From Out of the Rain, a Bit of Sunshine–

It had been an arduous day for the nanny–one filled with refereeing sibling wars and healing boo boos with ice packs shaped like teddy bears.

She walked the half mile to the subway station, readying herself for the 40 minute commute back to her apartment on the other side of town.

Her first train ride was relatively uneventful, save for the various and sundry commuters bumping into her as she attempted to squeeze out a small space to fit her body while the car jostled along down the track.

As she made her transfer for the second leg of her journey, the next train slowly creeped into the station.

“This does not bode well,” she remarked as she was bum-rushed from the platform into the railcar.

What would have been a 20 minute journey soon turned into 35 minutes of slowly chugging along the underground pathway. She was lucky enough to get a seat–but then she realized that this put her face in prime location for a milieu of butts for a view.

“I hope these people don’t give into the urge to fart,” she prayed silently.

As she arrived at her station, the Nanny stepped onto the platform, climbed the first selection of stairs, and stopped dead in her tracks. The landing leading to the second staircase was flooded with grotty looking water. The travelers descending the stairs were quickly closing umbrellas, shaking the water from them before they stowed them in backpacks and purses.

The Nanny realized that she’d just encountered another cultural difference between Los Angelenos and New Yorkers–it’s customary to always be prepared for inclement and unpredictable weather in the latter. In the former, precipitation happened maybe once every few months.

She exited the subway and entered the rain logged street scene before realizing she was close to a sporting goods store.

One long line of customers making similar purchases and $26 later, she was armed with an umbrella.

“Geeze,” she exhaled, “the cab ride home from work would’ve been cheaper than the umbrella.”

She was just about to begin to list the things she hated about the city, the fact that she hadn’t chosen to attend this sojourn into the wild concrete jungle (it was, after all, a requirement of her job), about to dwell upon the fact that she missed her apartment and her friends back West–

BUT–

She looked around her and saw all of the different umbrellas and was reminded of a video she once saw, where two umbrellas meet and fall in love–and she perked up a bit before continuing her trek home.

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NYC Adventures: Books of Wonder

It’s my first full day off in 14 days (FOURTEEN DAYS) and I’m starting it off by writing a blog for you people. Because I love you and truly want you to come along with me on this whirlwind adventure in NYC.

And also I wake up insanely early and there’s nothing else to do because 1) Everyone is at work or 2) People who don’t work day jobs aren’t up yet (it’s 7am EST, btw).

I went to a really cool place, one in which I had a hard time extricating myself due to the massive amounts of awesome sucking me into the building.

First, a little background:

Due to the fact that I am a second child (outpaced by my older sister by a span of 16 months) I spent a significant amount of my childhood playing “catch-up”. I needed to prove to the world that I could do anything she could do and that included teaching myself to read by the age of 4.

From then on, if I had a choice in where my family spent a leisurely Saturday or Sunday, it was always one of two places: the public library or Barnes and Noble. I dragged my mom and my sister to both places, though I can bet my mom was less pleased with the effect of B&N on her purse. “HURRY UP” was often yelled by both as I sat strewn across the floor with a number of volumes in my lap.

The cool thing about being an adult (one of the only cool things since, largely, adulthood stinks) is being able to spend as much time as I want, anywhere that I want.

I remembered seeing a crowd-funding effort by an independent children’s bookstore in NYC a few years ago and knew I wanted to check it out.

I was not disappointed–Books of Wonder offers a massive amount of board books, picture books, middle grade and YA selections, workbooks–anything and everything geared toward the literary desires of young humans. Most of the picture books were also signed by the authors and illustrators, to boot!

photo-15

Off to the far left corner of the shop stood the rare and antique selection of books, these costing an insane amount of money. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie “You’ve Got Mail” while perusing this section. Meg’s character owns an independent children’s book store called “Shop Around the Corner” which houses a selection of antique and rare finds. Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox (Eff-Oh-Ex), the owner of a bargain books chain store, talks to one of the indie shop assistants, George, about the enormous expense of the rare book:

George: The, uh, illustrations are hand tipped.

Joe: And that’s why it costs so much?

George: No, that’s why it’s Worth so much.

**Obviously, value is in the eye of the beholder.**

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books behind those few panes of glass.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books behind those few panes of glass.

It was thrilling to see such monetary value assigned to simple ink and paper–the thought of one day penning a novel that could accrue what amounts to a yearly income for someone was mind blowing.

I knew I’d be seeing one of my all-time favorites counted among the stacks:

1st Edition Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone signed by J.K. Rowling and with the signature of the illustrator, Mary GrandPré laid in-- $8,500

1st Edition Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone signed by J.K. Rowling and with the signature of the illustrator, Mary GrandPré, laid in– $8,500

Such simple stories by A.A. Milne have become classics over time and the price of these editions confirm it:

Complete set of "Pooh" books-- $8,500

Complete set of “Pooh” books– $8,500

Many of the volumes sheltered from sticky fingers and the elements were worth more than what I am paying for my college education:

"A New Wonderland" by L. Frank Baum from a private collection of an Oz historian in a dust jacket-- $45,000

“A New Wonderland” by L. Frank Baum from a private collection of an Oz historian in a dust jacket– $45,000

One of my nanny kid’s birthdays is quickly approaching and so, after an hour…or maybe 2…I wrenched myself from the stacks, paid for my selection (signed by the author and illustrator), and stepped out into the harsh light of the city sun.

