Actual Captain America Chris Evans

They say you should never meet your heroes.

But that wasn’t something I was thinking about when I clocked out for lunch, ran for the elevator yelling a breathy something about “stalking my celebrity crush,” and sprinted due east across Prince street.

In fact, I had another mantra rattling around in my skull.

Do not puke on Chris Evans.

Something I thought I would never think. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Chris Evans.

I’ve been a Captain America fan since the first movie came out.

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Halloween, 2012

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Cap 2 premiere, 2014

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Halloween, 2015

Me on an average afternoon.

Just an average afternoon… Like you think I need a reason to show off my Marvel/Evans pride.

Anyone who knows me knows this. I usually mention something about this within a five minute conversation. Talk to me for ten minutes, and you’ll know all my favorite ships. Another five, and sorry friend, I may have just spoiled Avengers 3 for you, because I have theories and of course they are correct.

For some reference, this is how excited I was to see a replica of his shield in New Orleans.

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New Orleans, 2012

A replica of his shield.

Forget about the idea of being nearby clothing that had touched him…

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Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N., New York City, 2015 (my second visit), note my manic expression.

And let’s not forget that one time, in Spain, when I followed a child down a few city blocks even though he was walking away from the parade I had set out to see.

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Cadiz (I think), 2013

That’s a normal thing to do, right?

And I suppose it’s also normal to follow Chris Evans fanblogs for news and, of course, photos.

At 11:30pm on Thursday night, I was scrolling through my dash when I happened on a post. An anonymous commenter wrote: “Jealous of New York fans. He’s doing a meet a greet.”

I’m a New York fan. What? What does meet-and-greet signify? What does it mean?

It meant, apparently, skipping out on lunch at 11:15am Friday morning and sprinting towards SoHo.

And reminding myself, Do not puke on Chris Evans.

Of course there was a line, and of course it was agony to wait. Time seemed to slow. I thought of Einstein. To make matters worse, the security guards came out and told us no. Then they told us maybe, then yes, only to tell us no yet again. We made friends in line, bonding over the stress and the almost-secret optimism we hardly dared admit even to ourselves.

The line

I’m somewhere in this line, somewhere near the back. Photo from Samsung.

It’s always nice meeting people at these events, because they tend to have so much in common. A girl who shared the same name as me admitted that she was feeling a bit queasy herself.

Eventually, we made our plea to the guards. A girl dressed up as Black Widow from the second Cap movie was speaking in hushed tones to one of the bouncer-types, I was crossing fingers and toes, and then it was all happening. We funneled down yet another set of lines, but this time we had a specific destination in sight.

It was all too soon that we were standing a few paces away. I snapped photos like a maniac, but I’m not a good photographer and too much adrenalin makes my hands shake.

The view from the line

So close yet so far!

 

“I’m gonna hug him,” the other Sarah told me as I held my phone in shaking hands.

“No, I can’t,” I said, clutching arms to knees in a bout of emotion. “Nooooo I can’t, I can’t.”

What is it about attractive celebrities that turns us all into hormonal pre-teens with limbs that are suddenly too long and nervous energy that turns into octopus-like flailing? (Or is that just me?)

The publicist put her hands on my shoulders and guided me into position like a horse in a starting gate. Did she know how dizzy I was, that I felt like I might faint? Another employee took my bag, and then I turned around.

“Hello,” my voice said. I was talking. Words were coming out of my mouth. “I’m Sara. So nice to meet you.”

It was weird, because it was my voice. When I met Emerson Spartz back in Cincinnati in the mid 2000s, I had tried to get a book signed for my friend. I forgot the alphabet. Not like I couldn’t remember if J came before or after K, but more that I forgot what that letter with a line and a dot above it is called. I squeaked like a goose. My voice cracked.

But here I was, talking in coherent sentences to Chris Evans, the guy I had dressed up as Halloween basically three years running. I followed a blog that once mathematically calculated his shoulder-to-wasit ratio.

I think we shook hands. In fact, I will choose to remember it as we shook hands. He had a broad palm. It’s a weird description, so it must be real.

“Thanks so much for doing this,” I was saying. I meant to thank him for everything: for the movies, for somehow being this weird guiding force for some of the craziest years of my life. For somehow being a rock or a tether or a moral compass. What had I joked about saying to him, only hours before to my coworker?

I had to tell myself: don’t you dare Rosalee Futch this up.

“Your films will time and test themselves.” Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, 2004

The face that I did not want Chris Evans to make when I attempted to talk to him. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, 2004

No, but here I was, talking, with the words all in order and everything.

