the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills


“Would you mind switching with me?” asked the well-dressed gentleman sitting directly behind me.  I had just boarded the plane at LAX.  “They mistakenly put my wife next to you.” he continued, smiling at the elegant woman to my right.  “Of course,” I said, always eager to help a married couple so clearly in love.  We switched seats, and I sat behind the gentleman.  Within five minutes of taking off, the man leaned his seat all the way back, blocking most of the space needed for my long legs.

“Some thanks” I mumbled to myself.

I bought these tickets at the last moment, so I had no choice but to switch planes at Dulles.  Once we got to Washington, there was a delay and we had to circle the airport for fifteen minutes.  I was getting nervous about missing my connection. 

As we started our descent, a flight attendant made an announcement on the loudspeaker, “There is one passenger who needs to connect to a flight to JFK.  Could you please raise your hand?”

I meekly put up my hand.  The flight attendant pointed me out and the rest of the plane looked in my direction.

“When we arrive at the gate,” she continued, “would everyone be kind enough to stay in their seats and let this passenger exit the plane first?”

“How nice.” I thought.

The plane landed.  The moment the seat belt sign went off, everyone completely ignored the previous announcement and stood to get their luggage from the overhead bins.  I was trapped in my seat.

The flight attendant spoke into her microphone again, this time with a bit more emphasis, “Could everyone please return to their seats and let the passenger who needs to make his flight to JFK deplane first?”
The grouchy passengers grumbled as I made my way down the center aisle.  I weaved my way past the obstacle course of opened bins, luggage in the aisle, and dirty looks, I heard a wife complain to her husband, “Why didn’t he take a STRAIGHT-THROUGH flight like everyone else rather than make us all wait?!”  It was apparent that the other passengers really didn’t give a damn whether or not I made my flight.  Not only that, they wished me DEAD for making them wait ten seconds.

Now I have several wonderful blogging friends in the Washington D.C. area, so I’m not going to make any generalizations about the residents of our nation’s capital. 

And to be honest, my arrival in New York was just as unfriendly.

Once at JFK, I wheeled my suitcase to the taxi stand.  There was a long line of cabs waiting to pick up tourists for the $45 trip to Manhattan.  Some unlucky cabbie got stuck with me — a local fare staying in Queens.

For most of my trip home, I had to endure this cabbie’s dramatic monologue, which consisted of “F***k, F***k, F***k, I waited for twenty f**king minutes for this s**t!” said over and over.

I finally made it home and overtipped the cabbie out of guilt.  He zoomed off without a thank you. 

I stood in front of my familiar old apartment building, but I didn’t feel any joy.  Instead, the trip had just made me depressed. 

I thought of that gentleman who shoved his seat in my face as a thank you for my switching rows with him.  I remembered the callous passengers on the flight to Dulles, so selfish they couldn’t wait a few seconds to let me off the plane.  I saw the face of the disgruntled New York cabbie, who ruined my welcome home with his obscenities and hateful stares.  Is this humanity?  Is this the best we can do?  People suck!  I could feel any empathy for the human race drain out of my body, like the sweat does when I’m in the San Fernando Valley in August.

I entered my apartment building.  The elevator was waiting and I got inright away.  As the elevator door was about to close, I heard a voice calling out, “Hold it!”  I quickly pushed the “Door Open” button, and a hefty man jumped inside the elevator.

“Thank you, kind sir,” he said.

This hefty man was a odd looking guy.  He was at least 65 years old.  He had thick white hair, a long white beard, retro Ben Franklin glasses, and extremely red cheeks, almost like sugar plums.  When he laughed, he did this hardy “Ho Ho Ho” that sounded a bit fake, but at the same time it was very endearing.  He said his name was Nick. I never saw him before, so I assumed he was a new resident in the apartment building.

“Did you just fly in?” he asked.


“What did you fly on?”

“Jet Blue.”

“You name yours Jet Blue?”

“Huh?  It’s an airline.”

“Oh, yeah, I should try one of those some day.  Can’t be any worst than listening to Rudolph and Prancer argue all night about their “alternative lifestyle.””

This strange man was making me nervous. 

“Do you… uh… live here?”  I stammered.

“Oh, no.  I came here to see you, Neilochka.”

“Me?!  How do you know my name?!”

“Oh, that.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I see you when you’re sleeping.  I see you when you’re awake.”

I started reaching for my cellphone to call 911. 

