I just got off a plane in New York after a teaching in Europe for three weeks. I was a little jet-lagged but very excited to meet my friend, Katrin, in the city for a special evening. We had plans to attend a performance of one of the theatre's most celebrated singers, Patti LuPone, performing her much celebrated "Lady with the Torch" cabaret show.
Katrin met me at my hotel and as we got into the taxi out in front, we couldn't help but notice an angry exchange between the cab driver and his previous passenger. There was definitely some weird residual energy left in the cab as we inched into the New York traffic, slowly creeping towards the theatre. It was very busy, rush hour, and the five mile ride was taking much longer than we expected. As we plodded along, I looked out the window and peered up at the skyscrapers towering way into the sky, blocking out what I could tell was the end of a beautiful day. My eyes wandered to the mob of pedestrians staggering through the street, robotically dodging the onslaught of cars and buses. It all seemed so overwhelming; and between the extreme heights of the new glass constructions to the throngs of people, the frenetic energy seemed way out of control.
I looked over at Katrin and told her that I felt there that was too much greed in the air...(I knew it was an odd thing to say even as I said it, not realizing that it would make complete sense later on). Abruptly the taxi driver told us we would have to get out of the cab -- he could not go any further due to the traffic. It all seemed so strange and so sudden, it threw us for a loop. We hurriedly paid him and escaped the cab with two blocks left to our destination.
During our brisk walk, I reached into my pocket and realized that I had left my cell phone in the cab! I started running back toward the cab thinking I could get to him, but he had turned onto a cross street and was gone. Katrin got out her phone and called my cell number. The cab driver answered my phone and told her that he would bring it to the theatre. He didn't sound pleased. We got to the theatre and waited... but no cab. I called my cell number again using Katrin's phone and the driver told me now that it would be two hours before he would get it to us because he currently had a new fare. I was feeling a sense of impending doom. Then he said something that made my stomach drop: he told me that he would need $100 to bring it to me!! I was appalled and upset. I was so stunned that I told him "yes" in desperation and he said he would be there by the end of the performance that he had been taking us to. At the venue, I informed the doorman Max about the situation and he generously told us he would call my cell phone number and handle it and we just should go in and enjoy Patti.
Patti was phenomenal, belting out one song after another seamlessly. I was impressed by her genuine realness especially once when she forgot a lyric and told the band in a playful way to just start it all over again. She was gracious and lovely and I was blessed to be sharing this moment. After the show, we went back to her dressing room and she greeted us with sincere interest and sweetness. She asked how we were doing and I mentioned the phone situation. Immediately she asked: "Did you get a receipt for the fare? Or get the tag number of the cab?"
No, we hadn't done either one. Who knew that you had to do such things? We escorted Patti to her car and then asked Max the doorman if he was in contact with the taxi driver. Max told us the driver said he could not come by for yet another hour. I realized then that I was being played and I didn't know what to do next. I leaned my forehead against the building in defeat and asked the Universe for help. When I turned back around to face the street, a young New York City policeman was walking by. I stopped him and he said his name was Officer James Gebhard of the 18th Precinct. I explained the predicament and he immediately called my cell number and got the cabbie on the phone. He identified himself and said "You have personal property with you and you are blackmailing these people. We have a trace on you and the phone and I will put the handcuffs on you myself if you don't get back here! Now!" He was amazing...he seemed right out of a Captain America movie. He was so nice and caring and went out of his way to show us how to trace my phone's movements using Katrin's phone. The officer had to leave because he had to attend to a delusional person yelling on the next street. I thought to myself, "A lot of that is going on around here tonight!" I felt so much gratitude for this officer and always will continue to honor the men and women in blue.
As I was talking to Max the doorman, the cabbie drove up. I ran up to his car, threw my body into the window and grabbed my phone out of his hand. I'm not proud of myself but I could not help reading him the riot act, in hope that he would understand that what he had done was outrageous. I yelled out that this was bad karma and he looked at me as if I were speaking a foreign language as he drove off. All of this happened within a 12-hour layover in New York City. I guess you could say, if you take a bite of the Big Apple, be careful, because you might get a worm.