Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I was pretty jazzed. Tonight I was going to experience yet another perk of working at a publishing house. Our mass market division published Thomas Harris's book, The Silence of the Lambs, and it was about to be released at the box office. The phones were crazy. That was not a perk. Since I worked in publicity, every nut who called got sent through to our office. For two nights they were having free screenings of the movie. I was going tonight. Unfortunately, it looked like rain. That was not good news. I had my umbrella, but I was really hoping that it would not be raining at the end of the screening. If it was raining in the daytime, you had a 15% chance of catching a cab. Those were not good odds. If it was raining after dark, it was pretty much impossible. I was living in Queens, and the thought of riding the subway, by myself, was not appealing. My roommate, Jen, had just gone through a very scary nighttime subway ride when she worked late. Then there was the 20 minute walk home that alternately went through good and bad neighborhoods. Again, not a problem in daylight, and with friends. It was a scary prospect alone at night.

We had to take the subway uptown to get to the screening room. The building was just across from the subway drop. How convenient. It still hadn't rained, but I could smell it. I had a feeling of foreboding. I had never been to a screening room and had no idea what to expect. There were only eight or so of us attending. The room was a room. It was the size of a large office or bedroom. 14x14 maybe? One wall was entirely screen for the movie and there were two rows of fold up chairs. No matter where you sat, it felt like you were right on top of the screen. I had never been so close to a large screen. Ever. Had I read the book before walking into the room, I would have turned around and walked out. No one wants to be that close to the action in that movie.

I left the screening room on legs that felt like jello. My head was filled with white noise. I walked outside and it was pouring. Cabs were speeding by like they were on a Nascar speedway. None of them even slowed down. Of course, I didn't expect they would. It was raining. I debated huddling in the doorway of the building until it stopped. I decided that was as dangerous as riding the damn subway. I still did it for about five minutes. The rain didn't slow down even a little. I gave up and crossed the street, went down the steps, and stood there with the half dozen other people waiting for the train. That is why I don't like the subway at night. Six people. What if the wrong train comes first and four get on and I am left with a serial nutcase? I've just watched Silence of the Freaking Lambs. Everyone is a nutcase until they prove that they aren't. I don't even own pepper spray. Who lives in New York City and doesn't carry pepper spray at all times? There are people out there wanting to bite your face off or skin you alive. You have to be prepared.

Turns out the train came and no one bit me or skinned me. I made it all the way to Queens and my stop without anyone talking to me. I pulled out my book and pretended to read. Usually, I actually read, but I was too tightly wound to absorb anything. Reading is a fantastic way to keep people from approaching you. If you are just sitting there looking at nothing, that is an invitation for conversation. At least the wackos think so. You should always carry a book or some form of reading material. I was trying to figure out how to carry a book and pepper spray at the same time. I am not very coordinated. I would probably accidentally pepper spray myself by accident when turning the page. That would sting.

Then came the walk home. This was actually the most perilous part of the whole trip. Queens, like Manhattan, has good blocks and bad blocks. You can be on a wonderful block and walk one more block and realize that you have walked straight into hell. It's true. In Manhattan, I don't know where all of the hell blocks are, and it becomes a question of backing up and trying another way or carrying on, and hoping that in a block or two, you are back in the good blocks. It's always a tough call. Well, there is no choice about it in Queens. If I want to get home, I have to go through a couple of bad blocks to get home. Period. I always look very alert and walk fast. Most days, it is just fast walking and looking like I belong. Of course, that is all a bunch of horse hockey because I totally look like a fish out of water. But, it is in the attitude. I did use the good sense God gave me to hold my keys in my right hand so that the keys poked through my fingers. I thought if I did get one good jab, it would be to the eye, or at least to the face, and it would hurt. However, I was still lamenting my lack of pepper spray, because you could use that from a safe distance.

Never have I been so happy to reach my apartment front door. And, to this day, I have never read the book The Silence of the Lambs. The movie was as much pain as I could tolerate. The irony is that the movie screening was free, but it actually cost me a great deal. I suppose my Economics teacher in high school was right: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Or in this case, a free movie.


  1. Great story! More than a snapshot, Robin. Really felt that trip home with you. It can be a scary place. I, too, worked in NYC for a few years. Whenever I caught a cab from the airport, I told the cabbie where I was going and then read a book to emphasize that I wasn't a tourist. I believed that told him I wouldn't tolerate a "long-way" trip. So your book reference made me chuckle. Books may be more protection in New York than pepper spray ever was. Loved this post.

  2. Saw the movie...would NEVER read the book, or repeat the movie or anything like it. I can imagine what that walk home must have felt like...

  3. What an amazing story. I haven't read the book, but I have seen the movie. ::shudders:: So I completely understand what you're saying here. Completely. :)

  4. Oh Robin, you wrote this so well! I could just imagine exactly how you felt. Can totally picture you slamming the door behind you and collapsing on the nearest couch in relief that you were home safe and sound! I am a complete wimp when it comes to scary movies but honestly, reading scary books I have found to be even worse because my imagination is WAY too active. At least in movies, I can try and find some fluke to focus on - like if they accidently catch sight of a camera or boom mic in a shot. That beings said, I NEVER want to see that movie!

  5. You told this story very well Robin!! I thought I was actually reading a novel!

  6. WOW!!! Well done my friend!!!

  7. lol, I watched that movie a few years back about the zodiac killer and I went to a late movie...It was 10 to midnight or so...I didn't think it had gotten to me but When I walked into the parking lot there were only like three or four cars adn all I could hear was the clack clack clack of my shoes on the pavement. I haven't been that freaked after a movie ever.
    Love the picture...great dress! Glad you weren't bitten and skinned.


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