A couple of days ago I read that the lead singer of Roxette, Marie Fredriksson, had died. I wasn’t much of a Roxette fan, truth be told. But I knew of them. Reading about Fredriksson’s death didn’t tug at my heartstrings, but it did trigger a memory. And it’s a doozy…
About a jillion years ago – in the 90s – I was a flight attendant on a layover in New York. Our crew arrived at a Manhattan hotel late on a Saturday night. While checking in, I looked across the lobby and spotted another arriving flight crew. One of their flight attendants had gone through training with me and I was tickled pink to see her. Anne and I hadn’t seen one another for a few years and after our happy hugs and greetings, we agreed to get our asses to our rooms, change and meet in the lobby in a few minutes.
It was summer so the New York night was warm and electric. Anne and I walked to a bar and had a drink while catching up. Then we had another drink and caught up some more. Before we knew what was happening, the bar was closing. We weren’t yet ready to part, so when we encountered a hansom cab outside the bar we gave a listen to the driver’s pitch. He was really pushing for a sale and when he offered to drive us around for an hour for $25 and a stop for beer, we took him up on it.
His name was Eli and he was as amused by us as we were of him. Now would be a good time for me to tell you an important detail about that night. I was speaking in a Cockney accent. At least I think that’s what it sounded like. Why? I have no idea. From the moment we encountered Eli on the street outside the bar, my voice went Cockney and that was that. Once I’d gotten going with the ruse, I kind of felt like I had to keep at it. So for the entirety of that carriage ride, I was a Cockney. Go figure.
Eli was a man of his word, so he stopped right away for a couple of tall boys at a liquor store while Anne and I waited in the hansom cab. He dashed out and our tour commenced. He led us through Central Park and pointed out various sights along the way. The few times we passed other carriages, Eli addressed each driver by name. He was darling. At one point, we were passing a dark and busy street corner in the city. There were several ladies of the evening standing about and Eli pointed them out to us, saying they were “working girls.” In my most pitiful and astonished Cockney accent I asked, “Eli, do you mean to say they’re prostitutes?” He laughed and said, “Yeah. That’s right. Man! I just love that accent of yours!” Anne and I nearly cracked our ribs from laughter. The entire carriage ride was a hoot. It lasted two hours and at its end Eli dropped us off at our hotel. We thanked him for the awesome tour and fine company and went inside. It was pretty late in the night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective), so Anne and I hugged and said our farewells before going to our respective rooms and crashing. Hard.
The next morning, Sunday, I wasn’t able to sleep in as much as I would have liked after such a boisterous evening, as I had an appointment in the city. As it happened, my mother-in-law was also in Manhattan that weekend and she had invited me to join her and a friend for brunch. I was hungover and dragging, but I was also a poor flight attendant. So a free meal wasn’t going to be denied. (And come on – I didn’t get to see the MIL very often. Of course I was gonna go.) I put on the nicest clothes I had with me: short black boots, a black vest and a denim mini-skirt with a tattered hem. Oh – and sunglasses, because, you know, the night before. I went downstairs and asked a doorman how to get where I was going and I took off.
When I arrived at the friggin’ Waldorf Astoria, I walked into the dining room to meet the MIL and her buddy. The “captain” of the facilities came over to me right away and said, “We do not allow denim in the Waldorf dining area!” Before I could even blink, I looked across the way and saw my MIL. She was dressed to the nines, I tell ya. She looked fabulous. With a lowered, bedraggled voice, I said to the captain, “Actually – I’m here to meet these ladies” and I gestured in my MIL’s direction. The captain looked over, then said, “But of course.” I went over, greeted my MIL and sat with her and her friend at their table. They were drinking champagne and I would have liked to have joined them. But as I was due to work that day and not allowed to drink within 12 hours of reporting for duty, I abstained. Plus – the hangover and all. I mean, I never once took off my sunglasses.
After a few minutes of catching up at the table, the three of us got up and went to the buffet. Can I just tell you something? The Waldorf Astoria buffet was the most extraordinary I have ever seen. It was beautiful, decadent and delicious. Of all the free meals I’ve been privileged to consume, that one may be at the top of my list. But I digress… With my full plate in hand, I began walking back to our table. After only a few steps, the captain appeared at my side. He reached for my plate, took it from my hands and leaned close to me and whispered, “I am so sorry I did not recognize you earlier. Please forgive me.” I whispered back, “No problem.” He carried my plate to the table, asked if we needed anything else, and left us to our brunching. I never knew who I was thought to be.
The fantastic brunch ended, I thanked my MIL for the eats and said my goodbyes. As it was a nice day and I felt I needed to walk off some of the hang, I didn’t take the subway. I pushed myself to stay in the sun and took my time moseying back to the hotel. When I got there, I went straight to the elevator and entered a vacant lift. Just as the doors were about to slide closed, a woman and her daughter stepped in. The girl appeared to be about 10 or so. She looked up at me, with my very Mikki-attire, sunglasses and spiky blonde hair (Did I forget to tell you I had spiky platinum hair? I did.), and she nearly lost it. She was visibly excited and pulling on her mother’s hand. Her mom leaned down and I heard the little girl whisper “Roxette!” I fought back a smile. The elevator stopped at my floor, I stepped off, turned to look at the girl and flashed her a peace sign. She actually squealed with delight. The elevator doors closed and I went to my room to ready for my work shift. My hangover lingered, but I swear – it was lessened by the encounter with that little girl.
No – I wasn’t a Roxette fan, nor am I now. But on that day, in that elevator in New York, I was. It must have been love, but it’s over now. Godspeed Marie Fredriksson. Thank you for one of the fondest memories in my satchel.