My friends at the Red Cross asked for my help when the MTA went on strike. So I showed up at the frigid base of the Brooklyn Bridge for yesterday’s “commute” home, as Brooklynites streamed back into the borough after their first full day of no trains or buses. (There were also quite a few folks going the other way, heading into Manhattan at that late hour. Tourists, I guess.) We set up three tables at the end of the pedestrian walkway, each one loaded with drink Cambros, and from about 3:30-8:30 P.M. (with about seven other volunteers), I handed out hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies to the throngs.
The Red Cross sent over an ERV to deliver and prepare the hot drinks, and stepping inside almost gave me flashbacks. Clearly, a transit strike isn’t a disaster (at least not one on the scale of a Hurricane Katrina), but it was great to be able to do folks a mitzvah, to ease their trip home. It was also a kick to don the vest and ID again, to be part of something.
After all my experiences in Mississippi, it was almost surreal to be doing similar stuff right here in my hometown. It was also nice to work with local volunteers, to be reminded that there are other New Yorkers in the Red Cross — and that they’re just as eccentric and irascible as the rest of us. Mainly, it brought back that incredible sense of wellbeing that only comes from giving something away. When you’re out there, distributing free food, you get visions of another (less complicated) world, a society where people just get what they need, no money exchanged, no questions asked. Paradise.
It being the first day of the strike, a sense of adventure was in the air, and even though people were tired and freezing, they were almost uniformly upbeat. I got more smiles and looks in the eye, more genuine expressions of thanks, more actual personal exchanges, than I normally collect in a year. Plus I spotted four friends, including deuxchiens and her man Doug.