My Personal War With The Xlerator


[Photo credit: Patrick Egan]

There ought to be a law…

What I am about to say might be familiar to some of my readers.  These thoughts and descriptions appeared, in a slightly different form, in my book In The Middle of Somewhere.  It was in the chapter that dealt with public bathrooms on a cross-country road trip in 2013.

But, recent experiences during my very recent stay in New York City has prompted me to take to the keys and renew my war with a certain hand dryer…The Xlerator.

It’s my opinion that this device (which I’m seeing in more and more restrooms) should be monitored by the FDA, OSHA and quite possibly NASA.  In the name of “environmental awareness” i.e., “saving trees”, we are being subjected to a hand dryer that MUST exceed the regulations of decibels emitted by a small device.  The dB’s are easily equal to that of a Boeing 747 as it prepares for takeoff…or a Who concert.

It’s a know fact that the police can give a citation to anyone violating the dB’s in a particular area with a “boom box” or an unmuffled car (or motorcycle).  So, where is the EPA in the men’s room?

While in NYC last week, I happened to use the men’s room in the “Cellar”.  This used to be a space for kitchen supplies and Godiva chocolates.  Now it’s Mens Wear.  More specifically, the underwear section of Mens Wear.  When I left the bar in Rowland’s Restaurant to use the facility, I could hear the roar from as far away as Tommy Hilfiger.  By the time I got to Calvin Klein, it was oppressive.  When I took a left at Jockey, it was deafening.  And I wasn’t even in the men’s room yet!

So, without getting too specific, I emptied my bladder and, feeling the germs of public surfaces (I held onto the escalator to the lower level), I washed my hands.  The only dryer available was the dreaded Xlerator.  I hit the ON button.

The roar and pitch was so great, I forgot my recent nightmares and concentrated on keeping my ears from bleeding.  If that happened, it would present a whole new set of problems.  I would need to go into a stall and get some toilet tissue to stem the blood flow from getting to the collar of my new shirt.  (Besides, that would likely lead to minor hearing loss with damage to the stereocillia in my middle ear.  I would then miss the subtle notes in a Metallica song).

Not to mention the explaining I would have to do to onlookers.

If you happen to come face to face with the Xlerator, I suggest cotton for the ears and finish drying your hands on your Guess jeans.  Good luck if you’re wearing a family heirloom ring.  God help you if you’re wearing a prosthetic finger.  The force of the blast of hot air could launch a small dirigible, peel your finger nail polish past the nail itself and strip the paint off a ’57 Chevy.

If you’re wearing a wedding ring, take it off before taking a whiz…but don’t forget to put it back on when you get back to the bar.  Otherwise, your motives will be suspect.

I only want clean hands, not an experience that might well leave me hairless on the backs of my skinless hands.

Beware Product Development is out there and working on a better and more powerful hand dryer.

God bless you, and good luck.

After The Party


I wasn’t that hungry to begin with.

Blame it on the oppressive heat and humidity in the city that evening.  Blame it on the seven block walk to our favorite Ramen place on 28th Street.  Or, best of all, blame it on the viral bronchial whatever I pick up in late June.  I just didn’t feel like eating, but we went anyway.  I coughed all the way to dinner and all the way back.  I coughed at night, all through the day and in the morning…especially in the morning.  I’m coughing as I write this.

I felt like I was burning up with a fever, but the thermometer kept reporting I was hovering around 98.2.  That’s a raging fever in my book, for me.  My “normal” body temperature is 97.7.

Funny thing, our thermometer.  I ordered it to reveal my real fever…I yelled and cursed the little plastic thing into telling the truth.

“Please,” I begged, “justify my misery.”

We walked back to our hotel after I forced half a bowl of Japanese Pork Fried Rice.  As we approached Herald Square, we encountered a thousand partiers filling the small wedge of a park in front of JCP and Macy’s.  We had to cross the street.  To me it seemed all the sweating young women and men were wearing some kind of green glowing headbands and waving radioactive plastic wands.

