Miracle on Times Square

Miracle on Times Square

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

Miracle on Times Square

Broadway. The Great White Way. I was there—as an inventory clerk.

I was working my way through college, at Bond’s Clothing Store on Times Square.

I had come to the United States from Tel Aviv, six thousand miles away, to study journalism. Walter Winchell was my idol. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea!”

I had seen them in the movies, the news guys with “press” signs tucked into their hats. The Front Page. His Girl Friday. Being where exciting things were happening. Rushing into a phone booth, yelling, “Give me the city desk,” into the receiver, then shouting, “Stop the presses!”

That was my dream. And here I was in America, twenty years old, living my dream. My parents, whose only child I was, had stayed behind in what was then Palestine, which I had left just months before the state of Israel was created. They had agreed to send me a hundred dollars a month, which back then, in 1948, was perhaps like a thousand today. But with the proclamation of the new nation, all permits for the transfer of money out of the country were canceled.

In other words, I could no longer count on help from home.

The job at Bond’s, where I worked thirty hours a week, paid my bills. Long Island University in Brooklyn, where I was a sophomore, agreed to lower my tuition to a mere hundred dollars a semester. To make extra money, I worked as a doorman and usher at the Criterion Theater, a movie house underneath Bond’s, during summer vacations. Dressed in a wine-colored uniform with shiny brass buttons, I stood at the theater entrance proclaiming, “Immediate seating in all parts of the theater! No waiting for seats!” I saw Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion forty times.

I did well in school, despite the fact that English was a foreign language to me. I had a steady girlfriend, Dalia, also from Tel Aviv. I lived in a furnished room in the Upper West Side, near her. I was self-supporting. I was living in America. Life was good.

And then, disaster struck.

On a warm summer evening, having collected my pay for the week at Bond’s and at the Criterion, I took the subway home. Earlier in the day I had cashed the two paychecks and stuffed the bills into my wallet. After letting myself into my room, on Ninety-First Street near Broadway, I wanted to put my wallet away for the night. I put my hand in my left rear pocket. Nothing. Frantically I checked my other pockets. Still no wallet.

In the darkness of the theater, or perhaps on the subway, someone had deftly lifted my wallet, with all my money in it. All the money I had in the world. I sat on my bed, my head in my hands. Like most working college students, I lived from paycheck to paycheck. I had no bank account because I had no money to deposit. Damn! How cruel could people be? To steal a wallet from a working kid! Until that evening, I had only known the good side of people. My parents were kind and loving. In the ladies’ department at Bond’s, where I worked, I was “the kid from Israel” among the salespeople, all of them women. They mothered me and looked after me. At Long Island University, the dean of students had arranged my special tuition. And now I had been the victim of a crime.

The following morning I woke up with a headache, a sore throat and a 102-degree fever. My God! If I called in sick and didn’t work, I wouldn’t get paid! I was a part-time employee, with no benefits. And yet, if I went to work, I could become sicker. What to do?

I telephoned my doctor, who shortly thereafter examined me. “You’ve got the flu,” he said. “Go home.” I did. Then I called in sick.

I lay alone in my furnished room. I had no money, nor was I earning any. I was all alone in a foreign land. I was sick. I was twenty years old. I wanted to cry. But I heard my father’s voice: “Men don’t cry.” So I didn’t. I was sick for two weeks, during which Dalia’s mother came daily with chicken soup. Dalia kept me company.

On a bright Monday morning, I staggered from the subway stop on Times Square to the store. I felt wiped out. Through the revolving door, past the men’s accessories department, I nearly fell against Mr. Kissin, the manager. “Good to see you, my boy,” he said. Rising slowly up the escalator, I saw my boss, Mrs. Menscher, waving to me, smiling a welcome.

“Sit, sit,” she said. “Take a load off your feet. You look terrible.”

Suddenly they were all around me: Miss Romano, the assistant manager, Mr. Price, from men’s suits. Even Mr. Cooper, the district manager, came over.

“We have something for you,” Mrs. Menscher said. She handed me an envelope. “Go on, open it.”

I did. It was full of money.

“We took up a collection,” she said. “It’s a hundred dollars.”

Tears filled my eyes. There was nothing to say but “Thanks, thanks. I’ll never forget you.”

And I haven’t.

Dalia and I have been married more than forty-six years. We have three children and five grandchildren. I did become a reporter on major city newspapers.

The ups and downs of life have left me battered and bruised at times. The twentieth century has been the bloodiest example of man’s inhumanity to man. Bond’s is long gone, as are the people who worked there some fifty years ago. Dead they are, or ancient. And yet I learned an important lesson from them.

Perhaps Anne Frank said it best: “Despite everything, I still believe in the goodness of man.”

Gunter David

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