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Staring Me in the Face


This post is about a stunning failure on my part to make a connection between visual and verbal data. Or, a failure to see what was staring me in the face.

Eight days ago, we boarded a flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta. Once the cabin door was shut and I had to put away my Kindle, I pulled out the Delta flight magazine. Paging through, I came to the crossword and saw that it was edited by Will Shortz, which meant maybe it wouldn’t be overly easy and hence was worth a try.

I borrowed Gail’s pen and began. Soon I came to this clue: “New York’s _______ Island.” Hmm. Governor’s? Roosevelt? No. Too long. The answer was five letters. Ellis? No, the fourth letter was an ‘e’. I moved on.

In a few minutes, we took off, northeast over Long Island Sound, then turning sharply to the left until we were heading west toward New Jersey, with all of New York City laid out below our window. There was Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, the Queensborough Bridge. Farther down, the bridges to Brooklyn. Ahead, Newark and the Giants-Jets football stadium. South again, the Hudson. Oh, there’s the Statue of Liberty. And another island, which even though I had named it five minutes earlier in trying to fill in the crossword puzzle, I couldn’t identify now. (Ellis). And still farther south, Staten Island, with the Bayonne Bridge crossing south to it from New Jersey. And the Narrows, crossed by the Verrazano Bridge. Now we were turning southward and on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, there was Coney Island, which I pointed out to Gail.

Then I returned to the crossword. Still couldn’t figure out that island. A few minutes later, Gail drew my attention to the view once more and I said that that’s the Delaware River flowing into Delaware Bay. But what happened to Philadelphia? We couldn’t find it. We had come too far. Or was I confused. Then more water. The Chesapeake, Gail suggested. Yes, of course, for there was the Susquehanna River flowing into it from the west near its north end, with the bridges crossing the river, familiar from many a train trip over one of them. Soon we looked down on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

It was getting hazy now. I thought we should be able to spot Annapolis, or at least the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We couldn’t.

Back to the crossword.

I was nearly done now. That island, though. Oh, first letter ‘C’, which gave me the partial answer “New York’s C _ _ e _ Island.”

And now it was obvious. Coney Island.

Can you imagine how stupid I felt? It had never occurred to me as we flew over the city to connect the islands I was naming to the crossword. I had even pointed Coney Island out to Gail, yet thought nothing of it.

The mysteries of the brain.

Categories: Crosswords, Travel
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