My sophomore year of high school, my school choir was asked to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City. For an aspiring professional singer, Carnegie Hall is the Holy Grail, so at 15 years old, it was the biggest opportunity of my entire singing career! Now, was the Nolan Catholic Varsity Choir so talented and gifted that we were chosen to sing at Carnegie Hall over all the choirs in the country? No. They say the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is “practice, practice, practice” but really you just have to be able to pay for it.
The trip immediately followed Spring Break, so my parents and I went a few days early to spend Spring Break in the city. It must have been my millionth trip to NYC because my mom is a theatre nerd and my dad secretly was too and he always dreamed of living in New York. We spent a few wonderful days seeing shows, shopping and eating wonderful meals and by the time the choir arrives, I was feeling like a true New Yorker.
The Cradick Curse
Since my parents were already in New York, they agreed to serve as chaperones. But, we had to switch hotels because the choir was staying near Grand Central Station. The first night, the entire choir decided to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway followed by a late dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. That didn’t appeal to my parents, so they took off for date night and said they would see me tomorrow. They were really wonderful chaperones.
After dinner, the choir got on the subway to go back to the hotel. Now, my 15 year old self was very different from my 25 year old self. Back then, I was the definition of an ADHD theatre kid. Okay, so maybe not THAT different. So I’m laughing and doing impressions with my friends and soon it was time to get off the subway. Being from Texas, most of the kids had never been on a subway and didn’t realize how quickly you have to get on and off. To say that everyone was moving at a glacial pace would be an understatement. Let me preface this story by saying that if the following incident was going to happen to someone, it WOULD be me. My dad called it the “Cradick Curse”. A curse that we Cradicks were born with and would never be able to shake.
Of course, the inevitable happened. I didn’t make it off the subway in time. And of course, I was the only one that didn’t make it off. Seconds later, I was screaming, “HELP ME!” with my face and hands on the dirty glass doors of the subway, as my teachers and friends looked on helplessly. I quickly sat down and tried to remain calm. “Okay. I’m fine. I’ve done this before,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just get off wherever this God forsaken subway is going and head right back to Grand Central.” An onlooker saw the whole thing, assumed I was a tourist (I guess the big hair and full face of makeup on a young teenager gave it away!) and asked if I needed help. I said, “I think I’m okay. Can you just tell me what train this is?” “It’s the express to Queens.”
The Queen of Queens
The express to Queens. QUEENS. I WAS ON THE EXPRESS TO QUEENS AT 2 IN THE MORNING … ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. I’d never even heard of Queens. Queens could have been in Jamaica as far as I was concerned. After what felt like 3 hours, we finally stopped in Queens. The nice man on the subway told me where to catch the train back to Manhattan and my sweet world of humanity and choir singing. I confidently walked to the other side of the station only to find that the train to Manhattan had stopped running.
This was the point where it really hit me and I stopped remaining calm. I’ve watched countless episodes of Law & Order: SVU and I knew this sort of situation never ends well for the naïve Texan on a choir trip. I pulled out my pink razor phone and decided I’d call my mom or my friend Katie but my phone wasn’t working. “Well, Queens doesn’t look that bad. I think I could make a home here!”
I went back to the schedule just to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating and that my luck really was so bad that the train had indeed stopped running to Manhattan. When I confirmed that that was the case, I went back outside to start looking for a nice box to live to in and as I did, the good Lord almighty sent me the most beautiful yellow cab with its lights on. I could literally hear the Hallelujah Chorus. I threw myself on the cab and said, “GRAND CENTRAL, PLEASE!” Thank God my mom had given me that emergency cash!
When we got to the hotel, the entire choir was standing on the steps of the hotel CRYING. They hugged me like I had been away at war for months. I looked around, expecting to see my parents in hysterics. But as it turned out, no one had notified them. And by this point, I was sobbing uncontrollably because until then, I had kept it together.
My choir director marched me up to my sleeping parents’ room. When my dad opened the door, she kind of pushed me in the room and then left. Between sobs, I told them what happened and they were absolutely furious! Not necessarily at me (because, I was an angel), but more that the choir and “tour guide” the school hired had allowed it to happen.
So my dad went into TDM (Total Dad Mode) and was rude to anyone involved in the situation. Partly because he was upset about the situation but mostly because he felt guilty that he and my mom sucked as chaperones. After he yelled at the tour guide, the choir director, my theatre teacher and basically anyone who would listen, he decided he better come up with a better plan. Our choir just happened to have several football players on it, so my dad paid the boys to literally huddle me the entire trip so I wouldn’t get lost again.
From that point on, I was known as the Queen of Queens. Not a bad outcome for what can only be described as a Caroline Cradick kind of situation!