“You’ve been a very good boy this year, Neil.” he said, smiling.  “Well… except maybe for you, uh, “decorating your Christmas tree” a little too often in the morning when you wake up.  But hey, even I send out the Mrs. for some gingerbread cookies when I want some alone time.”

“Who the hell are you?”  I demanded.

He laughed his oddball “Ho Ho Ho.” 

“It sounds like you’ve had a terrible trip to New York, my friend.  And you’re beginning to doubt the good in humanity.”

“Is this elevator broken?”

I started pushing buttons at  random. 

“Life can be harsh.” he continued in his deep voice.  “Many lose hope at this time of the year.  They grow depressed as the days get darker and nights get colder.”

 “Well, thanks, but I have my Prozac for that.  I’m going to call the police now for help.  I think we’re stuck.”

“Neilochka, you are stuck, but not in the way you are thinking.   You are stuck because you are not seeing the joy of life.”

“What joy?”

“Ah… what if there was a way you could find this joy of life again and help others as well… help others see what is wonderful with the world…”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.  Maybe you should move to Los Angeles.  You can make millions giving New Age seminars.  What do you want from ME?”

“Here’s what I want, Neil.  Have you ever thought about hosting a Holiday Concert on your blog, where other bloggers spread the joy by sending in holiday music and songs they recorded themselves?”

“Host a Holiday Concert?  Me?  But I’m Jewish!”

“So am I, Neilochka…” said Nick.  “So am I.”



  1. Mist 1

    I know that cab driver. He said the same thing to me one night after I insisted on foreplay.

  2. Mr. Fabulous

    Very cool idea!

  3. Neil

    Mist 1 — Blog Crush of the Day for that joke!

  4. deezee

    The camp counselor is at it again. I think you need to include a round of kumbaya…and, no, you won’t catch me singing…(but I make a fine audience.)

  5. Francesca (Stuntmother)

    I think I just fell in love, Neilochka The randomizer is truly a thing of beauty.

  6. Alison

    Oh, that was a good one! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  7. Leesa

    Great post 🙂
    And I hate the attitude of people on airplanes.

  8. darlin't

    what a lovely story. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  9. Postmodern Sass

    Pay it forward, Neil. Obviously, it was you who had, for all those instances of perceived abuse, been inconsiderate beforehand. That man who’s seat you were in, for example. What were you doing in the seat beside his wife? Didn’t you check with the ticket agent upon check-in, to make sure you weren’t in the wrong seat? And that husband, once reseated, did nothing untoward, he merely reclined his seat as far back as it would go, as is the god-given right of every passenger on a plane. The seats are designed for exactly that purpose, so obviously there’s enough legroom and laproom built in. Quit whining. No wonder the other passengers had no patience for you. Everyone connects to another flight at every airport in America; Dulles is no one’s final destination. So they were merely exercising their right to stand in the aisle and take their sweet time putting on coats and gathering their belongings, no matter how many people behind them must wait. That’s the rule for deplaning planes: the people in front get off first, then the second row, and so on, and so on. Like exiting pews in a church. Same principle. I mean, where were you brought up, Neil, on a pig farm? And since you’re not a tourist in New York you have no excuse for not directing the cabbie to drive you to Queens via Brooklyn and Manhattan. Learn some manners. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Nick came to put coal in your stocking.

  10. fringes

    Perfect intro to the concert, Neil. Do you know I’ve been stressing out about it since you first brought it up? What to sing, how to get the kids to sing, what to wear in the audio. I’m a mess. I think I’ll just take a seat in the back of the audience and go for it next year.

  11. Abigail

    I was on an airplane this morning and the guy in front of me reclined his seat. Now I was riding United which is about 7 inches less leg room than Jet Blue and with my long legs, seats in front often can’t recline all the way. The guy kept pushing his seat back into my knees expecting it to somehow go farther. He looked at his wife’s seat back, noticed hers was fully reclined (thanks to the small Asian lady next to me) and huffed. I was just waiting for him to ask her to switch seats.

  12. V-Grrrl

    What pricks.

    Who are these people?

    Can a Jewish Santa Claus save us?

  13. better safe than sorry

    tis the season for rude comments and people, but i won’t leave you one.
    stay away from the malls cuz that’s where everyone headed once the departed from that plane.
    keep smiling, santa’s watching;)

  14. kristen

    Of course Nick is Jewish. In fact I told my daughter this just the other day, when she asked if it was alright with both God and Santa if we have a tree even though we’re Jewish. Asked of course as I’m reminding not to mention our tree or Santa at the enrichment program she attends at temple. With my mikvah less than a month away, I’m fairly certain our having Christmas trees would not be my key to becoming a Jew.


