard is back to being ugly.” As if it ever wasn’t.
Similarly, I never thought I’d see the day in which I got into a heated (literally, pun intended) argument with a group of Bostonian firefighters. That day was yesterday. All right, the argument took place in the evening, but the problem began long before that.
Two nights ago, my roommates and I kept waking up covered in sweat. Our rooms were ridiculously warm, so I turned the heat off. The next morning, we complained about the entire apartment feeling like a sauna. Because the heat had been off for six hours at that point, I was curious as to why the place hadn’t yet cooled down. Of course, yesterday was an unusually nice day. It was 50 degrees, so I chalked up the heat to uncharacteristic winter weather. Though sleep deprived and uncomfortable, I pushed the issue out of my mind upon arriving at work.
I was pretty exhausted all day, and it didn’t help that I stayed out with friends until midnight. It wasn’t as if I did anything wild, either. My pal Christy, who is a phenomenal comedian/singer by the way (check out her YouTube page!), was doing stand-up in the east village, so I agreed to attend her performance. She was the best comedian of the night, even one of the moms of another comic said so, and was invited to do another gig as a result of her outstanding show. I was very proud of her and wish my night had ended on that note.
It did not. I got back to the apartment a little after 12. Immediately after stepping into my room, I knew something was seriously wrong. It was nearly 100 degrees inside and the heater had been shut off for more than 12 hours. The heater in the wall was too hot to even touch, so I panicked and assumed the worst. We couldn’t get a hold of the super, so I did what any nervous novice New Yorker would: I called 311, which seems to be the magic number in NYC.
Concerned that my heater was going “out of control” and on the verge of explosion, the lady on the other line phoned the police, who deferred me to the fire department.
Within moments, five firemen showed up to my apartment in full gear, metal rods in hand for God knows what. I directed them to the heater and explained what was going on. Seconds later, they began berating me and groaning.
“Are you KIDDING ME!?” one of them yelled. “WE WERE TOLD THERE WAS A FIRE! THAT’S IT?!?!”
Sorry to break your heart that no one’s home has been destroyed, sir. And people wonder why there is so little respect for servicemen. I appreciate these folks greatly, as two of my best friends are cops, but why hurt someone for taking action and seeking help in the midst of a crisis?
“Whoever told you there was a fire lied because I never once used that word,” I said. “This is really dangerous, though. None of us can breathe in here and we’re worried this is going to start smoking.”
The guys, all of whom had awful Boston accents, went on to whine about wasting their time. Sleep deprived and upset by default because winter is my least favorite season, I was at a loss for words and began choking up on the spot. I hadn’t wanted them to come over, but with no immediate access to building management, there was nobody to contact but 311. I felt awful about wasting the time of these men, yet there was no need for them to speak to me in the disrespectful, mean-spirited manner that they did.
It was only when I began pushing back that one of them offered me some help rather than criticism.
“I don’t think it was stupid of us at all to make a phone call about this!” I said. “We were scared and our skin feels like its about to peel off. You don’t have to put me down for being scared.”
One of the men stayed in my apartment for a minute to share his thoughts and advice, but the rest of them went back to screaming and tearing me apart upon slamming my front door. I know false alarms are frustrating, but it wasn’t my fault that the operator sent them my way. The same thing happened to me in high school when I was rushed to the ER for stomach pains that had me doubled over on the ground. Upon examining my stomach via ultrasound, a female doctor was mad to report that I did not have appendicitis or anything serious — hence, she woke up at 1 a.m. for nothing.
Everything ended up being OK, but the electric company and the super had to come by and rip the heater box out of my wall. It seemed to have been stuck on full blast, which is not only unhealthy but expensive. Thank God I have a huge selection of blankets in my room to choose from because we aren’t going to have a heater for a while.
I’m glad that’s over, but 2012 is definitely my year of laughing about the things I never thought I’d hear myself say or do. Life is funny that way.