After driving six hours to Manhattan last Friday, I was ready for a beverage and a snack.

I gratefully accepted the complimentary flute of champagne and the stick of chicken from the trade show organizers. I consumed both instantly.

The warehouse space we had arrived at was temporarily sectioned off booth by booth for apparel designers from around the world who were in New York to hawk their creations. We were there to do the same.

Suddenly, I felt queasy and ran outside for fresh air. Accosted by the din of taxis, sirens and the conversations of hundreds of people, I started to feel worse. Champagne on an empty stomach or bad chicken – either way, I wasn’t eager to vomit on this busy corner in New York City on a Friday night in rush-hour traffic. Not that anyone would have noticed.

I dashed into the nearest store and grabbed a bottle of water from the drinks case and, for added insurance, asked the man behind the counter if he sold Alka-Seltzer. Without looking, he reached behind his back, grabbed a single packet from an already opened box and handed it to me.

It wasn’t in Aisle 13. I didn’t have to decide between Alka-Seltzer Plus and the original recipe. I didn’t need to choose from the day or night multisymptom box. It was just there, in his hand, when I needed it: two tablets safely sealed in their brand packaging. No charge, no fanfare, no big deal.

Service, New York style.

With close to 30 fashion trade shows behind me, I am still awed by the sounds, the fury and the great service of our country’s largest city. Everything is big, everything is fast, and everything is loud. Even the fashion.

Fashion is temporary and swift. It changes because it must. Accidents happen.

The “butt dickey,” an accident from the late ’90s, comes to mind. The butt dickey, a sweater made with two sleeves and a rectangle, was designed to tie around your hips. With no body, it neither kept you warm nor covered you up.

This year’s mistake is fringe. Fringe in every color and length attached to anything that moves: shoes, skirts, sweaters, caftans (another casualty), hats and bags.

Topknots are also big.

Standing in a booth for three days watching caftan after caftan stroll by, I start to lie. I hear myself (this behavior is not in my control) complimenting strangers on their parrot-bright caftans – making sure to tell them how well I think the 6-inch copper-colored fringe attached to the bottom (now dragging on the floor) works.

By the third day, I want to wear these mistakes.

Thankfully, long days in a 10-by-10 booth are balanced with fantastic food in fantastic restaurants with great company. During this past trip, in the loudest restaurant in the world with the best Italian food in the world, I was reminded of chickens.

Chickens, because it was so loud that we could not hear the waiter or each other. Chickens, because I know how loud chickens can be. I know how loud chickens can be because I picked eggs in the grossest chicken barn in the whole world.

But not one of my five dinner companions knew that if you yell as loud as you can in a barn full of thousands of chickens, they stop clucking instantly.

I screamed this story through the columns of noise in the loudest restaurant in the world to reach the ears of my dinner mates. After repeating the story in every direction, we burst into laughter, contributing our own wall of sound.

Cranes moving, dynamite blasting, jackhammers jacking, trucks backing up, the wind, the rain, loud restaurants, loud fashion and the urine smell rising from the concrete … even the things you can’t hear are loud in New York.

Layers and layers of noise, but the moment you need something in this superlative metropolis it’s there for you, instantly, without asking for anything in return.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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