It started with a simple mistake anyone could have made. I left my keys on my bed before I left my house. At 4 pm, I left for yoga, went through my class, then out to Washington Heights for a New Year's Eve party, and got all the way back to Brooklyn at 3:30 in the morning only to discover that my keys were neither jangling in my pocket, nor were they anywhere in my gym bag.
The roommates were out cold after their revelries at another New Year's Eve affair, neither answering the phone nor the doorbell. I called other friends and none answered while I waited 15, 20 minutes. Curiously, I did not think to call my home in the suburbs and ask my sister, Kaitlin, to come get me: I guess I assumed she'd be just as asleep and unresponsive as everybody else, and farther away at that.
I stopped in at a local deli and asked a customer if he knew any hotels or motels in the area. He wished me the best of luck: he was staying at one nearby, but it was $250 for the night, being New Year's Eve. There was no way I'd be doing that.
I began considering just waiting it out until the morning. Find some all-night diner to crash in, read a book over an early breakfast, and wait until a proper hour to begin ringing every doorbell in my brownstone till someone let me in.
I found a late-night coffee shop with a few counters, but it was more of a take-out joint than a restaurant: my body was starting to give out and asking for a bed.
I saw a cop car on the corner and flagged it down, asking the cops if they knew any low-cost hotels or motels. They said the Y was right around the corner.
The Y! My mother had stayed at the Y when she was going to school. I'd heard about it as a place to stay, but not for years. My sister's first question when she heard I'd stayed there was "Were there a lot of skeezy people there?" Another person asked, "Do the homeless stay there?"
Well, I guess if a homeless guy can pay the $68 for the night, he can stay there too. I arrived there at 4:30 am, and the clerk told me I was lucky there were two rooms available: the place was nearly full from New Year's visitors. I got my own room with a twin bed, with two towels,and a bureau. It was a room made for a comfortable night's sleep and an exit: it reminded me of Jake & Elwood Blues' apartment, the one Carrie Fisher blew up with the rocket launcher. Cozy and perfect for an emergency crash. I got six hours sleep and got ready to check out.
As I washed up and left, tons of young people and tourists were in line at the bathrooms and the lobby. A trio from China stood ahead of me on the checkout line: I suppose some have realized the Y is a smart way to save money on coming to NY to celebrate New Year's. A kind of international hostel that no one really thinks about anymore.
Walking home, the wind was the only thing breaking the silence: I wouldn't have been surprised to see a tumbleweed rolling on the road. No cars, closed stores, and just a few pedestrians stumbling down the sidewalks, hopefully on their way home.
I got home, rang the doorbell for our 3rd floor apartment, and waited.
No answer. Fear. I rang again. Counted 15 seconds. No answer. Rang again. Waited. Nothing. Doubt coming in: maybe they can't hear the doorbell from their bedrooms?
I started ringing all three apartments: there had to be someone awake and able to hear it. 1st floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor. Waited 15 seconds. Not a sound from inside. Rang all three again. Nothing. I had no idea what to do.
And then I heard a sound, and a young Asian man opened the door and squinted at me in confusion.
I was ready to be whoever the hell he needed me to be... The man was a houseguest who'd stayed with my roomies after their party and slept right next to the doorbell, luckily for me.
When my roommates later woke up and heard my story, they expressed their sympathy and apologized for not being there for me earlier. However, the more I think about it, I'm not at all angry about what happened, nor did I see it as suffering. I had a good place to lay my head, and good cops who led me there.
In the end, the Village People were telling me the gospel truth all along:
"No man does it all by himself
I said, young man, put your pride on the shelf
And just go there, to the Y.M.C.A.
I'm sure they can help you today."
Amen, brothers. Amen.