The weirdest thing was, while I was talking, he was looking at me.

It had been a whirlwind of waiting in line, of staring hopefully, of watching him have this same interaction over and over. I didn’t expect it to be special. I didn’t expect anyone’s lives to change or hallelujah angels to descend from the ceiling.

I’ve seen celebrity meet and greets: the distracted stars, the way they flick their eyes away, the faces they make at their publicists. At the end of the day, it’s a business transaction, and it feels like that.

But dang, could this boy make eye contact.

Now, I realize this man in an actor, but if he was acting, I was buying every second of it. The carefully peaked eyebrows, the lips pressed together: it was like he was actually listening to me.

Regardless of whatever fantasized connection I thought we were having, I reminded myself to be respectful of his time and just lean in for the photo.

Cameras flashed. Photos were taken. His hand rested on my shoulder. I could feel his hand, but I couldn’t feel my face. I hope I smiled.

Actual Photographic Proof that I Met Christopher Robert Evans

I smiled… at the wrong camera.

 

When we stepped apart, I looked up at him.

“Thanks,” I was saying again. And then. And then. “Can I get a hug?”

He stopped pressing his lips together in polite concentration and his face broke into that smile, the same one that had the other Sarah in line calling him a “goob.”

“Of course!”

In my life, I have had a few extraordinary hugs.

The hug with my high school crush in the winter of my freshman year of college, even though it was through two layers of winter coats (one mine, one his), will always rank as the most sexual hug I have ever experienced, even if that chemistry was one-sided.

When my sister and I parted ways from Cincinnati (to to LA, me to NY), that was the sweetest hug I’ve ever shared, the sort of hug that you remember when you’re lonely because it reminds you that somewhere, someone cares about you.

But the hug with Chris Evans… I’ve never felt more secure. Of course he’s strong, and his shoulders are broad, and he’s tall. (I will not answer other questions regarding his musculature, even weirdly worded ones from my roommate that went along the lines of: “Was he hard?”)

I’ve had a few extraordinary hugs, and this one definitely makes the list.

Immediately after the encounter and the hug, Sarah and I were screaming at each other. More flailing ensued. I was starting to feel like a particularly deflated air dancer at a car sale.

Air dancers

What we all looked like after meeting Chris Evans.

He must have known, have caught me giggling and snapping photos of him as I backed away, tripping over my feet in the process.

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He blinks a lot, apparently…

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And this is when he figured out I was taking photos of him. Oops.

There’s a reason at other celebrity events they put up drapes and make you put your phone away. I’m not a good photographer. But these photos mean so much to me, because they remind me how kind and compassionate and respectful Mr. Evans is of his fans.

If I had to describe his overall demeanor when meeting me with one word, I would say: gentle. Like he knew how fragile and ridiculously-important those five seconds were to me. Like he was trying everything in his power to live up to whatever fantasy I had constructed in his head.

“He really is,” Sarah and I were saying to each other as we danced around in line. “He really is him.”

Actual Captain America Chris Evans.”

 

 

They say never meet your heroes, but clearly “they” have not been picking their heroes right.


Thank you to Samsung Studios for hosting this event; to Medha for encouraging me to go; to my roommates who had to deal with me picking out an outfit at midnight on a Thursday night; to my supervisor who let me leave early; and to my favorite actor for making this moment so special for me.

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Gary the Mouse

The joke, in advance, is that I’m Giselle from Enchanted. Of all the Disney princesses I could have been — maybe Belle, since I work in a bookstore? Or Megara, because when I put my hair in a ponytail it does that floofy thing?

But no, I am Giselle, because I attract all varieties of vermin.

Me, apparently?

The cockroach was a solid no. As much as it was sort of cute the way he tried to run across my feet… I’m sorry, Mr. Roach, but no, you had to go.

Gary the Mouse has a significantly higher cuteness score. He has dark brown eyes and furry little whiskers and scampers with cute little pink feet.

But Gary the Mouse has some personal space issues. And I mean real boundary issues. Gary the Mouse and I first officially met in our restroom, while I was attempting to shower. Suddenly, I understood why Naked and Afraid was a television show, and after a few unladylike words, I spent the next two minutes texting from a perch on top of my ottoman, clutching my phone.

(Note to self: look into why my fear response instead of fight-or-flight has become find-iPhone. What do I think I’m going to do, call the police? Take a photo? This is problematic at best.)

I have since purchased an Ikea “gosig mus” and recreated the scene. No mice were harmed in the making of this picture.

