For decades I often think about an incident that happened to me in the early1960s. For all the ups and downs in my life, I always have the feeling that someone up there is looking after me always. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in “God” whatever form “God” may be.
November 1, 1959: My sister Anna & I landed in San Francisco after 31 days on a cargo ship. We were among 12 students from Taiwan taking passage on the ship. All the students were college graduates except my sister and me. We were about a year and a half out of high school. We were to live with our Aunt Jessie in San Francisco under her care. However, living with Aunt Jessie was not a very pleasant experience. She didn’t want us in her home. Within a few weeks after we landed in San Francisco, she told us to go get a job. When I lived at home I never worried about money, never shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry, ironed, registered for school, or even made my bed, because these chores were taken care of by servants, cooks and our tutors.
In mid November 1959, Aunt Jesse got both Anna and me jobs as housekeepers in two very wealthy San Mateo homes a block away from each other. We worked there until early January 1960 and left to go to school. I think the family was very happy to see me leave, because I couldn’t speak or understand conversational English; I didn’t know how to clean, use a washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner, coffee maker, or an electric stove. I messed up their wash machine with overflowing suds. I was told to watch the food on the stove and I watched it until the food on the stove burned. I burned toast. I burned clothes when ironing. I shrunk wool socks in the dryer to minute size. I vacuumed their curtains and pulled the curtain rod crashing down. I embarrassed them in front of their guests by not knowing what the word silver “tray” meant and proceeded to take out all their silver and laid all of it out on their dining room table.
In September 1960 we went to New York because we had other family there. Anna stayed with my oldest sister and I stayed with my number 5 sister in Astoria. After a few months, I landed a job on 47th and Third Avenue with an insurance company calculating Midwest truck rates. By then I was living in a rooming house apartment on the corner of 113th Street and Broadway. I paid maybe $14 a week with a window facing an inner open courtyard with 3 sides of dirty dark soot-covered brick walls featuring rows of 3’x 5’ windows on each floor. At night I could hear family fights, loud music, bottles and cans crashing down onto the concrete courtyard. It was so depressing. I felt hopeless and numb to everything. Since I just started my job, I was totally penniless. I lived from paycheck to paycheck. I always bought all my tokens for the week with my paycheck before I spent for food and other necessities. I took two tokens with me each day when I walked out of my apartment in the morning.
I took the subway to work and changed trains at Time Square station to go to and from work. On this one wet Thursday evening, I had only a token for the subway to go home. I didn’t have a single penny on me because Friday was pay day. As usual, I was walking in my foggy state of mind. Accidentally, I exited the Time Square station, and I couldn’t get back in without another token. I was totally lost as to what to do: I still couldn’t speak or understand conversational English very well. I stood in the middle of thousands of people rushing to go home from all directions, pushing past me to catch their trains. I saw a policeman standing near the token booth. I was trying to get up the courage to ask him to give me 10 cents to buy a token. But I didn’t know how to ask him. I was afraid he might think that I was a beggar which I was at that moment. Also I was too embarrassed. I thought about walking home, but I knew I couldn’t because it was too far and wet outside and I had on my 3-inch high-heel shoes for work. In the midst of hundreds of people rushing around, I stood there in a state of panic without a thought in my head.
All of a sudden, I heard someone call me by my nickname given to me on the ship coming to this country: “Big Fortune Teller.” During our 31-day sea voyage on the ship, we had nothing to do but eat, sleep and play cards. My sister and I told the rest of them that we knew how to tell fortunes with cards, and we used to pass our time making up fortunes to tell them. So we were nicknamed Big Fortune Teller and Little Fortune Teller.
Hearing my nickname I turned around and saw this Chinese woman, whom I did not recognize at all, standing there smiling at me. I felt a sudden relief as if a heavy weight had been lifted. She asked me how I was doing and without hesitating, I told her what happened to me and that I had no way to get home and needed 10 cents for a token. She smiled and gave me a whole dollar and disappeared into the crowd. To this day I can’t recall which fellow passenger she was. To me she was an angel or an agent of divine intervention. Her action touched me so deeply that I came to believe that “someone is always watching over me,” and I have experienced similar proofs again and again in my life. I have tried to repay my one dollar debt to her by helping others whenever I can. I pray daily in thanksgiving for this wonderful feeling that “someone is watching over me.” I wish one day I could find her – or maybe not, because as it is now, I always have her in my heart as my very own angel.
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