“Oh no,” my husband said as he stared into his phone.
“What? What happened?” I asked.
“I just got a crazy email from someone at Rudy’s Bar.”
“Rudy’s Bar?,” I pondered, “Isn’t that on Ninth Avenue with the giant pig statue in front?”
“Yes,” he grinned.
Oh boy, our plane just touched the ground at JFK-I hadn’t even unhooked my seatbelt and already I could feel the inevitable wrap its fingers around my rib cage. This sounded suspiciously like Nanny.
“What does it say?” I asked.
“It says, ‘Your friend Nanny is here with me at Rudy’s Bar and wants you to call him at Jane’s house.'”
A burst of sound escaped both my nostrils and mouth at the same time. The combination made a bizarre guffaw. Our son looked at me with concern.
“It’s ok sweetie, Mama’s ok,” I regained my normal breathing pattern, “it’s just we’re in NYC for only one week and apparently Nanny caught wind of our schedule. I wonder how that happened?” I gave my husband the old one eye.
I knew how it happened. I’m sure he and Nanny had a six-minute champagne fueled conversation on New Year’s Eve when off the cuff, he told Nanny the potential dates of our NYC visit. I’m sure they never spoke again after that and even though Nanny refuses to use modern technology, he somehow jotted down those dates, somehow got them to his secretary and somehow secured passage across the pond from England to New York. He didn’t tell us he was coming, he didn’t even know for sure we would be there, and he certainly didn’t know if we had a place to stay. This is how Nanny rolls.
Six years ago I would have been beside myself if my husband had let this happen, but now? Well, now I have a soft spot for our dear Nanny, even though I KNEW he would have no place to stay and ask to sleep on the floor of whatever accommodations we had procured. I’ve shared bizarrely close quarters with Nanny over the years: England, San Francisco, Tahoe, Paris, New York. It sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? Trust me-it’s not. A typical example looks like this-
Imagine a romantic, postage stamp sized apartment in Paris-rive droit-with a slender sleeper sofa to offer a yoga mat’s amount of space to rest your head. Imagine a bathroom designed in an era when no one was allowed, by law, to be taller than Napoleon. Then imagine all six foot four of a white haired, English Nanny squeeze himself in there for a week along with myself, my husband and our eighteen-month old.
“Who’s Jane?” I asked.
“I think he means the Jane Hotel.”
I chuckled. I envisioned the poor soul Nanny coerced to send this email for him. They were probably so confused they jotted away as fast as they could until he left them alone and went off to Jane’s house already.
As part of England’s crustier upper class, Nanny has a way of convincing people they should simply just do what he says. The great irony of his financial and social position is a miserly quality I have never seen the likes of before. While he owns companies, flats, and horses, he WILL NOT purchase an international plan for his mobile phone-whose model was created around 2001. He would rather wander around town with an address and a large, paper map and utilize the underused resource of people in pubs than give Orange Mobile one more penny than it deserves.
We arrived on a Monday. Husband and son decided to scoot away on Tuesday to leave me alone in my fair city to spin around in the streets like Mary Tyler Moore. It was a day I had looked forward to for months. I spritzed on some perfume to match my ‘gal out on the town’ attitude and reached for my bag when my phone rang.
718 677 4472
Hmmmmm. I don’t know who that is, I paused.
As a general rule, I never answer an unrecognizable phone number, but by the fourth ring, instinct told me I should grab it.
A slight female voice with a heavy Chinese accent chirped out from the other end, “Uh, hi, yes, please hold for your friend, uh, Nanny…”
“HALLLoooo!” Nanny bellowed into the phone.
“Nanny! Who was that?”
“Oh, never mind. Now, Elizabeth, where are you?”
“I’m in New York!”
“Right then. Where’s your husband? Why didn’t he call Jane? I had someone send him a message to instruct him to call Jane.”
“Yes, Nanny. He did call Jane-twice, in fact. He spoke to bartenders and bellhops. No one under your name had checked in. I’ve sent the boys off to Connecticut for the night, they’ll be back tomorrow.”
“What? You sent your son off with him? Well, he’s the whole reason I’ve come to town. Oh well, never mind then, you and I get on much better on our own anyway, don’t we? Meet me at Big Nick’s for a burger then? Half an hour.”
“Nanny. I can’t meet you until five, I’ll be on the east side until at least four-thirty.”
My precious New York evening evaporated like a thought bubble stuck with a pin.
“Well, alright then. There’s no sense in my meeting you over there. I’ll see you at Nick’s at five-thirty to be on the safe side. Bye!”
I didn’t arrive at Big Nick’s until six o’clock. It’s so easy to underestimate how long it really takes to get from Park to Broadway. I found Nanny’s six foot four frame bolstering up Nick’s tiny doorway. He wore a tense look as if in the midst of a complicated algorithm to determine the next best candidate to lend him their mobile phone.
“Nanny!” I waved, “I’m so sorry I’m late.”
“Well! I’ve had to have my burger without you,” he said miffed.
From head to waist, he looked smashing: combed hair, button down shirt and a tweed sports coat. Below the waist, his jeans had giant holes in each leg to expose his knee caps-his zipper was undone. The corner of an entire paper towel hung out of his open fly.
“Nanny. You have a paper towel coming out of your open pants.”
“Oh go on then!” he shouted perturbed as he quickly saw to the matter, “Oh the inner lining of these pockets is torn to shreds. What?” he smiled, “You know I collect paper towels wherever I can when I travel, that’s how I met your husband after all-taking loo rolls from the Norfolk hotel. He thought I was up to no good, but when we were out on safari I became his best mate when he remembered I had those loo rolls. You just never know when you might need a paper towel…oh never mind, never mind, come on now, where are we going?”
Thus began the next six days of Nanny on our friend’s pull out sofa. He dyed the Easter eggs, carried our son on his shoulders, and prepared canapes.
When we told friends he’d come to be our English butler, he said, “Oh, no no no. I’m only a footman. I know my station.”
If you’re REALLY looking for something to do-there are more Nanny stories below: