When I was a young nurse in the city I lived within walking distance of the hospital where I worked. At the end of one muggy summer day I made it to the last intersection to be crossed before I reached my building. The hospital where I worked leased hundreds of apartments in the area and subsided the rent for its employees. My building was one of the nicest -a 36 floor luxury high rise with lobby furniture that would have not been out of place in the Palace of Versailles and crystal chandeliers in the elevators. My 19th floor studio was the only hospital apartment in there.
The light was red and there was only one other person waiting to cross. This was the same intersection where I once saw Monty Rock III carrying his own dry cleaning but that day it was a portly middle aged businessman who shared the curb with me. He was dressed in a nice gray suit and what hair he still had was bushed neatly against his scalp. As we waited for the light to change we stood in customary New York fashion staring straight ahead. He suddenly swiveled to his left bent down slightly and let out a series of forceful wet sneezes that landed right on me. I could feel the spray on my legs.
It was obvious that the turn-and-bend maneuver that he did when he knew he was about to sneeze was reflexive and meant to spare a person standing in front of him. He hadn’t seen me standing to his side and he was thoroughly embarrassed. He apologized profusely and was saying the right words but something told me that as he took in my white dress my white support hose and my white Clinic Model 401 nursing shoes he was thinking “Oh well she’s covered in germs anyway. It’s not like I ruined somebody clean”.
The light was green and he got away from me as fast as he could. He scurried across 2nd Avenue and went right into my building. Imagine his mortification to see me standing next to him in the mail room and under the crystal chandelier in the elevator. I’m sure he never dreamed that a young person in a service profession would live in a place like that.
I lived there for two more years but I never saw the man again. He was probably avoiding me.