I thought I was having an LSD flashback, until I remembered that I never took LSD.

Mariam said: “Oh, so New York and so good to be young.”

I said: “I want to go home and lay down.”

[I just turned 68, you know.  All those “chicks” who bothered to glance my way probably had that nagging, guilty feeling that they should make that call to grandpa they’ve been putting off.]

I made a few moves on my ongoing Scrabble games and I tried to read the book I had hauled along.  Buy I couldn’t keep my eye lids open.  I took a hit from my bottle of Robitussin and fell immediately fell asleep.  Mariam had to turn my reading light off.

Then, for the second morning, I woke gagging and coughing.  I was coughing up phlegm that had the color of certain appetizers you get at most Mexican restaurants.  It alarmed me to think that something so vulgar could reside inside my body…especially so near my mouth.

It was 5:16 am.  I was determined that my hacking and gagging was not going to keep Mariam from sleeping in a little that morning.

I got dressed.  I was going over to Herald Square and find a bench and read (and cough) and not disturb my wife.  She was awake, of course, and begged me not to go because she said it was not a safe thing to do.  I pulled back the shade and looked down to Broadway.  People were moving about.  Getting Starbucks.  Buying the Times.  Going to work.

I told her I would leave my iPhone on and that I’d be “right down there”.  I was gone before she could say anymore.

When I got to Herald Square, I found the park where I planned to find the shade and quiet to read, was gated and locked for the night.  I walked over to the public space in front of Macy’s Main entrance.  Here is where the Rockettes kicked their legs on Thanksgiving.  This is where the parade ended.  This was where Matt Lauer sits and describes the floats of Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson.  This is where the high school marching bands would do their last rendition of “New York, New York”.  This was the culmination of a year of fund-raising at Council Bluffs, Iowa.  These kids would never forget their day in the parade.

But, I digress.

All the partying Yuppies were gone.  They had left the streets littered with the leftovers of their fun and were now fast asleep in shared apartments in Chelsea, Astoria or Bay Ridge.

I found a small metal table and chair in the shade of the rising sun.  It was going to be as hot as hades that day.  I looked around and then opened my book.  I read a few lines.  I closed the book and looked around again.

My focus had changed.  I was not seeing empty cans on the pavement.  I was seeing the real leftovers of the night.  The place was littered with sleeping people.  The homeless had pulled the cheap metal chairs together and were sleeping the light sleep that requires you to be aware of any danger…

A woman was bent over a table.  Who was she?  There was a big guy taking up three chairs.  Was he a father?

I looked at a family of tourists strolling past Macy’s, the parent’s intent on keeping the children from seeing the sleeping homeless.  I thought of the glamour and styles and perfumes and jewelry that were just beyond the plate-glass window.

Soon, the crews would arrive to hose down the streets and make the place sparkle for the tourists.  The police have already poked at a few of the sleepers.  Where would they go?

I sat for two hours until I felt Mariam had rested before I walked back to the hotel.

I had an air-conditioned room and a clean bed to nap on.

The people I left behind had no place to relieve themselves.

When I watch the next Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade…I’ll be thankful, you can be sure of that.  The images of those lost and forgotten people will stay with me for a very long time.




My Search For The Mythic Buns Of The Woman’s Shoe Salon in Macy’s

Princess Leia Bun

This whole situation started because the front pockets of my jacket zip down instead of up.  This may seem like a small matter but it is not a good thing because it can make it easier to lose such things as Metro Cards, iPhones, keys, hotel key card, reading glasses, sunglasses, pens and notebooks.

Things I keep in the front pockets of my jacket.

So, I did what anyone in this neighborhood would do…I went to Macy’s to look for a jacket that had proper pockets.  The escalator took me to the second floor and I stepped off in the middle of the Woman’s Shoe Salon.  How could I know that the next few seconds would change my immediate future and put me  on a quest for a woman with the most interesting buns I have ever seen.

