Since moving to NYC last year, I've become aware of new horrors I never even thought about in Raleigh because they're fairly specific to New York life. I'm talking about terrifying "what if?" scenarios that are within the scope of reality. Things that could happen to any of us living in this city, though we pray they don't.
"What if I step on a metal cellar door or sewer grate and it gives way under my weight and I plummet into the depths below?"
"What if I drop my cellphone down into the subway tracks?"
"What if my rent goes up?"
Well, ladies and gentlemen on Monday morning of this week, one of these aforementioned ill fates became mine. I was at 72nd street transferring trains. I had a 9 am meeting to get to. I wasn't running late, or early. I was right on schedule, but couldn't afford any delays. As I waited for the train I skimmed my email to make sure I was up to speed on everything going on in the office that day. Then, without warning, my grip strength failed me. The same hands that can hold onto heavy deadlifts as they're pulled from the floor apparently struggle with single handed email checking. My iPhone 5C went tumbling forward out of my hand. It hit the platform but it didn't stop there. My phone is no quitter so it kept on going, bouncing off the platform and dropping another 4 feet, landing right in the middle of the subway tracks. It didn't stick the landing with grace. In fact, it just plopped face down, the least dignified orientation for anything or anyone to be laying in the subway tracks.
I didn't say anything. I didn't immediately do anything. I just sighed. Of course I dropped my phone on to the subway tracks. Why wouldn't this terrible one-in-a-million thing happen? It's totally consistent with the mounting pile of evidence that this life doesn't give a shit about me or what I have planned. Life is an unstable, erratic relative. After awhile, being phased by it's bullshit in any way is a fault of your own. The only reasonable reaction is to sigh, roll your eyes and go "Ok. What do we do now?"
I was far less affected than the people around me who witnessed it. I dropped an iPhone on to the tracks but they reacted like I had dropped an infant on to the tracks who was holding six iPhones. "Oooohhhh, nooo" the crowd of strangers cooed with empathy.
So now I had a decision to make. I KNEW I could jump down onto the tracks, grab my phone and get back up onto the platform quickly and safely. But the message they play over the station speakers every 10 minutes echoed in my mind.
"If you drop something LEAVE IT! Tell an MTA employee..."
So, to avoid legal trouble I went through the proper channels, walked up to the station attendant's booth and explained the situation. She said it would take an hour for somebody to come retrieve my phone. There goes my meeting. Of course it would take an hour. MTA trains rarely arrive as punctually as you'd like. Why would MTA humans be any different?
I will confess that I have good luck when it comes to bad luck. My phone DID land in a place where it wasn't in danger of being crushed by passing trains. It also could have been in a far more disgusting section of subway track. It was only greasy and dusty, as opposed to wet, greasy and filled with trash. But I knew odds were the screen would be cracked to pieces. I mean, it lost about 7-8 feet of elevation falling from my hand down to the tracks. I held out some hope that it might be usable but I wasn't optimistic.
I stood there as express trains played iPhone peekaboo with me, coming in and out of the station. With each train that passed I wished more and more that I had just jumped down there and gotten it myself.
Finally an orange-vested MTA employee showed up. I greeted him with "That's my phone". "You really got it out there" he said while furrowing his brown and extending his grabber stick to it's maximum length. He laid prone at the edge of the platform like a chubby urban sniper, fished it out and set it on the platform. It was time for the moment of truth. I walked up to the phone, pinched it with two fingers on what appeared to be the cleanest parts of the case. I flipped it over and looked at the screen. It looked back at me, as crack-free as a rehab center. I knew it was in good working order because the screen was illuminated by a notification from my calendar. It said I had a meeting in 5 minutes, which I did end up missing entirely but my phone had survived the unthinkable and lived to text another day.