For Carlos and Carlos, it’s all about survival.
We are all familiar with and endlessly grateful for the heroism displayed by our firefighters and law enforcement officers, but today is dedicated to the little guys, the people who help their fellow New Yorkers survive while not seeing themselves as heroic at all.
People with no illusions who still exhibit humanity, grit and a sense of humor that is lost on most non-New Yorkers.
People like Carlos and Carlos.
Last week, Carlos Flores waited impatiently for the #6 train at the East 103rd Street downtown station. He was eager to get to his job as a produce clerk at a downtown grocery. While most would lament having to work on a Sunday, Carlos was happy because working on weekends meant bonus pay.
Suddenly a middle-aged man fainted and toppled onto the tracks. As riders screamed in vain for him to get up, the digital clock signaling the arrival of the next downtown train flashed “three minutes.”
After he leaped onto the track, the five-foot-seven Flores quickly realized that moving the six foot, 220 pound man wouldn’t be an easy task. So did he leave him down there and save his own skin? Are you kidding me?
“I struggled and finally got him up,” Flores told the NY Daily News. “Someone on the platform grabbed the guy’s hands. Suddenly I see the lights of the train coming into the station, hear the squealing brakes and I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’ ”
The conductor jammed on the brakes and ground the train to a halt, and the man was pulled to safety. What was going through Flores’ mind when he decided to become, as his co-workers later described him, “a superhero?” His religious training? His love for his fellow man?
“I was thinking if this guy gets hurt, I can’t get to work,” said Flores. “It’s Sunday and I can’t miss out–it’s a time-and-a-half day.”
But Carlos Flores is not the only unique hero amongst us. Far from it.
Carlos Vasquez, another no-nonsense local Good Samaritan, continues a tradition he launched right after 9-11.
“If you are unemployed and need an outfit cleaned for a job interview, we will clean it for free,” reads the handwritten sign in the window of Vasquez’ First Professionals Dry Cleaners on East 72nd Street.
Many have since taken him up on his offer. “This comes out of my pocket,” noted Vasquez, “so I can only do so much–but I feel good about doing it.”
However, after newspapers picked up on the story, Carlos and his wife Arelis were in for a shock.
“We got bombarded with letters from across the nation, with donations to help us pay for this,” a smiling Carlos told me.
Other dry cleaners soon followed suit, offering free dry cleaning to those looking for employment in these troubled economic times.
But do people take advantage of this generous offer?
“Absolutely, a few phonies come in,” says Vasquez, “but I can tell the bullshitters from those who truly need it.”
Spoken like a real New Yorker.
So for those readers looking to get into the true New York holiday spirit–you could do worse than follow the examples set by Carlos and Carlos.