Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NYC, Gangsters and freedom…

I was in NYC several months ago for my job. I was visiting a customer and helping on a project need they had. At the time, it had been almost 24 years since I had been in New York City and I was giddy like an 8 year that just go a new lego police man set (at least, I would have been excited when I was 8). I flew into JFK and got completely confused with directions and the traffic was worse that I could have possibly imagined - I was a-frightened very much. It was crazy - people everywhere.
I had the privilege of staying at a hotel in the middle of Queens (attempt at humor here) - I am not a big city person - I thought I was about to be mugged 47 times in the 24 hour period I was there. I know that’s horrible to say, because I only came close one time…

Here’s the story. I decided that I could not waste the opportunity to go down and look at the new “Freedom Tower” and see Times Square and the sights of this huge city. I thought about driving, but realized I would likely die of some stress related event in the traffic. I asked the innkeeper how I could get down to Manhattan and Mr. Patel (this is not a joke - his name was Patel) what I should do. He said to walk three blocks and get on the “E” train, which connects to the “R” train and then connects to the “A” train - of course, I began singing “The leg train’s connected to the hip train, the hip train’s connected…” I was totally confused, but knew I needed to try.  He ended his directions with “Don’t vorry (worry), it’s bery (very) safe.”  
It was about 4 PM and a warm day, so I walked down to the subway, while all the locals sitting on benches laughed and mocked the tourist that was going to the lions. I got down the stairs and realized I had no idea what I was doing and had to ask how to get a pass to ride and get a map...I was setting myself up for a robbery (I am a mental midget - no offense to any little people - I have used this term for many years and it used to be okay). I finally got on a train after waiting and watching the folks around me. Many interesting looks and styles in NYC - I fit right in.
When I got on the train is was not very full - maybe 15 people. I had about 20 total stops and at least two train changes, so I tried to get comfortable for the over 1 hour ride. As I got on down the line about 4-5 stops, a gang member got on the train. Don’t ask me how I knew - it was obvious. To me, this was not a good thing and immediately hid my cell phone and checked for my wallet. He walked up to the end of the car and stood with his legs spread out a little and folded his arms, looking like a military guard at his post. I just knew he was the lead guy and that some more were getting on the next stop to block the other doors and begin the process of taking all our belongings. I went through the thoughts of how I would defend myself and ward off my attackers. I would do a Chuck Norris chop to the neck, then a knee to the stomach and finally a flying MMA jump on his back, all while I kicked the other guys one by one as they approached. You get the picture of my awesomeness!
My heart started to race and pound and then it happened. The guy started to move towards me. I pulled my arm up into ready position and looked for his accomplices. I didn’t see any. Was he bold enough to attack me all alone? Was he just getting me to the point of absolute fear? What was he doing?
He was actually moving to get a better view of himself in the side window so he could fix his hair and eyebrows. Really? A scary gangster checking himself out in the mirror before the attack? He took his hands and ran them through his hair, fluffing it nicely - it worked - he looked tough. He then licked his finger and ran them across both brows to straighten up his look. I knew this was the time he was catching me off guard. He moved again, as I readied to hit him...and he walked off the train at his stop. True story.
Have you ever felt fear in such a way that you made up your own reality of what the future held? Have you ever become so anxious with the thought of what was happening next, that you planned your attack, like I did? Has fear ever gripped you like this story? We all do it. We imagine what’s ahead as if it’s really there and it’s not even close to reality. We let fear get in and stop us from moving forward in life, dreams and goals.
The coolest part of this story is not that I didn’t get mugged or beat up, but that my journey that night ended at the “Freedom Tower” and I got to see something growing out of old fears. It made me realize how blessed I am and how I need not fear what’s around the corner or who is in my way. I need to just keep moving forward and do what I’m supposed to do each day.
Lessons Learned: Don’t let fear take control of you!
Thoughts: Have you ever been so scared you overreacted, like me?

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