Gary the Mouse II

Since then, Gary has been attempting to respect my boundaries. For example, when I saw him peeking out from under my refrigerator and sternly said, “Gary, no!” he disappeared back underneath into the black pit which, I am certain, is crammed with oatmeal bars and stray chocolate chips. The roommates and I have sworn to try to find his nest, but we have been too afraid to start poking around.

While I write this message, Gary is getting his evening exercise by running laps around our living room couch. He has to keep in shape because he is a fast li’l guy, something I learned after I had caught him a box and he escaped faster than I could close it.

Here’s the strange part: Gary the Mouse and I practically have a common-law marriage, but none of my other roommates have seen him. He specifically targets me. What do I do that attracts vermin?

The other day at work, a customer threw a credit card at me. Yesterday, I was informed by a businessman that I needed to “go find someone who actually knows what they’re doing.”

I guess it’s my job as a pseudo-Disney princess to just smile and shrug it off — and convince my cashiers not to leap over the counter with a box-cutter to defend my honor. (Thank you for the offer, though.)

At the end of the day, I have to just laugh about my silly little life, whiskers and all. And, of course, I have to keep hoping that Gary knows the bedroom is off limits… at least until he buys me dinner.


(If I disappear from posting on here, it’s not because of Gary. I am, in fact, trying to write a novel! I just hit 25,000 words. Exciting!)

The Universe is a Magic School Bus book

The Universe is a Magic School Bus book.

That is to say, yes, I do believe that I have the power to decode messages from the Universe.

(Example: Nick Jonas is coming near my place of business. I am working at that job on that day. Thus, the Universe says I should marry Nick Jonas.)

But as of late, I’ve been receiving lots of advice from lots of different people. Very different people. And they all are saying the same thing.

At a work conference on children’s literature, a publisher pulled up images of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Successful authors and editors told me how they started out working minimum wage at bookstores and eating their earnings away each lunch break.

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They spoke of the fear, of the terror, of the moments of not knowing and trying new things and hoping for the best.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of soaking my ears full with Jeremy Jordan. (I realize this sounds creepy. There’s literally no other way of describing it. It was an immersive experience. There are few performers that sound better live. He is one of them.)

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Between breaks for “apple juice” and jokes about his gay single friends, Jeremy Jordan lectured us all on the importance of taking risks.

Life is giving me the ol’ Ms. Frizzle.

Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!

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I don’t know when I stopped listening to these wise words. While I can’t say my apartment is pristine, I go on cleaning binges that involve several different appliances and a few shorted fuses.

When did I get so frightened of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy?

In other words, when did I become Arnold?

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Because let’s be real, I’m not spending 110% of my paychecks (yes, plural, as in from my two jobs) on rent to live in the center of West Village because I like the view from inside my closet of a room.

I’m here for running into David Burtka and maybe Lady Gaga, for the late-night ice cream runs and the accidental beer deliveries.

I’m here for the Halloween parades and the express trains.

I believe the Universe is telling me things. Twice now, I have proof of a higher power. I was running for a subway car when suddenly, with a powerful chime, the doors opened. Just for me. Twice.

So I suppose it’s about time for me to make the most of my field trip and become the Magic School Bus character I was destined to be.

Carlos.

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Because Carlos knows that you have to try a few times and fail a few times. Because maybe I tell ten jokes.

And maybe I’m hoping that just one of those terrible jokes works. Even if it doesn’t, though, I have to realize that my odds have to look up one day and things have to work out, even if no pun in ten did.

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(images borrowed from Google due to the fact that (1) the Magic School Bus is not real (yet) and (2) Jeremy Jordan did not allow photography sadface)

The 12 Customers You Will Meet When Working Retail


According to my new employee handbook, I have to begin this blog by saying that my opinions, as described in the following blog post, are in no way expressions of my employer nor do I claim to speak about specific customers, managers, or other individuals.

That being said.

I’ll just say that I’m currently working two jobs, and in my long and lustrous retail career, I’ve had enough experiences that I feel there’s sufficient anonymity. Every day I interact with over 250 customers, so I am in no way singling out any single one. Unless you asked for it.

Also, I’m a bit of an expert.

So, without further ado, I present unto you: the 12 customers you will meet when working retail.

(Photos stolen courtesy of shutter stock for ultimate privacy.)


