Esther's post reminded me that, exactly three years ago today, my feet really, really hurt.
On the day of the third New York City blackout of my lifetime, I was uploading files at a design studio in so-trendy-it-will-make-your-eyes-bleed Dumbo, a neighborhood at the edge of Brooklyn. I generally work from home, but was seduced to the other side of the East River by the promise of projects that would be hip, cutting edge, and other silly adjectives. When the file transfer stalled, I figured it was just summer telling me to slow down. But after a few minutes I heard the sounds of dozens of feet racing down the stairwell--"It's a blackout!" someone yelled. I was skeptical; the Manhattan skyline, right outside and almost close enough to touch, was blinding, the sun reflecting off a few million windows. Which cleverly hid the fact that no light shone from behind any of them.
Then the phones went dead, and I decided to believe the stairwell guy. Everyone in the office ran outside as fast as we could, fearing another catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. Downstairs on the street, people were huddled around a car radio: yes, the whole city's dark. No, we don't know why. Since I couldn't swim home, my only means of escape was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, conveniently located two blocks from the office. And so I joined hundreds, and then thousands, of hot, bewildered Manhattanites as we began the exodus. Some of us tried to strike up conversations, but retreated into silence when we saw big, black plumes of smoke rise from somewhere beyond Staten Island. For awhile I was sure my last minutes on earth would be spent in the company of a bunch of strangers and some oily aquatic life.
By the time we got to the other side, voices on cell phones had assured us that the world was not, in fact, about to end. I still wasn't happy; eight miles of subway-impaired, taxi-disabled Manhattan remained between me and the Upper West Side. The temperature was 90 degrees, I was was wearing high heels and lugging a laptop, and I had exactly $3 in my wallet.
We swarmed the sidewalks near City Hall and the courthouse like thousands of sweaty chickens in a coop. One lone cop stood patiently in the middle of crowd, lobbing answers to question after question. "What's the best way uptown?" I screamed. "Sixth Avenue!" he yelled back.