You Can Take the People Out of New York…


Back in The Dark Ages, when we old folks got our information and jokes via email — and not through social networking sites that the Brothers Winklevii were litigating over — there were a couple of old standbys that continued to circulate over our lightning-fast dial-up connections.

There were the alarmist urban myths {like the tales of kidney harvesting rings}.  The dubious computer virus warnings.  And of course, the Richard Gere gerbil tale.

And then there were the jokes.  For some reason, I remember seeing many variations of the old “You Know You’re From {Fill in Your State/City/Region Here} When…”

I received the New York City and New Jersey versions many, many times.  We can cover NJ another day, because it probably does warrant a closer look.  As for New York, these were always a few of my favorites.

You know you’re a New Yorker when:

  • You think Central Park is nature.
  • You haven’t heard the sound of true absolute silence since the 80s, and when you did, it terrified you.
  • You pay more each month to park your car than most people in the U.S. pay in rent.
  • You consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.

These are all true.  Please don’t ask me what I paid to rent a monthly parking space because I don’t like to weep on my keyboard.  And as for eye contact, I am still getting used to it in the suburbs.  You can imagine the cold sweat I broke into when several families on our block welcomed us here with baked goods and the bounty from their gardens.  In person.  At our front door.  Unannounced.

I had 911 on speed dial.  But, it turns out, they are all lovely non-felons who were just being super-nice and not looking to kill me.  Who knew?

But back to the New York list, because I actually do have a point.

This is the item on the list that always got me.  Because I don’t think it could be any more specific and accurate:

You know you’re a New Yorker when you can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park at 3:30 on the Friday before a long weekend, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map.

{No offense to the fine people of Wisconsin.}

With that last tidbit in mind, let me tell you about what happens when you put five former New Yorkers, all of whom are now suburbanites, around a dinner table to discuss the new school year just before it begins…

It all started with the normal chit-chat about whose kids were going to which schools and in which grades this year.  I casually mentioned that I wondered how I was going to accomplish two drop-offs at two different schools within a ten-minute space. I think I said something about trial and error and then looked for my wine refill.

But it was too late.  The collective wheels at the table were spinning.  The Recessive Manhattanite Gene had been activated.

Slowly but surely.

“You have to go to the pre-school first.  BUT you have to be first — absolutely first — on the car drop-off line.  That means getting there at least ten minutes early.  Otherwise, you are hosed because you’ll be stuck there for 20 minutes. So, be first to drop off there and then do the kindergarten drop-off.  Oh, but don’t get there more than ten minutes early because they will turn you away and you’ll have to circle the block — and then you”ll lose your spot by the time you get back.”

Hm.  All good points.  Except for the part where I have to be precisely ten minutes early.  And first on line.  File under:  Two things that never happen and, if were to occur simultaneously, may cause the universe to implode.

Where is the waiter with the wine?

But then, a counterpoint across the table.

“No, no.  I don’t think that’s the way to go.  Do you know how bad the traffic is in the center of town at 12:30?  No.  You have to do the kindergarten drop-off first — get there early — and then head over to the pre-school.”

There’s that “get there early” crap again.

“OK, maybe.  But only  if you take the back roads and avoid the major choke points in town.  It will take longer, so just leave earlier.”

Oh my God.  According to my mental calculations, I think I’m now leaving at 7am for afternoon kindergarten and pre-school.

I seriously don’t understand how the waiter doesn’t see the mental bubble over my head that is verbally assaulting him for forgetting the wine.

“And remember that, for the kindergarten drop-off, it’s really hard to park there.  You might have to circle for a spot.”

For the first and last time in my life, the thought of home schooling fleeted through my mind.  Yes, yes, I can just keep them at home and school them myself.  Oh, there’s the waiter!  Where the hell has this guy been?

“Wait, wait, don’t forget that the high school lets the kids out for lunch around that time.  They’re everywhere.  They will screw up everything.”

After some wine intake and deliberation — which included the thought of moving to Europe, where all the kids ride their bikes to school beginning at age two — I thanked my friends for their well-informed and logical approaches.  I promised to take their suggestions under advisement and try it both ways.

And then, I added, ever so casually, “Oh — I almost forgot — after the school drop-offs,  I have to be at my work out class by 12:45.”

“Not the one — “

“Yes, on the other side of town.  12:45 sharp.  With time to park.”

The waiter sees the glances around the table and handles the refills proactively.

Utter silence for a moment at the table.  It was like I just hit them with Operation Shock & Awe.

This was followed by a range of emotions.


There was anger.



And disbelief.




And defeat.




And so we went back to discussing other things.  Like the wine and the food.  And how empty the restaurant was for 10pm.  And how we have gotten used to living in the suburbs now — but some traits of being city dwellers will not go quietly.

As for my school drop-off clusterfuck?  They were right.  All of them.  It’s pretty much impossible.

Mostly because I have yet to be early for any part of it.




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  1. Kristin says:

    This was hysterical! Luckily, living in the more-south-than-Park-Slope area of Brooklyn I did, I didn’t have as much trouble parking and/or traffic. It was on occasion – not expected.

    And now, in the NJ suburbs, I try to stay out of the car as much as possible. Have you thought about hailing a cab? 😉

    • fordeville says:

      Trust me, I find my cab-hailing arm going up reflexively every now and then. Which looks sort of odd when not in the middle of the city.

  2. I’m from Los Angeles originally. I speak this language fluently. No one offered up a jetpack as a suggestion. Amateurs! Another great post, Kim!

    • fordeville says:

      Thanks Bethany!
      I love that the LA version automatically suggests bypassing the cars and related gridlock entirely. Air travel to pre-school and kindergarten — perfect.

  3. Teri says:

    LOL Great post, Kim. I feel your pain, I haven’t been early to ANYTHING since giving birth to my oldest.


  4. Keesha says:

    I am from NYC too, born and raised. I am always trying to be quick, and am always late. I haven’t been early since I used to ride the subway and of course had no kids. And by the way very few people used hosed to mean screwed except Princetonians. I am assuming you had one in your midst?

    • fordeville says:

      No Princetonians here, Keesha. But being a native New Yorker, you’ll have to tell us –really — what *is* the fastest way from Columbus Circle to Battery Park at 3:30 on the Friday before a long weekend?? This could give us all hours of our lives back.

  5. Yes, I’ve endured many of those conversations before, which is why I try not to interact with people. I, too, long to live in Europe where I can let my kids outside and not be considered insane. Nice photo too.

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