Wow, I hadn’t seen my old friend since college, literally the previous century. And yet here we were trying to catch up on all those years, sitting at a too-noisy-table in a restaurant called Croton, on 40th Street (between 6th and Broadway), downtown Manhattan. Through the awesome power of Facebook we found ourselves in the same city at the same time. And so here we were.
As it turns out, we had a lot to talk about. While we both were members of the college Biology Society (of which I had been President my senior year), his focus was pre-med and mine was marine biology. After graduation we went our separate ways and lost touch, as unfortunately had happened with virtually everyone I knew in those pre-email and pre-Facebook days. My marine biology career started well, then literally went up in flames (and yes, I mean literally, more on that later). I went on to environmental consulting; getting paid to tell companies what they often didn’t want to hear. In retrospect, all rather pedestrian and relatively uneventful. My friend, on the other hand, had had a very exciting – perhaps too exciting – life.
Initial medical training in Granada, two years in England, then Columbia and eventually his own practice in New Jersey specializing in infectious diseases. An appropriate specialty given his own medical battles – first a liver transplant, then a kidney, and constant hormonal maintenance to avoid future complications. As I listened I was both impressed by the positive attitude he maintained despite his trials and tribulations, and thankful that my life has been as unremarkable as I had always lamented it to have been.
We reminisced for a long time in the restaurant, then continued in the lobby of my hotel next door. Eventually we realized it was getting late and he left to reclaim his car near Bryant Park (appropriately, at Nikola Tesla Corner). It wasn’t until the next day that I found out “reclaim his car” was more than just a convenient turn of phrase. A late season snow had surprised the city overnight, and posted on Facebook was an inside-looking-out photo captioned “Never thought I would ever be in the back of a NYCity police car at 11:00 at night. A first and hopefully it will never happen again.” Seems our extended discussion was just long enough for his car to have been towed for exceeding the parking limit. A tense few hours (and couple of hundred dollars) later, he was on his way home; an unexpected end to an otherwise great reunion.
Hopefully we won’t wait quite as many decades before we get together again. I know we’ll be more careful where we park.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.