Number 1: The Tourist

1. The Tourist: I am very sorry that I do not know where your hotel is. Aside from that, I will enjoy every time you say “cheers” and commiserate with you over the fact that our coins make no sense and here we swipe cards because we aren’t fancy like you guys with your pin-and-chip-and-fish cards. In other news, it is ironic that you are British and complaining to me about taxes. I realize we sell tea. Please do not throw it anywhere.

Number 2: The Casanova

2. The Casanova: Apparently winking is an appropriate response to anything. “Have a nice day!” Wink. “Would you like your receipt in the bag?” Wink. “Do you need a gift receipt?” Wink. I seriously wonder if these gentleman — and they are by and large male — all have serious eye twitch inducing conditions.

  • (I’m not going to name any names, but I feel this is a necessary addendum: to the lovely fellow purchasing the playboy who requested a female cashier: no, my necklace is from Kay Jewelers. It is not a key to a pair of handcuffs and if it were, I would not be wearing it around my neck during work.)

Number 3: The Person-Animal-or-Mineral

3. The Person-Animal-or-Mineral: What are you cooing at behind the desk? I can’t see. Small child? Dog? I’ll just nod and say that he’s very cute and hope that I’m not too far off.

Number 4: The Payday

5. The Payday: If you give me a $100-bill for that Fiji water, there is a 1 in 5 chance that I will completely miscount your change. Up to you. And you’re the fourth person today.

Number 5: The Awkward Turtler

6. The Awkward Turtler: You are twelve. You do not want to buy Fifty Shades of Grey, and you are clearly aware by that awkward look.

Number 6: The Rejected

7. The Rejected: It is my unfortunately task to inform you that your card got declined. I’m afraid you’ll have to pay for your stack of books on dealing with marital infidelity using a different mode. Do you have any cash on you?

Number 7: The Casanova II

7. The Casanova II: No, I’m not a model. No, the other cashiers are not models. I also have been standing here for six hours and those gargling noises you are hearing are my stomach. So be advised: even if I titter at you behind my hands, I’m actually considering punching you. Also, my feet really hurt.

Number 8: The Hottie Lottery

8. The Hottie Lottery: Hello there, sir, did you find everything alright? No? Well, here’s my phone number. I’m so glad that you came to my register. No, I didn’t rush the other transaction so you wouldn’t be called to register 4, what are you talking about.

Number 9: The Questioner

9. The Questioner: I am very sorry that I have to say this, but I feel compelled to inform you: when I ask you, “Did you find everything alright?” it is not acceptable to respond, “Did you find everything alright?” Even if you think it’s cute. Even if you’re purchasing a religious book and are implying that I need to find Jesus.

  • (Note: if English isn’t your first language and you think I’m asking about your day or the weather, that’s completely fine. Honestly, I’m impressed you can understand me at all since I have to talk at approximately 100wpm to keep the line down.)

Number 10: The Celebrity

10. The Celebrity: This is a bookstore. You do not need to wear sunglasses in here. It’s four in the afternoon on a Tuesday. There is no way you are hungover, and if you are, I suggest you rethink your life choices.

Number 11: The Regular

11. The Regular: Yes, this is my first day. (Sort of. Not really.) Yes, I’m sorry that you know the steps I have to do much faster than I do. Please be patient with me. I understand you’re in a hurry. I’m trying. Also, my feet hurt.

Number 12: The Selfie

12. The Selfie: I realize that you want to document the fact that you’re making a purchase. I’m proud of you also. But it really looks like you’re taking a photo of me, and that’s seriously freaking me out. Also, can you please sign this top copy for me?

Thank you. Have a nice day.

Zombiefication

The pigeon is back. And he brought a friend.

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I like to imagine that he’s bringing home a special someone, his pigeon beau. And I’m the terrifying in-law this new pigeon has to impress.

Flockers2

I have to admit, upon seeing these two birds perched on my sill, I promptly began filming a Snapchat video, narrating my encounter like an Australian guide. (Sadly, I can’t do accents.)

The last time I saw my pigeon, I was searching desperately for work. Now, I have not one but two jobs.

I’m not the type of person to cannonball into the deep end. I’m the shuddering idiot in the shallow end, standing on tiptoes on the third step.

When I signed on for an internship, I thought was would wade slowly into a job. I knew it would be hard — the hours of taking orders, the time spent sitting, the overall shock of having my personal time cut down to scant hours between dinner and sleep.

Two days a week would be a way to acclimate myself.

Now I’m working practically seven days a week at two different jobs. On my day off, I did laundry and went grocery shopping.

When people try to have conversations with me, I’ve started making dying cow noises, and not just in the morning.

