Monday, December 03, 2007

Finding a Girl's Best Friend

What happened today is an amazing story. I still can't believe it happened.

This morning I was talking to a woman named Val at work when I told her I liked her earrings. I'm always admiring her jewelry. She said, "You aren't going to believe what I did." She dejectedly went on to tell me that she'd lost her diamond earrings at a pub Thursday night on Old Stone Street - probably one of the first pubs ever built in Manhattan. These were earrings from her boyfriend Dave, so they had sentimental value.

It had taken her a while to figure out where she'd lost the earrings, but by Saturday she knew. At Ulysses pub (right near my apartment) on Thursday, she'd put her purse on the floor next to one of those tall bar tables where she sat with some folks from work. (I'd been invited but didn't make it that night.)

At work on Thursday, she'd removed her diamond earrings and put them in a zipper pocket in her handbag. Usually she closes the zipper. But later that night, when she left the bar, her purse had tipped over on the floor. She picked it up and noticed that an item had fallen out of the zipper pocket inside the purse. She grabbed that up--without even thinking about the diamonds--and headed home.

I said, "Did you call the restaurant?" Yes, she'd called them on Saturday, but it was too late. The diamonds were gone, she was convinced. I could tell she'd already given up. But my reaction was automatically one of, "Why are you here and not over there looking for them?!" (I know I would be!) She thought about it for a second then said, "Well, they aren't open now." I suggested we go. So she and I decided we'd walk over to Ulysses for lunch and search for her earrings.

At 11:30 we headed over, walking in a door directly next to the table where she'd sat Thursday night. It was a tad dark in there. She pointed to the floor where he purse had been and started to move the table and chairs away from the window. Meanwhile I made a beeline for a spot under the table against the wall. There was a very old (and very hot) black metal radiator against the wall beneath the window.

Within seconds, I'd reached under the radiator into a crevice beyond the edge of the floor (burning my finger) and pulled out one diamond earring covered in link and hair and other ikky stuff. From the look of it, it had been swept into the crevice where it was resting on a 1-1/2"-wide ledge just beneath the radiator.

Val and I couldn't believe it! Within less than a minute of walking in the door we'd found the first earring. I thought I saw the other earring in another crevice that I couldn't reach, so the the nice server guy brought us a pen and a flashlight. False alarm. It was one of dozens of pieces of broken glass we came across.

Together Val and I looked and looked for the other earring, trying not to burn our skin on the boiling hot radiator. The crevice along the radiator was about 5 feet long and difficult to access because of the overhanging radiator (that I practically singed my hair on!). We searched the whole thing more than once. No earring. We looked behind bus trays on the floor and in every crevice of the old hard wood floor in that area of the bar. No earring.

Then I had an idea. I said, "I just live a couple blocks away, why don't I get my hand vacuum and a put a fresh bag in it? If they let us, we can just vacuum out the whole crevice and then check the bag for the earring." She was game, so we asked the staff if we could do that. The nice male server who'd given us the flashlight asked the manager, who told him it wasn't a problem. The cute server smiled at me, "We don't mind if you clean out our radiator!"

So I walked back to my apartment and grabbed up my hand-held Oreck vac--you know, the one you see on TV lifting a bowling ball. Val called me on my BlackBerry while I was pulling attachments off the shelf of my walk-in closet and asked if I had a flashlight - the other had burned out. I walked back to Ulysses with flashlight, vacuum, and bag. We plugged it in and started vacuuming along the crevice.

Just then the 20-something manager came over and told us we had to stop because the lunch crowd was coming in. Val said to him, "But we asked permission!" And there was no one in the bar area. But he kept saying, "Sorry, ladies, but you can come back between 3:00 and 5:00 to look."

Grumbling, we stopped our search and sat down in the restaurant area for lunch. We weren't very happy with the young manager who told us to quit right after giving us permission to vacuum. "Jerk," Val stated matter-of-factly.

Let me tell you, that guy will not have a successful marriage if he doesn't understand that you do not stop a woman from looking for her lost diamond when she knows she's so close to finding it! Jerk. The female staff members, on the other hand, were quite supportive of our ridiculous efforts.

We ate our delicious burgers and walked back to work. We dumped out what little stuff was in the small vacuum bag, but no earring. We really didn't expect it to be there.

Around 3:10PM I went over to Val's cubicle and asked her if she wanted to go back. A little while later we grabbed up our supplies, including long wooden coffee stirrers and plastic utensils to aid in digging through the gross stuff under the radiator (which included 5-year-old french fries). We headed over to Ulysses in the gale-force winds.

The jerk was no longer there, so we were free to vacuum all we wanted. We were pros at this now. The flashlight was a big help. We vacuumed the entire crevice. But even then I didn't feel like we'd found the other earring, and I told Val I had a bad feeling about it. She said she had the same feeling. I unplugged the vacuum and wrapped up the cord. She went back to the floor for one more look, and I went outside to look on the sidewalk and curb. I knew the diamond earrings had been swept with a broom because of the location of the one we'd found in proximity to where Val's purse had been on the floor. I thought maybe the other earring got swept right out the nearby door and onto the sidewalk.

