New York, Hong Kong | Issue 17 | 2020
One morning, not so long ago, I was on my way to work after dropping my six-year-old at school. It was cold and beginning to rain. I had four long blocks to go before I could enjoy the shelter of the office. Without an umbrella, I was walking with purpose. But a red light halted my progress almost immediately. To escape the increasingly determined rain, I hunkered down under the awning of the corner convenience store in front of buckets of overly fragrant flowers. Hands deep in my pockets and shoulders half covering my ears. Through rain-splattered glasses I watched impatiently for the red to turn green. As I stood there, a smartly dressed elderly gentleman, maybe in his eighties, shuffled up next to me, also seeking refuge.
This gentleman had come prepared. He had an umbrella. But, to me, he seemed a bit off. Maybe it was the way he was dressed. His brown corduroy sports jacket only partially covered his red polka-dotted bow tie and mismatched red-and-white striped shirt. A pair of slightly worn blue slacks and well-worn loafers completed his sense of fashion.
It took forever for the red to change. And it was obvious to me that this struggling, gentle man was in a state of some agitation. He clearly needed to get somewhere, but he couldn’t decide on his direction: West or North? He would motion first one way, stop, reconsider his direction, then choose another. His steps were getting labored and he was getting more and more frustrated. West? Or North?
“Can I help you, Sir?”
“Uhh, yes, perhaps. I have a date with my, hmmm, ‘girlfriend’. Well, almost girlfriend”, he stuttered, embarrassed. Smitten on a gal, this eighty-plus-year-old guy was on his way to a breakfast date. Classic.
“She told me to meet her at the Tisserie Café and gave me the address, but I can’t read my own handwriting.” He pulled out a crinkled, wet piece of paper. The ink was one big blob.
“It looks like a 53 to me,” he said. Meaning 53rd Street. “But she said I had to go up town, so maybe it’s 55. I’m going to be late. But I can’t be late. This is too important and I don’t want to disappoint her.” She was one lucky lady.
“I know exactly where Tisserie is”, I said with authority. “It’s on 55th. But how about I get you there to make sure you don’t lose any more time?”
“Really? That would be wonderful. I can’t walk as fast as you, but I’ll hurry it up as best I can. I’m a mess, and I’m nervous but, young man, I’m excited. I don’t date that much.” He gave a chuckle.
Just as we got started, the owner of the convenience store stepped in front of us. He had heard the whole story and, bearing a handful of the flowers from his outdoor buckets, said, “Give these to her! It’ll explain why you’re late.” I love this town.
Ten minutes later, we were a few paces away from the café. I handed him the flowers so he could walk inside with them in hand. His lady was waiting at the table nearest to the door. She, too, was dressed to impress, and was much younger. Late seventies. She smiled as he fumbled with the heavy door, and rose to greet him, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. They were going to have a great date. And I was going to have a wonderful day.
Published in issue 16 (2019). Paul Keller is a partner in New York.
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2020