The Curse: That’s One Small Step For Man…

21 Oct 2015
October 21, 2015
Accident scene

I forgot to take a picture of my foot stuck in the Metro escalator. So, like all good crime stories, I have recreated the scene. X marks the spot.

As I arrived at the surface from my subway commute, suddenly, a short, old woman, dressed in a mid February coat, crossed my path. “Pfeh,” she said in her Slavic-sounding accent, “to you and your descendants!” I ignored her. But I had been cursed. And I hadn’t even reached my cubicle yet.

Strange things began to happen; sudden and unexplained mishaps started affecting every project I was working on. One coworker checked to see if Mercury was in retrograde. It wasn’t. “It’s The Curse,” I said. By afternoon everyone was in agreement.

On Friday, things went better. The problems persisted, but no new ones appeared. By the end of the day I was able to take a deep breath. That woman’s power seemed to be waning. The weekend beckoned and it was time to go home. As I walked down the subway escalator, I began taking out my wallet with my pass so I could effortlessly get to the platform and catch the next train home. But, as I grabbed my wallet a receipt fell to the escalator steps. As I reached the bottom I turned slightly to retrieve it. I hadn’t even bent over when suddenly my foot got caught in the teeth as the stairs go underground for their return to the top. It felt like my shoe had been sucked into the system. It jammed and the escalator came to a sudden halt. My shoe was wedged so tightly I couldn’t move or even feel my foot. So I couldn’t tell if I was hurt. My toes were totally immobile.

A woman just behind me pressed the emergency stop and went to get the station manager. I stood there contorted as other commuters passed me by. The station manager came out of her kiosk to see what was happening. She was about forty feet away from me. I yelled, “Come here and reverse the escalator! Come help me!” She stood there for a few seconds, then she turned and left, saying she needed to report it. I continued to greet commuters as they made their way home. Some passed me by as if I was invisible. One man stopped to ask if I was okay. He was conflicted. Should he stay with me? I told him help had been summoned.

Waiting, somewhat embarrassed and concerned, did I take a photo of my situation as documentation? No, it didn’t even occur to me. Instead, my first thought was to tweet the calamity to the world. And, the Twitterverse began to respond. Retweets of my tweet. Someone blasted the station managers union. A Washington Post reporter tweeted her phone number. As small as my reputation was, I didn’t want it sullied by The Curse. “Nobody needed to know,” I told her. “Well,” she replied, “you did tweet this to everyone.” Um, yes, I did, didn’t I. With my 140 character announcement I had ceded all control over its worldwide coverage. I had announced my predicament to the world without a second thought. The Curse.

The station manager never returned. She never asked me if I was okay and she never filed an accident report as she was supposed to. I heard the faint roar of sirens in the distance.

Suddenly, my boss was standing next to me. She, too, was on her way home. “Are you okay?” she asked. I didn’t know. “Can you get your shoe off?” I couldn’t. I explained how tightly it was wedged in the machinery. She tried to get it off but couldn’t. Another coworker arrived and together they were able to extricate my foot from my shoe. I checked my toes and all were still accounted for. I seemed to be fine. The sirens got closer. I told my boss she didn’t have to stay. Now my attention turned to the fate of my shoe. As many of my friends know, I’m a shoe whore. My wife calls me Imelda. I call it my collection. When I began retelling this story the state of my shoe was the first thing friends asked about.

I couldn’t see the street but the sirens got loud and suddenly stopped. Two firetrucks and an ambulance. Five firemen now stood at the top of the escalator while the gathering crowd looked down on me. One bystander, unable to get to the train, was robbed while walking to the next station. He tweeted it. It was a crumbling house of cards. I was centerstage, but The Curse was hitting us all.

My rescuers made their way down the escalator to assess my situation. My foot was fine. My shoe might be. And the station manager finally made an appearance with a pad of paper trying to look like she was working. She was still oblivious to my wellbeing. But the firemen were kind enough to ask.

My rescuer

Selfie with one of my rescuers. Why the hell am I smiling?

The one with the crowbar got my shoe out. Not a scratch despite the death grip the escalator had on it. My rescuers were quite taken with that. “High quality suede always holds up,” I commented. I asked for a celebratory photo.

I battled that curse for the rest of the evening and well into the next day when, on the last play of the game, Michigan State’s Watts-Jackson scooped up the ball on a failed Michigan punt and ran for the winning touchdown with no time left on the clock. I had won! I beat that old crone with her unwarranted curse.

I was finally back in control.

© 2001-2018 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074