LIFE IN THE APPLE
|I ran late for a party at the D & D Building at 979 Third Ave.–-credit|
As usual, I ran late to a party for John Lyle Design’s furniture collection. I bolted through the designer-filled vestibule at 979 Third Ave. to catch the elevator to the Holly Hunt showroom. Two other women entered the car with me, also on a mission. We had each pressed the buttons to our respective floors when a wheelchair rolled in without warning. Great. Why, when I’m late, do I get further delayed by train traffic (on the subway!) or a slowpoke? The elderly woman appeared ragged and disheveled like she hadn’t showered in days, and was possibly sporting yesterday’s polyester slacks with a wrinkled, oversized black and white striped blouse. Her ensemble wasn’t business casual or city chic, which struck me as out of place in the D & D (Decoration and Design) Building.
I arrived at the sixth floor and tried to exit the elevator, but the Lady on Wheels needed to leave first. I tried not to be rude, so I waited another minute, impatiently. At last, I stepped out of the car and made my way down the hall toward the showroom entrance. After walking about halfway, I stopped. The woman struggled to roll her chair, and it appeared as if she might be going to the same place I was. She didn’t strike me as an interior designer, or anyone in the field. Perhaps she’s a mother or aunt and just visiting, so she secured her invitation that way, I thought. No matter, I pushed any notion of tardiness to the back burner and said, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, please,” she responded.
Then I noticed the hand-written sign on the back of her wheelchair that read, “PLEASE HELP ME BY PUSHING ME THANK YOU!
|The Lady on Wheels made it very clear what she wanted.–photo by Gary Moran|
Immediately, I grabbed the back of the chair and began to roll into the party with this bizarre woman whom I had never met before. This was my good deed for the day and I was happy to oblige. When lady and I arrived, I recognized quite a few faces in the crowd by the entrance, which also happened to be near the colorful food and drink table. Twenty or so guests gathered around the smorgasbord. Yum! I couldn’t wait to dig into the cheese plate, but neither could the Lady on Wheels. We had barely reached the inside of the showroom when she took control of her chair, and rolled up to the table as if she was about to partake in her final meal.
“This is good,” she said firmly, as I tried to guide us around the dining table and out of the crowd. Her wheelchair was cumbersome and blocking traffic, yet, she was determined to stop in her tracks and allow dozens of guests to squeeze by.
I replied, “Don’t you want to go any further?” She didn’t answer.
I expected someone to greet us and possibly thank me for escorting this woman, but no one recognized the party crasher. The eccentric had no interest in furniture or decorating, either. She was there for one thing and one thing only –– THE FOOD. Party attendees stared in disbelief while the Lady on Wheels grabbed and consumed canapé after canapé as if the spread was her personal feast.
|The Lady on Wheels thought this food was for her personal feast.–photo by Gary Moran|
I was mortified! Surrounded by former coworkers and colleagues, suddenly the food wasn’t the focal point and all eyes feasted on me. I tried to quietly slither away from the scene and let this starved vagabond scrounge as many hors’doeurves as she could with no help from me. Obviously, she hadn’t eaten in days, or she was filling her pockets for later. Meanwhile, other attendees began glancing my way with question-filled faces. Suddenly I had lost my appetite after watching the old woman’s grubby fingers touch every tray of tidbits.
I escaped to the next room and ran into a friend, but only after explaining myself to every person I knew along the way. “You’re never going to believe what happened!” I felt foolish and as if she had taken advantage of me. I described what felt like a Seinfeld episode replaying on the other side of the wall. My friend insisted on changing rooms to see the sponge in action. In the meantime, the Lady on Wheels had filled herself to the brim with tea sandwiches, so she had begun to circulate and socialize. She chatted with everyone like she belonged in the exclusive showroom, yet no one knew who this intruder really was.
You can see in the video that I tried to be polite and help this woman. Notice the gentleman’s expression as we enter.
She asked my friend Gary to fetch her a cocktail, which he did; she drank several, in fact. A few other people assisted her to the ladies room. Once she made it to the outside of the restroom door, she stood and walked inside on her own like she had no disability at all. A group of us stood in disbelief. Who was she? Was she disabled, or was this a front merely to socialize and devour a tray of deviled eggs ?
None of us ever figured out from where this party crasher came, or how she had found out about the event. Supposedly, she lives in Brooklyn Heights, which is a haul from Midtown East, especially in a wheelchair. Just the thought of her traveling that distance alone wasn’t likely. For all we know, the freeloader lives locally in Midtown, navigates the design shops around Bloomingdale’s to indulge in catered parties and mix and mingle with New York’s ‘In’ crowd. More than likely, there are plenty of characters just like her in the Big Apple. I just haven’t been in contact with any of the others yet.
The shindig drew to a close and my embarrassment faded, but some of my friends still won’t let me live down my involvement with the Lady on Wheels. (You know who you are!) Furthermore, that was the last time I set foot in Holly Hunt.