    Hmm, I see you when I’m sleeping.

  16. Megan

    People, as a group, do suck. Hard. But every once in a while someone will come and completely screw up that theory.

    Can’t wait to see what Nick has in store. I hope it will be a mitzvah for all of us.

  17. Jader

    I must hear more. Is Santa “Jewish” in the way Jesus was “Jewish,” or does he actually light the menorah in the winter and eat matzo in the spring?

  18. Rhea

    Awww, that was sweet. I felt like you were Jimmy Stewart there for a minute. Looking forward to the next installment.
    By the way, what are you doing on the East Coast and not visiting me? I know we haven’t known each other that long, but, What, it’s gonna kill you to come to Boston?!

  19. Buffy

    I hate connections. I never make them. It’s why I overcompensate with five hour lay overs.

  20. ms. sizzle

    you’re brilliant.

    and traveling by plane sucks and humanity has lost its heart. sigh.

  21. out of the loop

    How fun! Thanks for making me smile this morning, you spreader-of-joy!

  22. Tatyana

    You’re so longing for the lost traditions of humanity, why don’t you start with classic:
    “It was a dark and stormy night…”?

  23. Roonie

    You’ve lost your mind. I love it.

  24. Michelle

    you were high when you wrote this, weren’t you?

  25. Mo

    Neil, you must do a duet with Sophia for this concert. I insist!

  26. deannie

    Wow, Rudolph and Prancer have alternative life styles?!? THAT right there is just gross…

  27. Churlita

    I always knew Santochka was Jewish. All The WASPS keep trying to keep that a secret.

  28. sara lee

    Soooo true about people on planes! and seriously why are there so many people who just seem undone by plane travel. Hurry up and get off the plane I do not want to stand here while you try and wedge your oversized bag out of the overhead storage!!

  29. Jakob

    Fine post, Neil, I think I’m beginning to get your prose and enjoy it.

    And I’m beginning to feel that I don’t have to read thru all the comments before posting my own.

    Nice switch between the factual and the fiction!

    I’m wondering how your planetrip would be different in diff. places. I experience the same kind of thing all the time (I’ve never met Nick, though, some say he’s from Greenland (Danish territoty, of course)).

    What I would like is to save the Christmas spirit to dec. 21 thru 12/27. That’d be great!

  30. OldOldLady Of The Hills

    Oh Neil…I LOVE this story…And I cannot wait for Part 2!!!
    Nick….what a wonderful name for this Stranger….!
    You are tooo much, you know?

  31. Mist 1

    I am flattered to be your blog crush of the day. The last time someone had a crush on me, we ended up in court. Let’s try to keep things friendly, okay?

  32. NSC

    So explain this deal to me again cause I am seriously considering sumitting something . . .

  33. NSC

    Submitting too . . .

  34. Bre

    For your sake I really hope that not all of your readers are as tone deaf as I am!

  35. CrankMama

    Thank you!! I needed this… and I’m happy to play along…

  36. Leezer

    Your airplane experience – no good deed goes unpunished. I am with Megan – people as a group do suck; however when you’re really in need, it’s amazing what people will do and what they will risk to help someone else out. Strangers will come to the aid of other strangers – risk their lives sometime.

    Santa is for all of us – Christians, Jews, even lawyers.

  37. he's dead, jim!

    Neil, Santa is a state of mind. Happy he found his way into your day.
    PS – are you still in NY? You oughta come and visit me in my office in Forest Hills!

  38. Linda Freedman

    Okay, I’m going to try to get you Even Shesyah or at least SuchAGoodDoc, formerly known as GeniusDoc going solo to do Aleph Bes, Gimel, Daled, Hey, Vuv (or do you say Wuv). This is an old family Sephardic fave. Getting him on board will NOT be easy. GD prefers the Tempest Sonata, if TD is recording him. But I will try. Oh, you know I love airplane stories.

  39. Neil

    HDJ — I will!

  40. LisaBinDaCity

    OY, you have been away from NYC too long. That’s the city and that’s why we love it 😉

    Hope you had a nice holiday.

  41. sarah

    I know, the ‘sequel’ or part two is posted; havent read it yet.

    Favorite part? The fact that after all of that you’d still listen to someone when they say “hold the elevator”.

    Obviously not ALL faith in humanity was gone 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial