Yesterday was a HUGE day of lessons for me. My daughter and I decided to go to NY shopping for a dress and shoes for her for an upcoming wedding, as well as a pair of earrings for me. She had an idea of what she wanted and I thought it might be fun to go to the world-famous Macy*s at Herald Square. That’s the renowned Macy*s of Thanksgiving Day parade and Fourth of July fireworks fame. The classy Macy*s from Miracle on 34th Street. What we got was something completely different.
To start with, we missed the train. Well, not quite. We were standing on the platform next to the train waiting at the door. The train pulled away. We actually made the train but the conductor wouldn’t let us on. I expected the conductor would open the door to the train and let us on. The fact that we hit the platform 30 seconds after he closed the door, and were technically late, didn’t occur to me. However, it certainly occurred to him. Expectations vs. Reality.
I hurled a few choice words at the train as it lumbered away down the tracks. Then I stomped up the stairs to the ticket machine, and, with tears in my eyes, kicked the stupid machine. I really did. I kicked a ticket machine. I was SO frustrated that our trip had just been delayed a full hour that I lashed out at the poor, defenseless unit. There’s probably a security guard somewhere reviewing yesterday’s surveillance tapes wondering what the heck my problem was. But one kick, which torqued my big toe, was all it took to realize I was overreacting. I took a deep breath and was OK. Louise and I spent the next hour throwing cherry pits at the third rail (and yes, I hit it once. I also apologized to Louise for making a scene.).
When we finally got to Macy*s, the cabbie asked if going in the 7th Avenue entrance was OK. Of course, pretending to know what I was doing, I said, “Sure! That’s fine.” Umm… I’ve never been to Macy*s in my life. I expected it to be like the big Macy*s stores I’ve been to. High ceilings, recessed lighting, adequate space and shiny display cases. The reality was nothing like that. This store, immortalized in films, is a shabby, cramped, noisy, smelly, messy store. Few of the clothing racks are actually sorted so one needs to pick and choose through the merchandise. I expected the latest designer fashions, I expected beautiful clothing, I expected well manicured salesclerks assisting customers. The reality was that the Macy*s women’s dresses department looks like Filene’s basement after a bridal sale. The dresses are dirty and torn. They look like fashion from the 90s, all frumpy polyester and ruffles. Horrible stuff. And my manicured salesclerks? Try hard working stiffs just like me. Boy was that an eye-opener.
I also expected to be able to find my way around the store. After all, a 9 floor department store MUST have directories, right? WRONG! There is one directory in the center of the store in a stairwell. There are no signs hanging from the ceilings to guide shoppers, no signs at the head of the escalators to say 2 floors down you’ll find the ladies’ room or 3 floors up is the bridal department. AUGH!
Completely disappointed, we finally gave up on Macy*s and made our way out of the store through the phenomenally boring jewelry department (I can get the same stuff in our local mall). The crowds were so dense I grasped Louise’s hand to keep from losing her on the way out. We wandered north through the sweltering heat (in the mid-90s) north from 34th to 47th Street. We stopped at a few small stores along the way, in great part because they have their doors open in summertime and the frigid air beckons from the sidewalk to all passersby. At one I actually found a pair of earrings to go with the dress I’m wearing. SCORE! We stopped in a shoe store, and Louise found a great pair of sandals, which they didn’t have in her size. She tried on a fun pair of lace stiletto boots that fit, but cost $180 and would NOT be appropriate for an entire day on her feet. We kept going, because we wanted to check Forever 21, a shop that generally has some really fun dresses. Expectation? That we would find some fun dresses. Reality? We found NONE. We didn’t even find any shoes.
Since it was now 6:30 pm, and we were hot, tired and hungry, and had only one pair of earrings to show for our effort, we decided to hike back to Grand Central and take the train home. On the way, I spied a Dress Barn on a side street. Guess what? … We found her dress there. Silver and black with a tulle ruffle at the bottom. It looks fabulous on her, it flatters her figure and it was in a place we didn’t expect.
I’ve noticed that, when we need them the most, Life gives us lessons. Yesterday I received the gift of two. One was yet another on the impermanence of time. We all have a finite amount to live our lives in. We can choose to freak out and kick the ticket machine because an hour was wasted, or we can relax and spit cherry pits at the third rail for an hour. I now choose the latter.
The other was something I’ve struggled with all my life – expectations vs. reality. When life gives you an experience to live through, don’t enter it with expectations, because the reality the Universe has in store for you may be quite different. How you handle that difference is a telling barometer of how you live your life. Be open to anything and embrace it with open arms.
Yesterday I learned that I have a lot of learning left to do.
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