In the last two days I have been thinking about what things are particular to living in New York City. Coming home on the subway yesterday, there were the usual 'hawkers'; people selling anything from newspapers, candy, and of course the mariachi musicians. (I am sorry, I don't even want to listen to that when I am having margaritas, do I really need to hear this relentlessly upbeat music when I am trying to mind my own business on the subway?)
But yesterday, there was a hawker of a different kind. A well dressed guy in his late twenties, maybe thirties trying to sell his books. Geez, I thought, I can relate. It is tough selling your book; this might not be a bad idea! So in the spirit of author solidarity, I bought a copy. The crazy lady across the aisle approached me: I had bought one for how much? Ten dollars? She would offer 5, or, actually, I couldn't follow her line of thinking. Surprise, surprise.
The usual run of the mill New York City stuff. No, we New Yorkers aren't unfriendly, we just try hard to stay out of each other's business. We put up invisible shields to get the privacy others get going to work in their cars in their own little bubble. We take ignoring each other to a whole new level. It's like an art form here.
So we deal with higher taxes, people in our face, and a particularly byzantine, complicated process to send our kids to school. We are prepared to roll up our sleeves to get our kids into school at kindergarten, middle and high school points. The tours, the applications, the figuring out the complexity of gifted, specialized, non-specialized, etc, etc. You figure: it's a job; extra time you need to carve out of your schedule. Put your head down and plow ahead. There are always bad parts to any job; this is the 'bad part' of living in NYC.
But this year has been insane!
Hundreds of parents, as I write this piece and it is June, still don't know where their soon- to- be kindergarteners are going to school in September! Many graduating middle schoolers with excellent grades from top schools didn't get places! There are not enough seats! This has arguably been the most difficult year for parents to get their kids into good public schools. While we are thrilled that the downturn of the real estate market in the city may be helping stem the exodus of our friends to the 'burbs', there is more demand than ever for those good public school seats.
Especially since more who ordinarily would do private school, are realizing that public school is not going to be a significant educational deprivation to little John or Mary. Mr. Bloomberg, did you not think of the fact that while you are trying to keep middle class people in the city to pay taxes, that there wouldn't be the need for simply more schools? I thought you were the great business planner! The public school champion!
Some parents really have had a tough time this year, needing to do high school, middle school and elementary school all in one year. No staggering there! Family planning in NYC takes on a new dimension when you think of what you will be dealing with if your kids are spaced apart in this way. Throw in college to the mix and you really might throw up your hands! Probably best to go with the mantra: "Man plans, God laughs!" Even if you don't believe in God. Way too much to figure out.
Hopefully by the time you guys are reading this, you do know where your child is. Going to school in September, I mean. And to perhaps remember that with this particular pain and suffering, like childbirth, once you are through it, it's over. At least till the next time. (Didn't I say it was like childbirth?!)
So let's lift a glass -- shot glass to really anaesthetize ourselves -- and salute our collective craziness: that in the face of high taxes, rising MTA fares, the impossible Byzantine task of getting our kid into school, we get to have the most fun living and raising our kids here; that by raising our kids here, their education is not only in school.
As was brought home to me one of the days I was walking down the street with my oldest daughter, who is now 15, and was 7 at the time. We passed this 'wild looking' man who stared her in the eye and roared. I was taken aback, slightly scared, and immediately looked to see her reaction. She turned to me, kept walking, and totally nonplussed said: "That's one of those people you told me about with the disease in their head, right? Mom, don't worry, he just recognizes a fellow tiger."