I spent much of Saturday in Van Cortlandt Park watching my boys compete in one of the largest cross-country meets in the world. Over 12,000 kids ran the venerable 2.5 mile course, a course my grandfather competed on in the 1920's. Van Cordlandt Park is located in the Bronx, that big bad borough of New York City just north of Manhattan.
I faced a number of hazards on this junket, the first of which involved traffic and parking. My husband, a native New Yorker, switches from mild mannered chauffeur to crazed taxi driver the moment we cross the metropolitan border. Trust me; you do not want to be in the vehicle when he's driving on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Arriving (safely) at our destination, the next trial was finding a parking spot. We found one several blocks away, technically illegal but we took a chance we wouldn't be towed, and we weren't.
Wanting to avoid the porta-potties in the park, we ducked into a Burger King to use the restrooms. The place was packed with kids who'd already run, and there was a long line outside the ladies room. Clutching my bottle of Purell, I got on line and hoped for the best. Public bathrooms are high on the list of places I try to avoid.
We entered the park and quickly saw that without mobile devices, we wouldn't find our sons' team. How did people manage to locate each other in the olden days? Before we could find them, we had to walk over to the train station to meet our daughter who'd caught a ride from school to New York the night before. 242nd Street is the last stop on the #1 Train, and the subway line is elevated in this neighborhood, perched high above the busy thoroughfare below. We spent the next half hour waiting for Mariel, waves of humanity washing over us. Normally (and idiotically, I might add), I try to refrain from inhaling in crowds. This became harder to do as more and more people swirled around us.
Mariel finally arrived, and we got some slices at the pizza place below the station. Subway stop pizza is notoriously good. We ate standing outside, but if we were (still) real New Yorkers, we would've walked while eating. Remember John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever?"
We hung out in the park for the next few hours waiting for the races to go off. The sun is my enemy so I had to apply sunscreen before venturing out of the shade to watch my sons run. The area near the finish line was packed with people. I had no choice but to become one with the sea of strangers, not something I should be doing, but that's where I found myself.
I was exposed to thousands of people, a mother lode of microbes. This was the biggest test my babyish immune system has faced so far, on par with a one-year old toddling around at rush hour in Grand Central Station. I appear to be unscathed.
Please don't mention this to my oncologist.