A few sprintimes ago, I had just returned to Manhattan from Los Angeles, and took the red eye flight. I was exhausted and my time zone clock was all messed up. I got back to my apartment at 8am and fell asleep. Woke up at 3pm and decided to get this Friday on the go. Now, this was April in NYC, and it was the first blast of warm weather in the city from a cold winter. What happens on NYC’s first blast of spring (which usually happens in April), is that the temperature cranks up to 80s and 90s, really humid, lots of thunderstorms, and maintains this behavior for only three or four days. Everyone comes out form hibernation.
So, my friend calls me and wants me to come over and take a look at something at his workplace in mid-town. I rush over there, take a look, and at 5pm, start making headway for my friend’s apartment on the upper-upper west side where I’ve been invited for dinner. Well, I’m still a little west-coast east-coast disoriented, and the city is slammin’ packed with people. I get on my ‘red-line’ train in Times Square and head on up. Past 72nd Street, past 90th Street, up and up, and everyone’s getting off and off, until somewhere around 112th Street our train comes to a complete stop, and the conductor yells ‘Last Stop’. ‘LAST STOP’?! What?! I’ve got 30 more blocks to go or so… and as I look around at the empty subway car I realize, “Ooops: I’ve taken the wrong subway line!” Sure enough, check the map, and there it is: a fork in the red-line paths and I’ve taken the one that dead ends… I’ve got to ride this train ALL THE WAY back about 20 blocks and change over. I sit back down in my subway car with no one in it, waiting for the conductor to get us moving. A businessman walks in at the other end and sits down and unfolds his newspaper. Then, a woman, mid-30s, staggers in, looking overweight and pretty rough (a few glances over reveal here face looks swollen on one side), and sits down a few seats down across from me. She’s mumbling to herself and like an idiot I’m thinking: “heroine addict.”
Suddenly, the doors close, and we start rolling back where we came from. We go a few stops, then the lady’s mumbling becomes louder. She’s holding her stomache and growling and I’m thinking she’s high. At this point, 5:30pm on a hot Friday night in Manhattan, there is still only me, the grumbling lady and the business guy in this subway car and the other cars aren’t too full either. Then, as I’m standing in the doorway, watching things go by outside, holding on to the railing for balance, I start to hear what I think I hear. It’s the lady saying “My water broke” in a grumbled, jarbled accent. YEOWWW!!! Did she just say ‘My water broke”? Yes, she just said “My water broke!” Quickly I look at her and now it sinks in that she is holding her stomache because she is having a baby!!!! And she’s in total pain!!! Yes, I am thick! “Mam, don’t worry, we’re going to get you off this train. Hold on.” So I pull out my cell phone and ask “Where’s your husband?” Yes, in my white picket fence idea of America, I still think, hey, if the woman’s pregnant, she must be married. She blurts out a name “Tyrone”. Then she blurts out his number that I punch in my cell phone, but as the train goes in the tunnels I can’t get reception. Then, we get to a stop. The doors open, and I get reception. Bam, I call Tyrone. A lady picks up. “Hi, is Tyrone there?” “No, he’s out.” “Oh, well can you tell him his wife’s having a baby and she’s stuck on the train.” “WHO?” “His wife.” “WHAT!!!” At that point, I realize I’m talking to another relationship of Tyrone. “What’s her name?” I look over to the pregnant woman. “What’s your name?” “GRRRRRGGGGHHHAA” Okay, I’ll try again. “What’s your name?” “Cynthia”, she says mumbled in pain. “Cynthia. Her name is Cynthia!” I say into my phone. “That’s Tyrone’s sista!!!” Woops. Okay. “Well can you tell him she’s having a baby and is headed to the hospital!!” “Okay.” “Thank you.” “Bye.” She coldly hangs up.
It’s back to me, the pregnant lady who is about to explode and drop her baby in the car, and now 20 New Yorkers who could give a shit. Then I realize we’re at 60th street, and we’re soon going to be at Times Square! TIMES SQUARE!! At 6pm on a hot April night with about 1 million people heading home for the weekend. This is it! I finally yell out over the car “Is anyone here a doctor because this lady is going into labor?” No one looks up. No one flinches. Radio silence. Finally one woman (visiting from North Carolina) puts her hand up and says, “I’m a doctor.” We hit Times Square. I pull the emergency stop button so the train doesn’t go anywhere. The doctor and I put the pregnant woman on our shoulders and help her off the train. Another woman steps up to help and I run ahead to the station attendant and tell him that we need the special needs gate and ambulance called. The doctor woman keeps saying, “Keep breathing. You are NOT having your baby here in the subway station!!!!!” “GRRRRRRRRYYYUUUUUH!” the pregnant woman replies. Suddenly this construction worker guy appears, takes one look at us, cool and calm as if he sees this stuff five times a day, he says, “Heeeeey, is the laaaaady having a baaaaby?” “Yes, and her water’s broke.” “Oh, yeah?” He walks ahead, clears people traffic and opens the gate.
So we get to street level, sit the woman at the top of the steps, keep her breathing, and yes, we’re on the corner of Times Square and a million people are scurrying past, trying to get home.
Then, the sad part of the story comes. The pregnant woman’s been carrying with her the whole time a blue folder with all of her health papers in it, and a fat leather wallet. The ambulance arrives, and just as the team load her in the stretcher, we realize that her wallet and blue folder are gone. She’d put them down, and in that brief moment of all the hustle and bustle, someone had the nerve to steal them. She’s calling for them the whole time they push her into the ambulance. Oh, well, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn, sometimes you get into a subway car on a Friday night with a woman whose water just broke.: