He Was a Fake! Conquering Fear Part 4

You are reading Part Four of the mini-series subtitled “Conquering Fear.”

“Did trains even go down this far?” I wondered, highly doubting it. Wondering if the man was even a porter at all, despite Hubby’s assurances that all those Red Cap guys were there to help with baggage. “You thought he wanted to steal your bags??” he’d asked in amazement. “You should have let him take them. So on your return trip accept the help! And be sure to give a tip!” 

So after a wonderful visit to my parents’ home in Michigan, I embarked confidently on my return trip to New York. After all, I had become a seasoned traveler! Until that is, I started thinking about the 5-hour layover that awaited me at the New York train station. And I was once again filled with fear.

Fear attacks

The thought of that huge station filled with shady characters, street people, pimps, and drug dealers, had my stomach tied in knots. And before I knew it, I was worrying. Me – the Brave One – who would fear no more. Who never locked the doors of her Bronx apartment, and had even survived being lost in the Big Apple!

“Maybe, ” I thought, “we could take the underground or a taxi. After all, it’s absurd to wait five hours in a train station, when we only need to cross the city!” But I had no idea which subway line went to the Bronx, nor any idea of a cab’s cost, especially with all our bags.

Finally, seeing no way out, I asked the Lord’s protection. And perhaps he’d been waiting for just that, for they soon announced we were two hours behind schedule. Cutting the wait down to three hours! “You see,” I told myself, “the Lord’s taking care of us! Will I never learn?” And that greatly boosted my confidence, and I was determined to be brave.

The red cap man

So I proudly presented our tickets to the first Red Cap I saw, though I’m not sure just what I expected. Maybe I thought trains normally showed up three hours early, just to sit around waiting for passengers. But this Red Cap was a pretty nifty guy. “Follow me,” he said. And whipping out his special keys to make the escalators change direction, took us right where he wanted to go.

“But where,” I wondered, “was that?” For we were going down one escalator after another. Always down, far underground. Until finally stopping in a dingy, dimly lit room, piled high with dusty boxes.

What was he was he up to? It wouldn’t have surprised me any to see him pull a gun on us, it seemed that much like a scene from a bad movie.

He was a fake!

And that’s when I wondered, “Do trains even come down this far? And who is this guy?” Certain that he couldn’t be one of those trustworthy Red Caps. He must have been a fake! I anxiously peered about for a weapon, convinced he was up to no good.

I had no words to ease the terror in my children’s eyes, knowing mine mirrored the same fear. But knowing I’d never find my way out of that labyrinth he’d brought us down, all we could do was sit and wait. And pray, trying to battle the engulfing fear.

And then he fell asleep! Leaning back with his feet on the desk and cap lowered over his eyes, I thought he had forgotten us! So somewhat relieved, I tried to relax.

“But what is he up to?” I wondered, not realizing at first that he was watching an odd machine on the desk. Surreptitiously peering at it when it wrote with a pencil. Until finally, two nerve-wracking hours later, it wrote what he had been watching for. And he repeated, “Follow me”.

What a silent chap, which made him seem all the more frightening. And did I mention he was huge? Well over six-foot, with shoulders as wide as a doorway? But using his magic keys, he did lead us up and out of that maze, straight to our train!

Only years later did I learn that odd machine was a Telautograph. And that most major railway stations had such systems installed to relay hand-written reports of train movements. More than likely, the one I saw during that scary year of Bronx living was more modern than the one below. After all, it was 1988! But I’ve since wondered: surely there were many such machines around the station. Why take us down there?

I literally collapsed in my seat after he helped us board. the train. A long rest or a nice long cry – I’m not sure which I needed most! And then seeing him still standing there, I turned my angriest glare on him. I’d had about all I could take of him! And then it hit me. He was waiting for the all-famous tip!

A tip? For giving me the fright of my life? “I’ll give him a tip, or two!” I thought. But then reasoned that we had taken up a lot of his time. Yet I certainly hadn’t asked to be taken down there!I did tip him, of course, hoping it was the right amount. My mind wasn’t working too well.

God’s lessons in strange ways

In looking back, I think it was surely far too little. Too little for one surely sent by the Lord to help us. And too little, as well, for the valuable lesson of learning that God is always present, walking with us through any situation – no matter how strange or scary!

We were the first to board that train which soon became packed to gills. Normal of course in Manhattan. But how grateful we were to have seats, and to have our heavy bags lifted on to the train.

I’ve also wondered since: Why would he have sat there with us for over two hours? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to seat us somewhere and find others to help? He must have lost a lot of tips during that time. So I wondered, “Who was that guy?” And I still wonder that today…

 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11 WEB

Remember that God is with you, whatever fear or difficulty you face. And sometimes his help comes in the most unexpected ways!

I’m not really sure what angels look like, but I have since wondered if maybe once in a while they wear red caps…

I have since wondered if maybe once in a while angels might sometimes wear red caps…

Other posts in this series. God’s Dog, Unlocked Doors in the Bronx, and Lost in the Big Apple.

Images: Grand Central by kokygonzales. | Stairs by Marketplace Designers. | Telautograph by Anonymous from Wikipedia, public domain.

Published by Signora Sheila

Wife, mom, nonna, and missionary - offering encouragement and inspiration for my fellow missionaries, believers, and seekers of God's peace and joy.

3 thoughts on “He Was a Fake! Conquering Fear Part 4

  1. What a wonderful story, Sheila–shrouded in mystery to this day! I have to wonder why he didn’t give you a word of explanation. Did he not speak English well? Even a few gestures, a kind smile, might have allayed your fears. Ah well. God knows; one day we’ll understand all the ins and outs of such strange experiences. Meanwhile, I think your theory is best: he was an angel sent to keep you safe–and grow your faith at the same time!


    1. He could have been, Nancy. I do know that we felt pretty scared. Of course, it was partly my own fault for not asking! But I was a pretty backward country girl. Good thing God was with me!!


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