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Nina In New York: A ‘Pay It Forward’ Moment, Brought To You By The Number 11

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(credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

Happy 11.11.11, not to mention Veterans Day.

Is this supposed to be a good luck day or something? Like the opposite of Friday the 13th? As such, I will tell you a story about a bit of random kindness I received last night.

My friends and I had just finished a couple of rounds of dirty martinis (which are filled with olive juice, for those who don’t share my hobbies), along with a series of outrageously over-salted plates of food. We left feeling extremely thirsty and bloated. We joked that our fingers would be so swollen that we’d need to cut our rings off with wire cutters come evening, and Clare was convinced she was going to die an untimely death due to massive kidney failure in her sleep. Jane, unable to walk home with her swollen feet in her very lovely heels, opted to hop in a taxi, while Clare and I decided to attempt a little aerobic activity to counteract the water weight which was already beginning to expand in our midsections.

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As we passed Columbus Circle, Clare decided we should stop at a nearby newsstand to buy the largest bottles of water we could find. She grabbed one for herself and handed me another, which I showed to the proprietor. He said it would be five dollars, I handed him a bill and we continued on our way.

We’d gotten ten to fifteen feet away when we heard a faint voice calling, “girls!” We looked at each other, then behind us at the newsstand, where we saw the owner leaning out and beckoning us back.

My initial thought was: he didn’t understand that I was buying two bottles, and it’s actually five dollars for one. He’s going to be mad and think we tried to stiff him, and then I’m going to get all annoyed because it’s not my fault, and also $10 for two liters of water is insane.

But when we got back to the stand, he simply said, “Wait, I’ll give you something.” Then he looked at me, turned around to carefully consider the magazine rack behind him, and then finally plucked out an issue of Marie Claire and slid it across the counter to me. Then he turned his gaze to Clare and did the same, this time selecting an issue of Lucky for her.

And that was it. We thanked him, incredibly excited and surprised, and he smiled and silently waved us off. We talked about it the whole way home and determined three things:

a) People can be pretty great, and more specifically, New York can be the best.

b) We would make for a halfway decent reality show.

c) He’d chosen too well for her, and she’d already read that issue of Lucky and we had to switch. But I made her promise to switch back so I could read the magazine specifically chosen for me.

Epilogue: I was able to slip my ring on and off my finger with ease this morning, but my jeans were another story.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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