When I signed the lease on my new apartment, I needed to get a bank check to pay my first month's rent. I mapped the location to the nearest Chase Bank and found one on Fulton street. Being March, it was snowy and gross, parking was hard to find, it was freezing, and I really didn't know my way around. I ended up going to the Chase on the corner of Fulton and New York.
I had driven with an air mattress, a lawn chair, my laptop and dvd movies, and a suitcase with some clothes. I was feeling excited for the new adventure, but lonely, lost and nervous. I found parking and paid for it. As I walked into the bank, there was a long line to wait for a teller. Everyone looked miserable. It didn't help my mood any.
I approached the snaking line and noticed what I thought was vomit splattered on the floor. As I neared that line, the overwhelming smell of feces dominated my nostrils. I gagged a little and tears welled up in my eyes. The tears were because of the smell, but it could've triggered me to cry as well given my mood.
I skirted the mess of diarrhea on the floor and stood in line. The smell continued to spread throughout the bank. I was a bit shocked that no one from the bank was doing anything about it. We were waiting in a line and people at the bank were taking longer than I thought normal. Not one person came out to apologize, or said they had called someone to clean up. I started to hand out Halls cough drops to people. I found that putting one in my mouth made me less likely to gag from the smell. I kept thinking to myself that this must be what living and Brooklyn was going to be like.
"What shit did I just get myself into," I thought.
After we waited there (maybe 10 people were in front of me in line and 5 behind), a staff member came out and started pouring a large bottle of floor cleaner on top of the mess. That only made things worse. I've had to clean up shit before having shoveled it for the first 18 years of my life on a dairy farm. You have to start by picking up what you can and then clean the floor. Anyone who helped clean up vomit after a major party in college knows that too. I'm guessing this person just couldn't be bothered.
It was then, out of the corner of my eye that I noticed this older lady shuffling in slowly as if in pain dragging a suitcase on wheels headed toward us. She was wearing a very colorful yellow top, with a cream colored skirt and a hat covered in silk flowers. She had white pantyhose on and sandals. You would think she would light up any room. Anyone who can wear clothes like that must have a huge and bright, bubbly personality.
As she got closer to me, I noticed that the clothes were threadbare with some stains and holes. Her clothing and entrance reminded me of a sad clown that once was happy or someone who had suffered through a war putting on their best clothes and bringing their last valuable possessions in one suitcase as they escape the evil pursuing enemy.
She came right up to us and bent over to get something out of her suitcase. It was then that I could see that the accident was hers. There were little bits of diarrhea dripped down her stockings and some still on her sandals. She was keeping a proud face and apologizing to people. Her accent was thick and I think eastern European. "I didn't mean to do this," she said. "I had a sandwich and it just didn't agree with me. I didn't expect this to happen. Accidents, please forgive me, in my old age, I didn't mean, I really never would have, let me clean it up." She pulled a roll of paper towels from her rolling suitcase and started cleaning up the mess of feces and cleaning solution. She must have had the accident, left to go purchase paper towels, and come back.
At this point, I was praying for her and trying not to cry myself. Some people were saying very rude things to her. I kept nodding and smiling at her to let her know as best I could that it was ok. That prevented me from sobbing. It could have been my mother, my grandmother, or a dear friend. Bathrooms are very hard to find in the city. Accidents do happen. In fact, I had just taken some very powerful medicine for an infection on my face and knew that I had better not even think of passing gas without being near a bathroom. I had taken the highway all the way down to the city and stopped at every rest stop every half hour to use them so I didn't make a mess in my car. That could have been me if my sphincter wasn't as strong given my age.
We moved forward in line and she had cleaned up the mess the best she could. She was sweating and looked like she wasn't feeling well. She was someone probably well into her 70's or 80's. She could have been homeless. She asked to cut in the line and most people were obliging her. I was glad when I was out of the bank and away from that scene.
That was my first real day in Brooklyn. I then picked up my keys to my apartment, and moved in. I blew up my air mattress, plugged in my laptop, and watched movies while on hold with the gas company, the electric company, the internet company, and the moving company to arrange my new life in my new apartment. I did tell some people about what happened, but only a few.
Today, I walked over to that same Chase branch to go to the ATM. I'm traveling to Rochester tomorrow. I needed some cash. I left my credit card upstate this weekend and have none. The bank was open in spite of it being Columbus Day. I decided to walk in. The bank was bright and cheery and clean. The personal banker saw me almost immediately, printed me a new debit card, and ordered me a new credit card. His name was Keith. He was so helpful and pleasant. I told him the story and he said that he wasn't there, but he had heard stories and the staff will never forget that day and how terrible it was for them.
It was nice to know that Chase in the city, and Brooklyn, isn't all shitty. Just like there are bad days and bad people everywhere, there are good days, good people, and good things in Brooklyn too.