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miss-usa-2013A couple of days ago, I realized it had been a while since I’d shared any unusual NYC stories. Well, more like two weeks, as I was called Taylor Swift, serenaded, and cursed out all in a 20 minute period late last month. Besides that, I haven’t had many uncomfortable weird encounters with strangers recently, so I was startled and unprepared when a short Asian lady essentially accosted me in the gym locker room this afternoon.

Just as I was about to leave the room to hop on one of the treadmills, the woman screamed, “Hello, darling!” from the sink, where she’d been washing her hands. I smiled and greeted her back, but before I knew it, she was in my face and grabbing my wrists, getting them wet.

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately,” she said, further confusing me since we’d never met. “I think you need to be Miss New York. You’re tall and beautiful and will take home LOTS OF MONEY.”

“Um, okay,” I replied. “But I’ve had my chosen career path for a while, and that’s not it. I already have a job and am pretty happy.”

“You want lots and lots of money, trust me. That’s what life is all about,” she went on. “Just don’t share with your mother, unless she’s sick in the hospital. You need to be Miss New York.”

Staring at the woman’s cap and fanny pack, I tried not to laugh. She sounded shallow, selfish, and delusional all at once. Not to get down on myself or anything, but if I’m the best NYC has, the beauty industry is in trouble. I take good care of myself and go the extra mile for my appearance, but if I wanted to be a pageant queen, I would have had to start working towards it decades ago. Really. I love carbs way too much to be competitively thin, and I’m just about as accident prone as they come, more so than Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. I’ve never had an interest in modeling, and all the cash in the world wouldn’t change that.

“I’m not following you,” I said. “I don’t really know what we’re talking about anymore.”

Squeezing my wrists and getting closer to me, she started to whisper. Though a full foot taller and much younger than she, I was beginning to feel afraid and even vulnerable. After all, we were the only two in the room, and she’d been slowly backing me into a corner. I gulped, becoming more worried by the second. Maybe it’s because I’d just re-watched the Freaky Friday trailer and am superstitious and silly enough to think maybe old Asian ladies have a special touch or something.

How did she know that I’ve thought about giving a ton of money to my mother before should I become wealthy? I mean, I even documented that in response to an old dating site question about what I’d do after winning the lottery. “Pay off my mom’s house and let her retire” was my answer, so yeah, that coupled with the fact that a stranger was literally pulling me and speaking in a low, knowing voice seemed very unsettling.

“Get plastic surgery, too,” she said. “I take out appendixes at Lenox Hill and want you to come work for me. You start out as receptionist and then become doctor.”

“Wait, I thought you wanted me to be Miss New York?” I said. “Now a doctor instead?”

“Yes, you will be very rich, rich enough to get pearl teeth,” she said before pulling down her bottom lip to show me her own chompers, which actually looked pretty white and healthy for belonging to an elderly person. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed. “I need new teeth. I’ll bring you a job application tomorrow. You going to be here at the gym?”

I’m doing the Sunday shift tomorrow, but given the peculiarity of the situation, I lied.

“Yeah, I’ll be here.”

“Great. You will be a doctor before you know it,” she said, punching me in the shoulder rather aggressively. Then she was out the door, leaving me totally confused near the sink faucet, which she’d left running on full blast during her entire spiel.

The moral of the story, kids, is that you can’t just become Miss America or a doctor in your mid-twenties. I’m turning 25 in less than two weeks, and though I definitely want to go into screenwriting and novel writing someday, I’m not naive enough to believe I can just fall into any field at this age, especially not one requiring a decade of intense schooling or dramatic physical makeover. Maybe she’s having regrets about the way she’s lived her life and is hoping to fix them through a random fellow gym member who might actually have some time left to make a career 180, but everyone should be able to have their own path, and if mine includes loads of money, great, but that’s not why I’d like to eventually write books and TV shows.

So, Mallory Hagan, you can have the Miss NY title. I’m not going to try to steal your crown Miss Congeniality style, but the kooky lady from today might, so be careful.

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