So maybe part of me is proud that, interpersonal issues aside, I’m surviving. A little Hyperbole and a Half logic.

Allie Brosh just gets me. Also, check out her blog. It’s amazing.

How much longer until I hit “system failure?” Today I got home from work, watched an episode of Doctor Who, and then proceeded to cook dinner, clean up dinner, vacuum my apartment, and balance my digital checkbook.

I have the self-deprecating stories from work, but I just don’t have the time to tell them.

Hopefully I’ll slowly adjust, like maybe training for a marathon. Does this mean I can consume more calories? But for now, I just feel like a zombie, dragging my feet and groaning at people.

Forming coherent sentences is exhausting.

I will say this: two hours on register, and a pre-teen already asked to purchase Fifty Shades of Grey. At my other job, I learned how to use the copier today but was still thwarted by my voicemail.

But I still haven’t gotten to the important questions. Like when can I take books from my internship. And for my retail job, what’s the music situation??

Reading and words, words, words

In college, as I tucked two literature degrees under my belt, I taught myself to live like I had an attention deficit disorder.

It began with music — I could make it through Henry James and Simone de Beauvoir in three hours if I had some Glee tracks playing in the background. I learned to skim, skipping my blue Bic pen over passages and scribbling hasty stars in the margins.

(I would bring up those passages in class, the three lines of the three hundred pages that I read closely.)

Then as I picked up more classes, it escalated. I could make it through Anna Karenina before dinner if I’m flicking my eyes every other page to a trashy reality TV show. I don’t really have to listen to The Bachelor and the predictability will help me keep pace, two pages a minute, like a coxswain.

Now the only deadline I have for reading comes from a library, and getting an extension is as easy as clicking the “renew” button.

But I have to re-learn how to read, and by read I mean read, soak in every word, picture the doilies and flowery couch-covers in my mind.

Learning to read again is like trying to re-learn how to breathe, and I’m getting pins and needles from all the oxygen.

It’s been so long that I didn’t know what I wanted to read, so I trawled the best-seller lists until I had to scroll through my active holds on the library website and my temporary bookshelf — the top of my standing closet – was precariously piled with paperbacks and hardcovers.

A selection of the books I plan to kidnap from the library. And by kidnap I mean legally take out using a library card. Don't worry.

A selection of the books I plan to kidnap from the library. And by kidnap I mean legally take out using a library card. Don’t worry.

Books. I missed books, and I miss them in my apartment. I had an interview at a bookstore today and I showed up ten minutes early so I run my fingertips along the sharp edges of the pages and the waxy paperback covers. Books.

Books. A photo I stole from the internet. I was browsing and it was just so tempting… wow, I really am a bibliophile, aren’t I…

I have been saying in interview after interview that I just love books and I love reading so much – and I have been interviewing and applying and studying that I forgot how true it was.

I cried my eyes out with John Green, and I probably will again with Rainbow Rowell. The book makes my heart ache. There are lines that I want to underline, or star, or highlight. I want to give back to the book.

Sometimes I have to close the book and close my eyes, letting a particular word or phrase sink in. I’ve tried snapchatting, quoting, anything to make that sentence last for longer than it takes my eyes to skim over it.

I want to take some sentences out for tea, and chat them up, and stare at every conjunction and article that makes them so beautiful.

And now I sound like a total dork, trying to undress a sentence with my eyes.

I’ve been reading for hours today, sprawled across my bed in different positions depending on how dramatic the section is, shifting to get comfortable. I feel like a kid again, asking for 15 minutes of reading time before lights out.

I got so excited I took selfies and made a scrapbook to memorialize my return to reading. (Actually, my roommate downloaded the app and I wanted to play with it. It was fun! Would recommend.)

I got so excited I took selfies and made a scrapbook to memorialize my return to reading. (Actually, my roommate downloaded the app and I wanted to play with it. It was fun! Would recommend.)

I’m falling back in love with reading the way that these authors describe falling in love. I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours…

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In two days, I have to take this book and throw it into a metal slot that will, ostensibly, chuck the book into a pile of other abandoned books where it will sit in the dark until someone comes to take it away.

I want to hold Eleanor & Park under my pillow at night. I want to have it in my bookshelf for whenever I’m craving the snarky humor, the way it all rings so true. 

I want to watch Eleanor and Park fall in love over and over again, rewinding and replaying over forever.

I already want to re-read this book and I haven’t even finished it for a first time. 

