Tag Archives: New York City Public Schools

Weather Psalm

As the northeast coast digs out from yesterday’s nor’easter at least we can thank God that no business days were lost. At least none based on the status of New York City schools. Some NYC businesses base their decision on whether an adult snow day is in effect or not on the decision of whether or not to close the public schools. If kids are expected to make it to school, well, pull your socks up, thrash through the snow, and get some work done. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from home during the event that began like a snoreaster. By the time I would’ve usually been on the bus it wasn’t snowing. Roads were wet, but it seemed like a normal day. So it continued until about 10:00 a.m. Then it really did snow.

I’ve commuted long enough to know that, as grueling as getting up early and trying to get to the city may be, the evening commute is always worse. It may seem hard to believe that there are traffic jams before 7:00 a.m. most days, but around 5:00 p.m. all bets are off. The news vendors were lamenting the fate of those who had to find their way home in a foot of snow, even as it was still coming down swiftly. Nature doesn’t abide by our work schedules. Many companies don’t care if you can’t get out—you chose to work in the city. If it takes you three hours to get home, that’s not a work problem. It’s a personal thing. On personal time. Choose wisely.

All of this makes me reflect on the way we think of work these days. Commuting into the city shouldn’t be a dangerous job like being on an Alaskan fishing boat is. Chances are the actual daily work consists of sitting in a cubicle staring at a screen. Eye strain, carpal-tunnel syndrome, and boredom are the only real dangers here. Unless you’re taking the George Washington Bridge, carpool tunnel is a far more sinister threat. If you make it home in time to come back in tomorrow, then it’s all good. We do this so that we can earn money to spend, mostly online. We haven’t quite got to the point yet where we can wire our physical bodies to the internet so that we can stay at home and work 24/7. But it’s coming, just like the next nor’easter. In the meantime, I have a bus to catch.

Not Narnia

The snow fountain from a fast-moving snow-plow is a thing of beauty.  Unless you’re standing in the way.  It’s been that way this winter.  The sidewalk where I usually stand to wait for the bus is an arctic wasteland of waist-high snow piles shoved higher and higher by weary plow-drivers.  So I stand in the road, near a streetlamp in winter, but this is not Narnia.  I decided to try out New Jersey Transit’s highly anticipated “real time” bus locator—that way I know when to step out into the blowing wind to wait for the bus.  After I’d been sprayed by passing cars and the occasional snow-plow for 20 minutes, I became convinced that “real time” is just academic; it is the time that the bus would arrive, were the bus actually on time, if it ever left the garage.  Not that I blame the drivers—theirs is a thankless job that must lead to early retirement, or at least support the state mental hospitals.

Where's Mr. Tumnus?

Where’s Mr. Tumnus?

Now, I’m not the only one to be standing in the street, a hooker for capitalism, under my lamppost,  and some of the stops are completely snowed in.  When three passengers ganged up on the driver for nearly missing them because they weren’t at the stop because of all the snow, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable.  Springs can be wound too tightly, you know.  All of this is an issue because businesses don’t want to close for inclement weather.  During last week’s blizzard, I ended up taking the PATH train into New York, not knowing where it was going.  A young lady was fretting—she was going to be late for work.  An older African American gentleman comforted her.  “Don’t worry.  They don’t care if you come in late on a day like today.  They just want you to show up.”  They just want you to show up.  His words have haunted me. Businesses want you to show up because that reinforces the power of capitalism.  You don’t show and you don’t eat.  You lose healthcare.  Cobra is aptly named—you pay far more than unemployment’s pittance for monthly coverage.  Obamacare is about thirty years too late.

Every time I see the Mayor of New York justifying his decision to keep schools open when literally nine inches of well-predicted snow fall on the city—dressed in his trendy action-figure jacket, just like Christie after Hurricane Sandy—I wonder who is really being cared for.  The Mayor claims that of the over 1 million kids in the school system, a substantial proportion go to school so they can get their only hot meal of the day.  Is this the purpose of schools?  Is it not the humane duty of the largest city in the country to make sure fair opportunity is offered to those who wish to contribute?  Their parents, he adds, as an aside, have to go to work.  Why aren’t they being paid enough to feed their kids?  Oh, there is a blizzard coming, and it’s one of our own making.  As for me, it’s time to step back because I think I see another snow-plow coming.

‘S No Day in New York

“You’re waiting for a train. A train that’ll take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you. But you can’t know for sure.” Yet you’ve been standing on the windy platform in Newark for twenty minutes and they’ve announced the next train to New York will be an hour late.  A man you don’t know says the PATH train will take you to New York, but New York is a big city, and you only go there to work.  It must be a snow day.  Well, almost.  I work for a company that only closes when New York City Public Schools close for weather.  Today, kids, school’s open; but all is not lost—field trips are cancelled.  And so, the constellation of companies who take their cue from NYPS truck (sometimes literally) their New Jersey-based employees across or under the river, into a city where slush half a foot deep awaits them on every street corner, and that doesn’t slow those muck-flinging cabs down at all. 

With the weather we’ve been experiencing this year, I hear a lot of people saying that Mother Nature is still in charge.  Allow me to differ.  You see, I’ve been researching the weather and the Bible for years now and I’ve come to a slightly different conclusion.  In the Psalms, anyway, it is clear that God is in charge of the weather.  Given that New York is such a sinful place, I guess none of us should be surprised.  Still, I’m not sure the Bible has got this one quite right either.  After all, I’ve walked through ice-crusted snow up to my knees for a good part of my walk to the station, and I have my coat open so the cold breeze will cool me down a little bit before I have to walk into work with crazy hair and a scowl frozen on my face.  Didn’t some great theologian once say “sin boldly?”  No, it is not Mother Nature in charge.  It is not even the deity.  It is something far more powerful than God—money.  Can’t lose a red cent when there are human resources to be utilized.

I’ve never been on a Port Authority Trans-Hudson train before, and I’m not sure where this one stops.  I heard someone say 33rd Street, and that sounds encouraging, so when the train stops I follow him across the platform.  Sheep, as any shepherd knows, will follow a random person who looks confident enough.  I emerge from the dark underground, not quite sure where I am, and I just can’t find a Psalm in my heart at the moment, unless it’s an imprecatory one.  I stepped out of my front door into freezing rain three hours ago.  My trousers are wet to the knees, and I’m a little sick from facing the wrong way on the PATH train for a lengthy ride.  The cars, I notice, are shaped like Krell.  Yes, this is a forbidden planet and I don’t know where I might end up.  Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but I think you got it wrong.  Field trips are not cancelled after all.  And I’m not sure I’m even worshipping the right god.

Deceptively peaceful

Deceptively peaceful