Monday, October 19, 2009



Dear Awesome Lady,

You were only in my life for twenty seconds, but I’ll never forget you.

I was the harried grandfather standing in the bus stop on 85th and Lexington, a stroller in one hand, a four-year-old Boy in the other hand, and no Metrocard in my wallet.

It was Friday at 5:30. Rush hour in Manhattan. We only had to go six blocks, so we could easily have walked. But the Boy wanted to go by bus. The fact that Papa didn’t have the means to get on a bus didn’t register with him. Everybody has a Metrocard. “Or quarters,” the Boy told me. “You could use quarters.”

$2.25? In quarters? What am I, a Laundromat?

The bus was ready to pull out without us. I stood there wondering who would melt down first, me or the Boy.

And then you spotted us. You ran up to the bus and said “get on, I have a Metrocard.”

The Boy and I got on. You followed and swiped your Metrocard for us. I couldn’t wait to tell you how much that simple gesture meant to me. And then, you totally threw me for a loop.

You got off the bus.

I called after you. “You’re not getting on?”

You smiled and said no. I started frantically digging in my pocket to pay you back. You waved me off. You didn’t want the money. Hopefully, the happy grin on the Boy’s face and the look of profound gratitude on mine were some small compensation.

“I’ll pay it forward,” I yelled as the driver closed the door.

And I will.

Awesome Lady, you looked like you might have grandchildren yourself. You were handsomely dressed, with a broad brimmed black hat, and a jangly necklace that looked like gold coins. But what I remember most is the joy in your eyes as you rescued us with your magic card.

I know you’ll never get to read this, but I had to write it and toss it into that vast Internet Ocean.

Thank you. I’ll never forget you. And I’ll be retelling this story over the years. So the Boy never forgets you either.