I first saw her as I was standing next to a single display of a Cut-out Booty with Wedge Heel.  I wasn’t here to shop for a Caged Heel With Open Mesh Fronts, Salvatore Ferragamo or a Low Heeled Mule by Manolo Blahnik (although the Leopard Print Cork Sandals did have some interesting features).

I was really looking for a jacket to solve my zipper problem.  I needed to find Men’s Outerwear.  I was thinking of a Barbour jacket…after all, my birthday was coming up.

Instead, she walked into my life and just as quickly, walked out.  Does that make for a simply passing encounter or was there something more mystical going on here?  I prefer the latter because she appeared and vanished leaving a deep and lasting impression with me.  That puts it into the mystical category in the notebook that I keep in life.

Sometimes the most extraordinary experiences can happen in the most ordinary of places…even a Shoe Salon.  Perhaps the stars were aligned in a correct way, or the waxing gibbous moon over the City carried a spell…or maybe it was the blankets of yellow tulips that covered the flower beds of Central Park and floral pots on every block.

Whatever it was, something fell into an order and set in motion a series of events that can cause a man to question his sanity, moral standards, and logic and simply leaving him questioning whether his heartbeats were visible to the public through his fleece vest and the jacket with the wrong zippers.

It happened to me on the last day of April, 2015.

This woman’s destiny is to haunt my nights, alter my daydreams and question if I was the only human to actually see her.  Actually, I wasn’t the only one to see her because I saw her stop to answer a customer’s question.  I noticed a lanyard around her neck with a plastic card attached.

She must work here!

She answered the question with a few finger gestures to direct the customer to what she wanted.  Then she vanished behind a wall…you know, the place in a shoe store where the clerk will say:

“I think I can find that in another color, just give me a minute.”  Then the clerk goes behind some wall and returns with the correct box.  But, this lady was no clerk.  She was a manager of some kind.  You can always determine this fact by watching how fast managers walk.

The woman didn’t reappear.  I stood against a column.  I looked to the right and saw six marble stairs that led to the Men’s Outerwear Department.

I was torn.  Wait or look for the jacket with the big pockets?  I reached (with difficulty) in my pocket and gripped my iPhone.  If she reappeared, I was going to do one of two things.  Snap a candid from the hip without her knowing it, or politely approach her and ask permission if I could take her photo.

By now, you are wondering what it was about this woman who so fascinated me.  Well, the answer is really quite simple.  It was her buns.

Now, those of you who think they know me are expecting me to make this some kind of lame joke about tushes.  Shame on you!  That’s not where this is going at all.

It was, you see, her hair.

I admit to being attracted to some hair styles.  Being Irish, red and curly is high on my list.  But this woman had two buns over each ear that made one think of an Art Nouveau goddess.  You simply do not see women in “real life” wearing their hair in such a fashion.  Along with her ankle length dress, she looked like she had stepped out of a silent movie or a work of art.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that the closest comparison I can give you is the style worn by Princess Leia in “Star Wars”.  But her’s were black and somehow unreal.  The woman I had seen…her hair was not golden, not copper…but somewhere in the spectrum between. (I think each bun sparkled slightly, but I wouldn’t give my good word on it.)

Again, she was real (?) and not on her way to a costume party.  I may never again see such a coif in my life.

I pulled out my iPhone and pushed the button for the Camera mode.  Then I realized that a man holding a camera in a woman’s Shoe Salon (wearing a jacket with odd front zippers on the pockets) might alarm Security.

I gave it up and went up the six marble steps to Men’s Outerwear.  There I found a Barbour with a price tag of $399.00 (plus tax).  It had the best pockets I’ve ever seen, but quite out of my price range.

Another dream shattered.  I’ll never own a Barbour.  And, I’ll most likely never see the woman with the beautiful buns again.  But, I don’t give up easily.  I put the Barbour back on the rack and went back toward the escalator in the Woman’s Shoe Salon.  I looked around again.

She wasn’t there.

But that didn’t stop me from going back for the next four days and having a look.

Cartoon Buns style