They Said it Couldn't be Done
Traveling has always been an amazing combination of feelings and experiences for me. But for the most part, I find traveling outside of my day to day situation incredibly re-vivifying. There’s something about the unfamiliar setting and people that wakes me up and brings me a more refined sense of presence usually.
New York City last week was no exception to this. Within 12 hours of arriving, I found myself in a pickle on the underground along with my son and a dear old friend Becky. The situation was rather serious and “impossible”…some even said doomed. They said it couldn’t be done. They said New Yorkers would be too impatient. But Johnny from New Jersey who works on the number seven underground proved all the naysayers wrong.
And before I share more, let me just be the first to put my hand up and say, “I know it was a bit stupid. But who knew?”
Here is what happened:
We were traveling into Manhattan on the number seven underground train that happens to travel over ground for almost all of the journey. Because are still in the middle of making the IN YOUR OWN SKIN film, I was experimenting with filming against the glass to capture the passing scene. I was filming on the doors as it happens. The underground slowed and stopped. The footage was great! And as the doors started to open, I wanted to film just a second longer before removing the camera/iphone. There was a thick solid black plastic seal into which the doors slid. I took note of this and felt confident that this buffer would push my phone back if it went too far along. And as you may have guessed, the best laid plans are never simple. My brand new iphone was sucked right into the wall of the underground. We did not know if it had fallen two stories to the street below, on to the railroad track or if it was actually stuck inside the wall, but this was not good. Our plans were put on hold as we tried to figure out what to do.
We exited at the next underground station at Crown Street, and proceeded to go to the office and see if we could get help. The woman in the office all but laughed at us and said it was not possible. I was not prepared to take her pessimism on board just yet. Not knowing what to do next, we went back to the No 7 underground train realizing that we better chase the train we were on. The only chance we had, we realized, was to find the same train and the same car on that train and sweet talk the controller who has a little office in the middle of the train to help us.
There were three very lucky things that happened in a short period of time… actually I’m sure there were many more than three… but three stick out. 1) My friend realised that there was probably only one entirely pink number seven subway train. 2) I have had the presence of mine to note the actual number of the car on the train into which the phone had been sucked in my journal. And of course 3) Johnny the train conductor and ultimate hero of our story.
We headed on the next number seven train back toward Times Square. When Becky spied the pink train across the platform, she quickly beckoned us toward it….and we made it on. And through the throng of New York Mets fans we eventually found our way to the conductor in the middle of the train to ask if he could help. He was remarkably kind, and Becky’s incredibly beautiful which did not hurt. He agreed to call in some help if we could stay on the train till the end of the line. So much for the plans we had had, but this had turned into quite an adventure. It was now kind of fun… and hopeful. More and more Mets fans got on the train and we waited to see what would happen.
To our delight, at the end of the line, Johnny had summoned two other very calm and confident men in uniform with lots of tools. They joined us on the platform as we proceeded down to the number 2026 car and found the place where the phone should be inside the wall. They have a special key to take off the stainless steel plate of the wall and we could clearly see the phone at the bottom. I was overjoyed and squealed with delight like a little girl with happiness. Only then did we realize that this was not so simple and far from done…because the phone/camera was lodged behind the heating unit of the car. But far be it for a little thing like that to keep three men on a heroic journey from succeeding. Tools and plans and even a coat hanger were produced from impossible places. Ultimately an ultra-high-powered magnet (which risked erasing the phone) was put into operation to fish the still filming phone out. Hoorah! Photos were taken and amazed and delighted faces were struck by all of us.
The phone had recorded the whole incident, survived all those door openings and had captured all the audio as well. Various underground employees came and went as we continued on our rescue mission. One colorful forthright woman came in just as the phone was being pulled out and asked what happened. We told her the nutshell version and she simply said, “You’re not from here are you?”
And I knew that there was a bit of naive protection over us from not presuming the worst. And that our hanging onto the possibility that it could be done was powerful and strong. People are ultimately kind, and three men in uniform in the New York subway couldn’t possibly fail. Huge thanks to Becky, Orion and most especially Johnny from No 7!