Having been brought up on a TV diet that included regular feedings of ‘Cagney & Lacey’, I have to say that I was pretty nervous on my first trip to New York City. Not because there was a possibility of being forced to spend an evening in the company of Tyne Daly and her long-suffering Harvey, you understand. But for this sheltered youth who had spent most of his formative years in a small town in North Wales, it seemed that the streets of New York were paved with people whose sole mission was to relieve me of my cash. Or my life.
To be fair, New York wasn’t exactly a sleepy little village fifteen years ago. Giuliani had only taken control of the city the year before, and the area around Times Square was still a den of pornographic iniquity. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing for a hormone-heavy youngster, obviously. But while crime rates were beginning to fall across the country, New York still had plenty of hoodlums and gangsters to call its own.
As it was, the only criminal I came across was me, convincing a barman to serve me a beer or three despite the fact that I was only 20. Nonetheless, my perception of New York as a city where crime never sleeps lived on for many a year.
After last night’s commute home, I wonder if that feeling will ever truly go away.
Stepping onto a train at West 4th Street, a tall woman pushed me out of the way as she narrowly avoided the train’s closing door. No crime there, obviously – barging people around is practically a legal requirement in this city, after all. But it did mean that I least noticed her, particularly as she quickly gave me an evil stare as if to question how I had dared to get in the way of her aggressive shoulder charge a few seconds earlier.
The good thing about the New York subway is that if you happen to find yourself in the same carriage as someone slightly irritating, it’s a fair bet that they’ll be getting off in a few minutes. Not this woman though. In fact, she stayed on board for a full thirty minutes, finally getting off at the same stop as me. Still, there are plenty of trains coming through that particular station, and as I stood waiting for my connecting train, I thought no more of her.
Until she stepped through the same door onto the same train as me a few minutes later, that is. And then got off the train at the same station as me about six stops later. And turned the same direction as me once she reached street level. And proceeded right exactly like I did at the first junction. And crossed the road in the same direction as me across the nearest avenue.
Given that I was following her this whole time, I suddenly became convinced that she was going to think that I was stalking her. After all, I had effectively followed her all the way from Manhattan, following her merciless bashing of me in her attempt to get on a train. Now she could easily be thinking that I was tracking her down to exact my revenge as soon as my opportunity came.
Unfortunately for me, my ‘target’ then proceeded to walk directly down the street that leads past my house. Despite being frozen to my core, my paranoid New York crime-aware self kicked in, and I forced myself to take a long detour just to prove to everyone around me that I was no criminal. I almost felt like taking out a loudspeaker and broadcasting “I am not following this woman” in order to clear up any confusion.
Just to be on the safe side though, if anyone sees Sharon Gless in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn over the next few days, do me a favour and drop me an email. They’ll never take me alive, I tell you.