12:15, Thursday morning. I should be asleep by now. I have to rise at 5:10 to get ready and leave the house by 7:00, to drive to New Haven in time to catch the 9:28, so I can arrive in Manhattan in time for an afternoon of meetings, starting at Noon.
This is an experiment. I want to see if I can manage a one-day trip to NYC on business without wearing myself out. But, of course, I can’t sleep, too preoccupied with whether I’ve selected the right outfit for the predicted mix of rain and possible thunderstorms and 70-degree temperatures. If I dress too warmly to ward off dampness, I’ll end up sweating and getting chilled. And if I wear something too lightweight, I’ll freeze, especially if the office has turned on the AC.
When I wake after a meager four hours of sleep, I review the fiber content of the outfit I’ve chosen—a white sweater top that is a mix of silk and cotton, an ivory crocheted cotton cardigan and black wool crepe pants—okay, I’m good. Comfortable and professional, made from natural fibers that won’t trap perspiration, with loose layers to allow plenty of air circulation.
Next step, hands. The night before, I cut all my bandages and dressings to be sure I could take care of my finger ulcers in five minutes instead of the usual twenty. It’s absolutely essential to cover every possible skin crack when I travel, but if I feel pressured by time, I can get sloppy and have to redo the dressings. With everything ready, I relax and neatly prepare my fingers for the long day ahead.
As I do my stretching exercises and get dressed, I rethink my plan for my laptop and decide to shift it from a carrying case to the center zipped compartment of my large purse. The laptop is lightweight, and I don’t want to fumble with extra stuff to carry when I make purchases. I test the arrangement. The purse is roomy enough for easy wallet retrieval, even with the laptop, and remains securely over my shoulder. Check.
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast—need to be sure I have enough protein in my system to stay awake for the two-hour drive ahead—I head out the door. Only 10 minutes behind schedule. Okay so far.
That is, until it starts raining. Not just raining, pouring. And there’s fog, too. I pull over at a rest stop on the Mass Pike to check traffic around Hartford on my cell phone. I have to drive around the city during rush hour on my way to New Haven. There are two ways to go, and I select the one with the least congestion.
This plan works until I get closer to Hartford and find myself crawling at 11 mph on Route 84. Should have left earlier, but no use getting upset now. Nothing to do but sit out the traffic jam. I decide to catch the next train, if need be, and let my clients know I’ll be a half-hour late. I am not going to run through the station and risk getting winded from what my physicians think is exercise-induced pulmonary hypertension. I had a recent, unnerving episode, and I don’t want to push it.
Once the traffic eases and I get onto 91S, I drive as fast as I can without exceeding the speed limit by too wide a margin. More traffic back-up on the exit ramp to New Haven’s Union Station, but, miraculously, I find a space in the parking garage just one level up. There’s a covered walkway to the station, and the restroom is right down the hall, conveniently located for a quick pit stop. Time, 9:12.
Okay, now I just have to buy my ticket and find the train. Only a few people in line at the counter. Ticket in wallet, I walk briskly to the gate, up a long flight of stairs. The train is waiting. Plenty of seats, still. I settle down, take off my raincoat and catch my breath. Made it! Seven minutes later, we pull away from the station.
By the time we reach Grand Central, all traces of rain are gone. I switch to sunglasses as I climb out of the Union Square subway station. People stroll and hustle in shirtsleeves, shorts, flip-flops. Pink crabapples abound. Somewhere, someone is making a loud May Day speech about workers’ rights. Delivery trucks battle for curbside parking. A siren wails down another block. The air smells of car exhaust and felafel and fresh doughnuts. I unzip my raincoat, slip my collapsable umbrella into my purse and head toward West 17th Street. It’s going to be a good day.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.