26 February 2012

Second Best Story, Ever

I don’t like hospitals. But then Jim reminds me that Mt Sinai Hotel & Spa is a place of healing, rather than a place of torture. It’s always a welcome reminder, and a few days ago I had the chance to experience a stranger's success story in person.

I was standing in the lobby, waiting for my friend. It was a busy afternoon, and people were rushing around everywhere. On all sides of me patients were pouring out of elevators, as revolving doors spat out one puffy parka after another. Medical personnel, surgical masks hanging around their necks, whizzed by clutching midday caffeine. 

Amongst the throngs, I noticed one man standing still. I’d happened to glance over at an elevator just as it unloaded it contents; a Shriners’ busload of passengers.  As they flew off in different directions, this man stayed where he was, standing just outside the elevator doors. He was short fellow with a thatch of thick white hair and wore a retirees uniform of beige windbreaker, button down shirt, and baggy chinos that were clean and ironed. His hands were in his pockets. I guessed he was Irish, and if he hadn’t look so tired he could have been an elf. But he was slightly stooped over and appeared a little lost. His large eyes, which were clear and blue, scanned the crowd slowly.

Following his gaze, I noticed a tall woman rushing across the floor. Her smart green hat perfectly matched her coat, and she carried a handbag.  She looked worried, as though she may be late, and I took her to be his wife. It was she who he was waiting for, and when he saw the green hat move through the sea of plainer hats his face softened, and he stood up a little taller. They were about twenty feet apart when their eyes finally locked, and as she worked her way through the crowd he started to smile. Unable to contain himself, his smile broadened, and as his face split wide open a thousand laugh lines formed around his eyes and he took his hands out of his pockets, extended both arms, and held up his thumbs with such vigour that I thought that lightning would fly across the room.

The lady in the green hat paused and cupped her hands over her mouth. With one more step she threw her arms around the little man and pulled him close. Laughing, he gazed up at her, sharing happy details. She looked down at him adoringly, pulling him even closer, and buried her face in his hair. He leaned into her chest, his arms around her waist, hands clasped tightly behind her back.

My friend kissed me on the cheek and I turned to greet her. When I looked for the couple they'd left, and the spot where they’d clung together had already been taken over. But at that moment I knew two things. Firstly, the couple, wherever they went, were heading towards something splendid. I knew that for certain. Secondly, (and more selfishly), their memory is mine to summon forever. There will be bad days at Mount Sinai, and I have many more appointments ahead. But for days that are less than perfect, there will always be a small blue-eyed man standing by the elevator, waiting to share some good news, with lightening flying out of his fingers.


  1. How beautiful.

  2. ...and herein lies a silver lining. thank you for sharing, now it is my memory too.