I used to carry around this really big sketch book when I lived in NYC.
The way I would get comfortable with a place was by drawing it.
For years I volunteered on day a week in the bookbindery located under the Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MMA is not very close to subway station. I usually would do the walk to take the subway back to Brooklyn, but this one day I was just so puckered out I thought I’d take the bus downtown.
I rarely took buses, so I didn’t know which was going where, but at 5:30 on a winter’s evening, with the typical ocean of buses heading downtown, I figured I could get on just any bus and chances were good I’d be able to get off near a subway station.
I got on the first bus that I saw. Walked on, paid my fare, nodded and smiled at the bus driver, found a seat and let my thoughts drift to thoughts of home. ..then it occurred me that I might have left my keys at the Met. This would be a Very Bad Thing.
I looked through my bag. No keys. Started taking things out of my bag. Still no keys. I started to panic. The Met would closed up by 6:00.
I rushed up, got off as the bus pulled to the next stop. Got to the sidewalk. Stopped. Checked my bag again before zooming back uptown. The keys were there (of course they were…). Sigh. Relief. But….
OH NO> in my hurry to get off the bus, after taking stuff out of my bag, I realized that MY SKETCHBOOK WAS STILL ON THE BUS. Now I had a reason to panic. I didn’t want to lose that sketchbook. I hailed a cab. At rush hour in NYC it was some kind of miracle that I could find a cab so fast. I told the cabby I had an unusual request – to which he responded by nearly throwing me out of the cab before I explained that I needed to find a bus, and yes, I would pay him. The game was on!
We were now getting close to 59th Street. There were just scores of buses on the street. I hadn’t paid attention to the bus I got on, but I remembered acknowledging the bus driver. Finally, I saw the bus driver from the cab. Jumped out (paid the cabby, with a tip) and rushed to get to a place where I could get on to the bus.
In my absence, someone had picked up my sketchbook, looked through it, and passed it on to someone else.
That person had looked through the book and shared it with another passenger. Who also kept it in circulation.
In fact, I think the sketchbook had circulated through the whole bus. How do I know this? I know this because the moment I stepped on to the bus and the passengers saw me…