We were walking off the Prince Street downtown 6 train when Meng’s hand flailed downwards to either grab the bottom of her bag or to take advantage of the new space she now had outside the train WHEN – suddenly. Tragedy! Her biz partnership ring was flung off her hand! (And, yes, we have rings!)

“nnNNOOoo” we slow-motion thought watching the ring *DING* against the side of the train, ricocheting onto the track.

We halted mid-stride, unaware of ourselves and what we were doing, all focus on the fallen ring. We waited for the train to pass, still paralyzed in trying to cope with the concept of loss. What do we do? I thought, also in slow motion.

The train rode away and we stared down at the lonesome ring, begging for the days of captain planet style pound-its and other happy memories on Meng’s hand. “Well, I guess we have to get an MTA representative,” Meng began the process of recovery, not willing to succumb to this loss.

“Sure, I’ll go get them.” There was no representative in sight. No service booth. All we had was a blaring red emergency booth. You press a button, hope to God it’s hooked up, and wait for anyone to answer. It began to ring. After a minute or so of striving to connect, a lady answered the phone, “MTA Emergency service, can I help you?”

“Yes, my friend dropped a ring on the tra-” I stopped, interrupted.

“Sorry, M’am, I can’t hear you, please talk louder,” I was informed just as a noisy train squealed about its arrival.I looked at Meng, just to share the irony of the moment. “I leaned over, closer to the 3 1/2′ high speaker. “My friend dropped her ring,” I was yelling, new-comers, staring at me, “onto the tracks, and we’d love to be able to pick it up. Can we please get some help with that?” Frank, but true.

“Yes, I’ll alert MTA. And, M’am, please DO NOT GO ON THE TRACKS. I repeat, DO NOT GO ON THE TRACKS,” spoken like other terms God had written on a rock.

“Yes, I understand. No getting squished today,” I hoped the MTA lady appreciated MTA humor.

“Please wait where you are for MTA employees to assist you.”

“Yes, thanks. Um, how long do you think it’ll take for someone to arrive?”

“It may take about an hour,” Advice I took with a grain of salt, kind of like warnings that it’s going to rain. ‘Better safe than sorry’ is a great disappointment management tool.

“Great. Thank you!” I yelled, and the connection timed out. We waited. A half hour went by. I made another call, determined to be the squeaky wheel that gets fixed. “MTA Emergency service, can I help you?”

“Hi, yes, I called earlier about a ring on the tracks a half hour ago. We’re still here! Any idea what we should be looking for, or where we should wait? Or, what our time frame may be?” I threw a whole load of questions at the speaker.

“Sorry about that, but it can take up to a whole hour. Just wait on the platform and look for anyone in an MTA shirt or reflective vest.”

“Ok. Thank you!” I yelled, as congenially as possible.

I sat down again with Meng. “It seems so silly to wait this long for a ring.”

“I know. But, we can’t replace our partner rings! It would be like erasing the memory of that story,” Meng insightfully said. She was right. We couldn’t sacrifice the ring and ruin the sanctity of our business partnership! We were suddenly on a mission to preserve our company.

“You know,” Meng said after a few more vapid minutes of musing at the tracks, “I saw this red ball, sitting on the tracks one time, and I thought, that must have been some child’s favorite ball. And, they just left it there. They just abandoned it in the subway.” I was overcome with sadness and empathy for that ball. How sad. My face muscles melted into despair. “Yeah,” Meng agreed with my face. “I mean, it’s something that was made by people, and someone liked it enough to buy it, and then they just left it there, instead of trying to recover it.” We let this thought stew. What does this mean about our consumer culture? Poor little red ball.

A hot and sweaty summer subway hour went by, and we hadn’t seen a single reflective jacket. We’d gone through one and a half sour strips bags, and we weren’t keen on getting another one. We called again. “MTA Emergency service, can I help you?” A familiar voice.

“Hey, yeah. It’s us with the ring, and no one has come by yet. I just want to check in to see if someone is on their way. We’ve been waiting here about an hour.”

I could feel the disappointment through the speaker, “No one’s come yet?

“No, not yet. We just want to collect the ring and be on our way. Um, is there a lost and found or something we can pick it up at later. Although, I guess they wouldn’t be able to find the ring without us,” I started thinking aloud; not very productive.

“Yes, there is a lost and found. I mean, you can try there later.” It was clear we all believed this to be a dubious option.

“It’s ok, we’ll wait another half hour and see. Thanks.”

We continued steaming out our day in the New York underground, thankful that we could work anywhere we had a lap top. A half hour went by, as well as the other half of the sour strips (probably all my fault). We were desperate. I pulled black tape out of my bag and presented it to Meng, knowing that it would be enough to say what I was about to do. Meng looked at me. “You’re going to make a sign?”

“Yup.” Pure brilliance, I was thinking. I was also dangerously dehydrated.”I’m going to write, ‘ring’ and point an arrow over the edge of the platform.” Real designer thinking. We thought this over for a moment and searched for holes in the plan. Frankly, it was perforated. And, suddenly, Meng’s head cocked to the side, and she ran off, smiling, exclaiming something like she found nirvana.

They had arrived, MTA representatives in reflective vests, and we almost missed them in the sea of people. They carried with them those long, extending clamps, where you pull the trigger on the end to grab things. Ring was saved and so were we. We went over to the emergency call station and rang one last time. “MTA Emergency service, can I help you?”

“Hi, we got the ring! Thank you!”

“Oh! You did!” True joy was shared between us all. We all walked away happy that day.

Then, we got some water.

We learned from this experience the sad nature of our consumer culture, that we can just replace even precious items and abandon them without a second thought all for the sake of saving time or avoiding seeming silly. We were happy to have Ring back and not lose the story of the day we committed to a career together. Ring was may be $15.00 on sale, but priceless in terms of its symbolism to us.

MTA Ring