“We’ll wear tan pants,” the troop leader said. “And matching tee-shirts.” Oh no. I thought. This is going to be a challenge.
When my daughter told me her Girl Scout troop sold enough cookies to take a trip to New York, I was thrilled – until I learned I’d have to go too. These aren’t the scouts I grew up with. Now there’s a rule for everything.
“If you go to the bathroom, take someone with you. At least two adults must be with the girls at all times.”
I visualized our group in the subway: walk ten steps, stop, count heads, walk ten more steps. What a departure from my lifestyle. “Don’t pack bathing suits. We won’t have a certified lifeguard with us.”
Perhaps I could take sedatives. I have enough drugs left over from cancer to medicate an army.
The problem is that I haven’t had a boss in 20 years. When I quit my job in New York, I moved to California and have been an entrepreneur ever since. People like me are hard to boss around because needless rules are the kiss of death to self employment. Ignoring them is a survival mechanism.
“Suck it up,” my husband said. He tries to boss me all the time. But he’s also my business partner, and it would be no easier for him to wear tan pants and stand in a group than it would be for me.
When the girls and I arrived in New York, we were exuberant. Our schedule included a Broadway musical, a tour of Radio City, and a trip to the Empire State Building. Two things weren’t on our list: my old apartment in Murray Hill and my office at 56th and 6th. They’re not tourist destinations, but they’re what I wanted to see. A glimpse of my 30-year-old self.
At our Time Square Hilton, I counted the blocks to my apartment. After dinner I’ll sneak out.
Alas, troop leaders aren’t going to let a scout go rogue. They count heads like Midas counts gold, and yet, I yearned to revisit my favorite book store and taste a slice of street pizza. Most of all, I wanted to see my old apartment.
“Meet in the lobby at 7,” the leader announced after a day of sightseeing. The next day, the same thing happened. “I’ve just got to slip away,” I told my husband on the phone.
At five the next morning, I scribbled a note for my daughter and pulled on my tan pants. Manhattan has its own smell, equal parts humidity, sweat, and grit layered on a salty breeze, and it hit me like a familiar friend. Defying the rules, being downright naughty, I breathed it in. No matter what, I had to be back in the lobby before the troop gathered for breakfast with no sign of wind in my hair or mischief on my face. I hailed a cab.
In true New York fashion, the foreign cabby told me his story and then waited while I dipped into the lobby of my apartment. I bathed myself in memories and felt their power bolster my soul before I dashed back to the cab.
We shot up Fifth Avenue and I hung my head out the window like a dog in a truck, taking it in. “You’re the best fare I’ve had all week,” my cabbie said. His tail lights were long gone by the time I realized he’d dropped me at the wrong Hilton.
Crap! Where am I?
That’s when it dawned on me that I didn’t have the address of my hotel. I googled it and saw a long list of Hiltons. Which one was mine? I headed south.
Peering down one sidewalk after another, I sprinted into Hiltons. Panting, I finally threw myself at the mercy of a concierge. “Can you look up Hilton Time Square? It’s urgent.” He sent me to 41st Street.
Like a gazelle on the Serengeti, I flew over sidewalks. Sweat trickled down my back and I could feel heat in my lungs. The Hilton on 41st wasn’t it. New York’s Finest pointed me to a different location. Wrong again.
“Lauren!” I barked into the phone.
“Mom, where are you?” She hadn’t seen my note.
“Just get me the address of our hotel, okay?”
“Can I Google it?”
“No! Find stationary or look on the phone by the bed!” Head count was imminent.
Lauren read me the address, and I skidded into the lobby just as the last scout emerged from the elevator. “Everyone ready to go?” I asked innocently.
“Oh, I didn’t see you over there,” our leader said as I struggled to conceal my heaving breath.
Breast cancer can kiss my ass, I thought triumphantly. And that doctor who gave me a three month prognosis? If only he could see me now.