One day I’m going to have a library with all the books I’ve ever loved. You’ll see my on TV. On A&E. On Hoarders. I’m going to end up Hoarders, aren’t I…

More internet photos. I wish it were mine…

Pocket Guide to New York

My family has an entire room of guide books for all the countries we’ve been to, on business trips and study abroad and the odd vacation. Ironically enough, it’s the guest room.

Since my sister came to visit me this past weekend, I’ve been thinking about how other people would see New York like in on of those fancy Eyewitness pocket guide books.

I’m fairly certain this is how everyone else thinks about New York:

 Eye1ed

 

And after living here for almost a full two months, this is how I see the same city:

Eye2ed

 

I recognize that’s an oversimplification. French bulldogs aren’t the only dog I see, even if they are the most popular.

But a lifetime of watching and reading pseudo-anthropology texts — think The Nanny Diaries, or perhaps the ever-popular Bones – and I want to write a study of the human behavior in New York.

Eye3

Now I understand this would take a lot more research than the experience I’ve garnered in the fraction of a year I’ve been getting lost around here. (At least now I finally know where Tribeca is, and I’ve overshot my subway stop enough times to know when I need to go uptown or downtown.)

And for anyone who has read my blog, you know my fascination with travel etiquette, which could easily be a two-page spread at the very least.

Eye4

 

And this coming from the girl that got peer-pressured into reading a book on the Sunday evening Keystone because an attractive beardly stranger next to her was reading. (I wanted to look cultured. And it worked out, because Rainbow Rowell is a genius and I think I’ve having an epic romance with the book just like the characters are with each other.)

So while I may not be an expert, I’ve been provided (solicited) advice. To the group of Frenchmen who came over to me on the subway platform and asked about how to get to 14th Street: je t’en prie. And I just had to do like five minutes of research on About.com for that, and hell if I could pronounce that. I’m fairly certain I just ordered a wheel of cheese.

Clearly my French is not the best. It’s mostly cobbled together phrases from Lady Marmalade and that one cool hip French song I have on my iPod (Elle Me Dite). So when a good-looking man approached me on the subway platform and, leaning bodily across me, demonstrated his desired train path, I was concerned. He had hair like Mackelmore and wore a suit like he was in a Gucci ad.

I promised him that either train would suffice.

Les deux?” he asked.

“Yes, the two and the one,” I replied. Wait. Was he saying “the two” or was he saying “both?”

Les deux,” he repeated. I gave him a thumbs up.

A moment later, another stranger appeared.

“Hey, do you know what’s going on with the trains?” he asked.

In fact I did. They were not running, they were late, they were overall struggling. Which is my forté.

“I’m heading to West 4th,” he said.

“That’s where I’m going,” I said. Sort of a lie — I was heading to the nearby station, I explained, and could point him.

“Cool,” he said. “Then I’m going to follow you. But not in a weird way.”

I wondered if there was another way.

Meanwhile, a train was pulling into the station and all of us — me, the lost boy, and the Frenchmen — clambered on board.

They all glanced at me, and the man’s friend came over and muttered something.

Ça va…” said the first stranger, a dark mutter. “Ça va.”

Maybe that’s not what they were saying, considering it’s the one phrase I actually know. But I like the idea of attractive, club-ready dressed Frenchmen muttering “ça va” at me in the subway station. The man winked at me. I gave him a thumbs up, and we boarded the train.

I imagine they were saying: man, we’re screwed. This girl clearly knows nothing. Well, what can we do? Let’s go with it. (I have some sort of idea that ça va is an all-purpose phrase, a French YOLO if you will.)

Of course, I began to panic when the doors closed. What if the train did something weird, like go express? So many lives were in my hands. Is this how heart surgeons feel??

When the train pulled into their stop, I beamed. The boy followed me out at my stop and I pointed him down towards his stop.

“You’re a f*cking sweetheart,” he said, pressing the palms of his hands together as if in prayer, bowing over them. “You know that? A f*ckin’ sweetheart.”

I nodded, unsure of what to say. Did I bow back? Clasp my hands in return?

“Stay safe,” he said. Because clearly a girl who goes around talking to strangers in New York at 1am does not have the common sense to stay safe without said strangers telling her.

I’m not sure how this story would factor into my pocket guide. Perhaps a warning, or a promise: no matter how lost and confused you feel, there are over 8 million people. Chances are, someone is more lost and confused than you are. Maybe that shouldn’t make me feel better, but it sort of does.

Also, bonus points: in the city that never sleeps, you can be basically guaranteed 24-hour access to Belgian waffles dipped in chocolate. And that makes everything better.