Nope. No earring. We were packing up to leave when I looked down at the bottom of the doorframe where I saw a crevice. I got down with the flashlight and looked closer. I could swear I saw a gold post and a setting - but it wasn't an ordinary gold post, so I didn't think it was Val's. Nonetheless, I took a coffee stirrer and popped it out. But it went flying behind me--whatever it was--and neither of us could find it. I could still sense something in that crevice. So, as a last-ditch effort, I plugged the vacuum back in and vacuumed every bit of detritus out of that tiny crevice.

Finally we left after giving the bartender Val's contact info. We took the vacuum back to the office but neither of us was confident we'd vacuumed up the earring. When I set the vacuum down on a circular table by my cube and popped out the hose, some dirt and lint and a match fell out onto the table from the opening. I grabbed a paper towel and put it under the opening. I was going to just clean out the opening before opening up the vacuum and removing the bag.

With a coffee stirrer, I dug some of the stuff out of the circular opening and let it fall to the paper towel. By this time, a few of the guys on our team had come over to see what the heck we were doing with a vacuum cleaner! (Crazy women.) Almost instantly, I saw something shiny fall out onto the paper towel and I pulled it out through all the lint and dirt. It was a sole diamond! No setting - just a diamond that looked identical in size and shape to its partner.

Unable to believe it was real, I put the shiney gem in my hand at the same time I turned and screamed, "Val, it's your diamond!!" Without even looking she responded in the negative - something like, "No it's not. It can't be mine." I guess she'd convinced herself we wouldn't find it.

I was like, "Yes it is!! Look!" and I handed it to her. She took out the earring we'd found and compared them - jumping up and down in glee. We'd done the impossible. Two lost earrings that had fallen onto a dark barroom floor far, far from home four whole days ago had somehow miraculously made their way back to their owner long after being swept away and probably stepped on. Both of us were astounded. We were practically jumping up and down.

By this time everyone on the floor was looking at us wanting to know what was so great. Val and I just could not believe what had happened. I realized that, since the diamond practically fell out of the opening on its own, it had to be the last thing we'd vacuumed up in the pub. Not only that, but it very easily could've fallen out of the hose on the way back because it hadn't even made its way into the bag - it was stuck in some lint in the opening where the hose attaches! We could have lost it twice and never even known it.

Wow. That just made my day. I have such bad luck. For weeks I've felt that I brought that bad luck to my team. One of my team's guys got robbed at gunpoint in his hotel room week before last during his vacation in India. Another was taken to the hospital after a severe asthma attack and put on a breathing machine. (Fortunately, he was OK.) Several of us were sick over the past month, passing around the same cold and dropping like flies. Another guy's fish tank leaked about 50 gallons of water onto his floor today. Another's sewer backed up last week, and he had to stay home and fix it. It's been just one thing after another, and I blame myself and my own rotten luck.

But after this thing today, I was in disbelief. Could it be possible my luck is changing? Or was it an unrelated incident? When I left work, I immediately went out and bought 5 Mega Millions lottery tickets in the plaza shops down in the basement of our building. As I was heading up the concrete stairs outside the building, I tripped on my own pants leg and fell onto my right hand, jamming a finger.

That answers that question!

But, man, what are the odds of finding two lost diamonds? I guess perseverance pays off! I'm still stunned. And Val is one happy girl. I guess this makes us BFF. :)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holiday Time (and First Snow) in New York

When I first looked out of my third-floor window this morning around 8:45, the streets and sidewalks were white. The weatherman had been correct. This is an early snow for New York.

So I stayed in all day, doing some school work and cooking, and also enjoying "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Johnny Depp is so entertaining playing the sneaky yet slightly effiminate Jack Sparrow, who has "no moral center," according to the female lead.

By 5:00PM I was stir-crazy. I just can't sit in a chair that long. So I bumped Baby off my lap--what a great day she had taking advantage of record lap time!--and donned my heavy winter wear before stepping out into the 34-degree evening. I walked around, but there was not much snow left - just enough to make a few snow balls to throw at pilings. The sidewalks were slushy and icy in some spots, but all in all, it wasn't bad out.

When I came home I finally wrapped up the second of two math classes that I am enrolled in this semester. What a relief. It's been quite stressful, to say the least, trying to sell a house and car, find a NY apartment, pack, move, unpack, start a new (hectic!) job, and do school work. How do I end up in these situations?! Anyway, I am officially now just three itsy bitsy credit hours shy of a bachelor's degree in Mathematics that I started working on in 1981 when I was just 17 and could barely drive a car with a stick shift. Man it's been a long time.

All I need is one 3-credit upper level math course, and I'm done. It's hard to believe that it's been 26 years in the making. Three universities later, and I'm still not done. That is the price I pay for living my adult life like a free-spirited gypsy. (No regrets!) All I need to do is find an online course that fits the bill, and I can finish up. So far, no luck doing that--which means I might have to enroll in a local university to sign up for just one course. That might be a tough sell. We'll see if I finish by the time I'm 50.

There wasn't enough snow worthy of photographing today, so I'll share with you instead some photos I took on Thanksgiving Day and some others that I took on my midtown walk yesterday in freezing temperatures. Happy Holidays, all!