Walking up the hill to 116th to help friend Beth catch a cab to LaGuardia, a little girl - maybe 10 years old? - came up to me, sobs in her voice, "Have you seen a boy in a white shirt and a baseball cap?"
Well, yeah, I'd seen hundreds of 'em, just not in the last few minutes. "No, what's wrong, sweetie?"
"He's my brother and I saw him across the street and he's supposed to take me home, but now he's gone!" She didn't break down in tears, but she was on the verge.
In the meantime, Beth and I were keenly aware that we needed to get Beth into a cab and off to the airport. Everything that passed us was either "Off Duty" (yeah) or occupied. Drat. And yet, we really needed to help this poor child. (Besides being just a naturally nice person, Beth is a priest. No pressure to be nice, though.)
We kept going round in circles with the little girl's story, so finally we suggested she call her mom and ask what to do. Quickly. I didn't have my phone with me, but Beth was able to rummage around in her bag for hers.
Well, the circles continued as the little girl went over and over the story to her mother. Goodness knows what the mom was saying on the other end.
Finally - brutally aware of precious airport minutes ticking away - Beth suggested that the girl and her mom come to some decision because she needed to leave. (Nice only lasts so long when you need to catch a plane. Even for a priest.) After several more minutes on the phone-roundabout, first Beth, then I took the phone to help work out a solution.
The girl kept talking about the 125th St. station and the B and C trains. I couldn't make her understand that the #6 train just across the way would get her to 125th (next stop), then she could get the train she needed. I told her mom that I would make sure she got on the #6 going to 125th, where her mom was going to meet her.
"Does she know where you're going to be?" I asked her mother.
"Yes, she knows where she should be," assured the mom. The little girl didn't look so sure to me.
Beth and I walked her to the subway stop, and I pointed the way
"It only goes uptown and 125th is the very next stop," I kept saying, "Then ask one of the subway attendants to help."
I felt bad - I didn't have my MetroCard with me, had no money for a fare, and had Bailey on her leash, so I couldn't escort the little girl personally. It would've been weird to take her back to my apartment to drop off Bailey and get some money. Aaargh! Such a dilemma!
Last I saw of her, she was going down the subway steps.
We finally found airport transportation for Beth, and she headed for LaGuardia and I headed for home.
But I'm still worried about the little girl. Did she get to 125th? What happened then? Did her mom find her? I can only trust that she asked one of the MTA folks to help her (she didn't seem shy).
But I wonder. And worry.