There is a story told in our family that never fails to get some laughs. It’s a tale about naivete, getting stranded, and above all, the kindness of a stranger. Many years ago, when our sons were still relatively young, our family took a trip to New York City. This was well before the advent of Google Maps, Yelp, or Uber. All of those apps would have come in very handy that night!
This was back when Frommers Guides had everything you needed when you traveled. The Internet was still in its infancy and online information was spotty and unreliable at best. Armed with my Frommers dining recommendation, my wife and I set out for Chinatown, and an “Authentic” Chinese dinner. Our sons were content to eat pizza and hang out in the hotel room for the evening.
Our original idea was to go to dinner, then head over to 30 Rock (Rockefeller Center), for an amazing view of the city by night. Best laid plans and all that. My wife and I took a cab to Chinatown and found the recommended restaurant. It looked very authentic and I thought I saw a guy leaving the shop next door with a wicker basket in his hands. Some kid was telling him, “Don’t feed him after midnight!”
Anyway, once my wife and I were seated, we eagerly anticipated our “Authentic” Chinese Meal. My first clue that it was going to be a long evening was when I noticed it was a family-style restaurant. We were seated at a large round table with six “Authentic” Chinese people. The Mandarin (or maybe Cantonese) was flying fast and furious around the table. My wife gave me the first of many “looks” that evening.
Then our food arrived. I had ordered something safe, Sweet ‘n’ Sour something. My wife ordered soup, trying to play it safe as well. However, when her meal arrived, it was a giant bowl filled with floating noodles that bore a strong resemblance to earthworms. At this point, she turned to me and said, “You are gonna die”. But wait, it gets better.
As we dug into our meals, our table-mates all stopped talking and looked at us like we were crazy. My wife stopped eating and said, “What?” Just then, two smaller bowls arrived for the soup. We had a good laugh over that one. After finishing our meal and swearing to never again “go authentic”, we realized that we were stranded, and lost, in Chinatown. I had misread the map, and the subway station was nowhere nearby.
Since the taxis had dried up as well, we prepared for a long walk back to transportation. We asked one of the few non-Asian folks we came across if she could tell us how to get to the subway station. She said we were hell and gone from there. Then she asked where we were headed. We told her Rockefeller Center. She said she would give us a lift.
Her name was Mary, and while my wife and I don’t normally accept rides from strangers, we were desperate. It turns out that Mary worked for the NYC Sanitation Department and lived on Staten Island. When my oldest son tells this story, he says that she drove us around Manhattan in a garbage truck. Not true. As we headed to Rockefeller Center, she pointed out various points of interest along the way. “That’s where Joey ‘the Mole’ Callibrese got whacked!” It’s always nice to learn a little local history.
As our Good Samaritan dropped us off, we tried to hand over some money to pay for the ride. She refused, saying that it was nice to have some company as she headed home from work. When we tell this story, we always thank God for Mary. There’s a good chance we would still be roaming the streets of the Big Apple if it wasn’t for her act of kindness. Thank you, Mary. You make Staten Island proud.
Hopefully, you’ll run into your own Good Samaritan someday, if ever you need one. They’re always around. At least Mary from Staten Island was in our case.
As usual, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this article. I hope you will continue to enjoy and follow this blog. Please feel free to share these stories with your family and friends!