“What am I singing tonight?” I asked myself, as I walked along 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan. I had printed a few music sheets to hand over to the pianist of the evening should someone decide to make me sing. I was slightly excited, but had so many things on my mind that belting out a tune wasn’t on the top of my list that night. I had missed last week’s open-mic cabaret, so this was a nice treat for me and a good excuse to say hello to some of my friends. I even bought some snacks–potato sticks, guacamole chips, and even Whoppers–in case anybody was hungry. I know I was.
It was early enough and the sun had just begun to set, as I worked my way towards the east side. The dry and cool 62-degree weather made it a pleasant evening to walk the streets of Midtown. And for some reason everyone was out, going about their Tuesday routines, mostly walking to their respective train stations to get to their destinations or meet some friends for happy hour before heading home. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except, of course, for the nice change in weather. The longest cold spell in NYC I could remember in years and finally some warm air. Who wouldn’t want that?
But what struck my curiosity (and even a little jealousy) was a young man who walked past me. Why jealous, you ask? Well, it was because he was carrying a tray filled with sandwiches. And I was starving! And these weren’t ordinary ones either. They were pretty thick subs with different types of meat begging to come out of their buns.
Where could he possibly go with those tasty treats? Where was he rushing to? He didn’t look like a caterer to me. He wasn’t even dressed in a restaurant/catering uniform. Otherwise, I would’ve found the whole thing less interesting. He was a typical corporate guy wearing a black suit and tie and was perfectly coiffed. It was a little unusual for someone like him to be carrying something like that. So I walked a little closer, trying to match his pace and noticed, at closer inspection, that his tray was not even half full. He had about six or seven sandwiches in there, but still in perfect condition. So I walked behind and followed him, slowing down when he did and catching up when he walked a little faster. I did not stalk him. Don’t get me wrong. I took my usual route but wanted to see where he would end up turning–left or right–or if he’d end up going to Grand Central Station and take his train home.
Maybe he was meeting a group of friends like me…to distribute the heavenly hoagies to his hungry buddies. Or maybe he was taking them home. He probably just wanted to keep them for himself–eat one for dinner and another for lunch the next day and then repeat the cycle. But that would’ve been excessive. Who would want to eat that for two or three straight days? Wherever his destination was, everyone, every single person–both locals and tourists–took a peek at what he was carrying. I have never seen so many people get so mesmerized at sandwiches before, but then again, I was too.
Fifth Avenue. Madison Avenue. Vanderbilt and Park Avenue. And he was still going, his arms uncompromised even after four long blocks. “This is the last block and then that’s it for me…I will never find out his mission. I will just have to imagine what happens next,” I thought to myself, as I waited for the light to change. I only had to walk a few more steps, as I was close to my destination. “Either he turns right…or left…or keep going forward,” I imagined. But he didn’t go forward.
The walk sign lit up, and we both walked side by side with him to my left. And what happened next caught me by surprise.
He rushed toward a scruffy looking man sitting on the northeast corner of Lexington and 45th with his dog. His shirt was black with dirt and soot and his face, wrinkled and aged by time. He was holding up an old grimy sign that said, “Hungry. Please help.” He smiled at the young man in a suit who handed him the tray filled with sandwiches and said, “Thank you so much!” as though it was a blessing from God. I was in shock. It was meant for him all along. The moment that I’d been waiting for after fifteen long minutes of walking was revealed to me…live! I couldn’t help but pause just for a second, almost wanting to take a picture, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t ruin it. But I was curious to know if anybody else saw what I saw. It seemed as if everyone was busy going about their daily lives and didn’t even realize the huge event that I had just witnessed. But, then again, maybe others didn’t see it as a “huge” event.
It was a poignant moment I would never forget. An unexpected act of kindness and a very inspiring one. I kept moving, and as I walked up the stairs of my own destination, I finally smiled.
Oh, and about that song I was contemplating on singing…Moon River came to mind.