The bar mitzvah ceremony was held at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, and the reception was at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens a bit up the road. There is certainly a great deal to see and know in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Heights, on a fine sunny Saturday morning, is beautiful to behold, filled with streets of well-maintained brownstones and well-stocked delis.
To get to the bar mitzvah from my parents house in New Jersey, I took an early morning train to Penn Station, from where I had instructions to catch the 2 or 3 subway. Bafflingly, this being New York on a weekend morning, the number 1 train was leaving from the 2/3 platform, and the number 2 and 3 trains were leaving from the number 1 platform. I can't imagine why this would be necessary, or how I was expected to know this.
Ok, there were some paper flyers posted, saying something about express trains leaving from the local track, but if you are not a NYC resident you have no way of mapping "local/express" to "train 1/train 2/3". In fact, based on the subway map, I figured that the 2/3 was the local/express distinction, so the flyers made no sense to me since the 2 and 3 trains leave from the same platform. After watching several 1 trains go by on the platform clearly labeled 2/3, and watching a couple of 2 trains go by across the tracks on the platform clearly labeled 1, I began to suspect something was up. There were a few other people in the same boat as me, by the way, who did not get on the trains and looked baffled.
I left the platform to find an official, whom I overheard telling somebody else about the platform switch. In addition to the well-hidden official talking quietly, there was a ragged homeless woman sitting on the ground against the wall, loudly chanting "Take the number 2 train from the number 1 platform for *today*. Take the number 2 train from the number 1 platform for *today*." The words she was speaking were the absolute truth, clear and comprehensible, with no distracting buzzwords about "local" and "express".
If only I had noticed and paid mind to this woman on my way to the platforms I could have saved myself twenty minutes. What a lesson for me. In Christian terms, she was the equivalent of Jesus coming to my door disguised as a beggar. In metaphor terms, she was the embodiment of violated preconceptions. She was my Valuable Life Lesson.
I with I'd thought to give her some money, but I was rushing across the station to catch a train.