This is a story about “a pearl of great price.” Here’s a clue: it owes its status to two members of the New York Sanitation Department and two chic and generous passers-by named Carol and Maria.
In the event that some literal-minded gemologist wants to unmask our central character, calling it a costume jewelry alternative of questionable price, make it clear up-front that no one could possibly object to styling it “A Pearl of Great Value.”
The parable of New York City kindness unfolded one Friday morning at the Upper East Side intersection of 66th Street and Third Avenue.
By falling to the street, my not very “pricey” costume jewelry earring generated a procession of Manhattanites determined to go the extra mile for a woman they had never met, and probably never would again. It began when a full-sized New York City Sanitation Department truck stopped its collection route in mid-left turn when the driver noted a stranger whose eyes were searching the gray pavement for a single gray earring during the short interval when traffic lights turn from red to green.
To my amazement, the driver stopped and ignoring my entreaties to move on, instead dispatched his partner to dismount and join me to walk back-and-forth scanning the space for the lost earring.
When I finally convinced them to move on with their tasks, I was promptly joined by the very chic and glamorous Carol who seemed to think it was only natural for her to interrupt her crossing to join the search. Noticing that she was wearing brilliant earrings that suggested the diamonds appropriate to reward such spontaneous kindness, I urged, “No, please. You just take care of your own lovely earrings.” To which she laughed and responded, “They’re fake!”
“Well, you’re not,” I answered!
Two more light changes later she reluctantly agreed to continue walking south.
Setting out on what I concluded simply must be the last crossing/exploration, I glanced down and saw the little grey pseudo-pearl smiling up at me with what must have been a costume jewel’s look of triumph. She was entirely unscathed by the dozens of vehicles that had passed that way as our little urban drama unfolded.
But wait: Maria was next. Lithe and agile, she removed her earphone, heeded my pantomimed plea, and picked up the grey orb that now seemed to demand to be called “A pearl of great price.” Maria set off down Third Avenue wearing the mantle of “heroine” with a casual grace that said, “But of course I’d come to the aid of a stranger.”
The only visible survivors of our little drama were aboard their truck and now nearing Lexington Avenue, making their rapid round of pick-ups.
Running behind them with the aid of my NYC version of a defense mechanism I call a “Rolls Royce,” I set out in pursuit. Each time I neared the two “knights in NYDS armor,” they moved on. Somewhere close to Park Avenue I abandoned all pretense at urban cool and called out until the driver heard me and gave me yet another gift. The chance to say a simple “Bravo and Thank You” for a singular moment of hope and a mighty victory over self-involved anxiety.
I can only hope that Carol and Maria will see this and join my texting partners Liz and Sara and Alice who were first to hear the story of their kindness; and with Victoria and Gary who came along the next day to the crossing as I considered how it might be renamed. I don’t know how one petitions for the renaming of streets, but I think I have just the one to propose for the western Crosswalk of 66th at Third. Would Care + Unexpected Kindness Avenue fit on a street sign?