I landed Christmas Eve at LaGuardia, then discovered that I didn't have enough American money to catch the direct bus to Penn Station.

(They wouldn't accept my rumpled pesos at the money-changer.)

So I hauled ninety-five pounds of baggage, without wheels, onto a bus, onto a subway, onto another subway, then all around Penn Station.

That's two-thirds my body weight.

On the upside, I met a nice Arabic man who taught me to say "Ala-VOS!"

That's a not-so-nice way to tell someone to open a door.

His name was Peter and he accompanied me around the station, as he said he had no one to go home to for Christmas.

It was great, as he helped me with my bags and clucked after me like a small child.

At one point, he was watching my bags and a police officer asked me if I knew him. I said that of course I did and he was a friend of mine.

Then he asked me his name, straight out of a scene from "Annie."

"Peter," I said.

"'Peter' what?" he countered.

"Peter Ala-VOS!"

Peter told me later that I shouldn't go around saying that word.

betholindo at 3:32 p.m.

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