Even now I tick through the amount of free time I may have and wonder when I can go back and spend my life’s savings in such an inspirational place.

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How to Survive a Trip on the NYC Subway

A few of my loyal readers (thanks to the 6 of you) may remember a tale I told not long ago that took place in a popular hoagie store.

It seems like I can’t get away from intriguing subway incidents–this time, though, the new location is NYC and occurs several feet underground. Let me share with you my best advice to getting from point A to point Z on this particular mode of public transportation.

You wouldn’t think that riding an underground train would be so arduous: you swipe a card, board a train, get off of the train.

Au contraire, gentle reader.

Descend the 200 stairs to the entry level of the sweltering hot station.

Before you board, you have to get the actual ticket to get you through the turnstile. This either requires human interaction, should there be a booth in your particular stop with an actual human person in it, or some finagling with a machine that gives far too many options. Thankfully, being a child of this modern generation, the machine isn’t too difficult to navigate–opt for that. Do it quickly and make sure no one is hovering close enough to steal your purse/ticket/credit card while doing the transaction (this is key as predators can smell a rookie from a mile away).

Next, proceed through the turnstile and get it right the first time. Most are normal turnstiles like you’d encounter in a theme park–those are the easy ones. But you may be faced with a monstrosity like this:

Medieval torture device or entrance to the subway?

and then you have to make sure you’re as close to the entrance as possible or someone trying to EXIT while you ENTER will take your swipe. You can’t simply re-swipe your card, though. You have to wait something like 15 minutes or proceed to the next nearest station. Been there, done that.

Next, you have to make sure you arrive at the platform going in the correct direction (either uptown or downtown) and I swear to you that, in a number of circumstances, finding Platform 9 3/4 would be easier.

There are many a colorful character on the subterranean level of NYC and I advise you not to approach them at all or make any sudden movements. Avoid eye contact. Don’t even smile (because a true New Yorker won’t return it, anyway). If you do happen to break one of these rules, you may end up seeing what appears to be an older homeless man dressed like a priest click his heels and then walk behind you and check out your hiney.

Ew. Gross. Yep, it happened. 

Now, you must realize that waiting for your train is a tedious game that I haven’t enjoyed playing in the least. Most of the stations don’t have any signs to indicate when the next train will be arriving. Several people think it’s a good idea to LEAN INTO THE ACTUAL PIT of the station to see if there is a moving train barreling down the corridor. Guess what–people die this way every single year. Last year, well over 100 people were struck and at least 53 people DIED. Sure, some were suicide attempts, some were pushed by lunatics (see: SPOILER ALERT–House of Cards), but most were people accidentally leaning over the edge and falling in.

What a way to go. Your own stupidity sentenced you to death. Curiosity killed the cat–and the subway commuter.

Your train finally arrives, you’ve survived it pulling into the station, and you rapidly climb through the sliding doors hoping that they don’t close in the 10 seconds they usually remain open. If a seat isn’t taken, you plop down and try to contract all of your limbs into your torso so you’re not touching the (inevitably) obese person next to you that happens to be spilling into your seat–which is already pretty tiny. This is not because you don’t want to touch them because they repulse you (they’re perfectly nice humans, I’m sure); rather, because you think making contact with anyone else without their express permission is rude–even in tight quarters.

If there are no seats, you grab on to the nearest pole (infested with the germs of over 8 million people) and try not to fall over as the train jerks in every conceivable direction.

NOTE: the subway is not for people that like to daydream or easily zone out (ie it’s not for me). Because you may find yourself missing your stop at 59th Street on what you think is a local train and then end up at the next stop: 125 Street–66 blocks away from your missed stop because it magically has become an express train.

But you’re not a scatter brain so you get off at the right stop and head through those quickly closing doors and realize that there are several exits. Some lead you to other trains that you can transfer to (as there are multiple lines connecting all over the width and breadth of NYC). Others will lead to the street level–but which one is situated on the corner  you need it to be? Are you going NW, SE, or maybe you’re looking for a particular street on which to exit.

Now comes the ascent up 50 million stairs that’ll have your calves screaming for mercy after your first trip.

Why not take the elevator?

Because if a station has an elevator, you’ll probably have to wait 10 minutes for it (as they are all impossibly slow) or end up inside stranded, and alone, with a panhandler who has you trapped for the duration of the trip north.

I hope you brought change.

Walk up the steps, try not to hyperventilate at the excessive amounts of exercise, and breathe in the sweet smell of garbage and dog pee–you’ve reached your NYC destination.

Bi-Coastal Nanny Gains Perspective

When my bosses told me that they’d need me to go on an extended trip to NYC, I wasn’t too pleased to be ripped away from my beloved Los Angeles. We’d be traveling for well over a month and I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I’d be paying rent in LA for an apartment I wouldn’t be living in.

Expensive rent.

Add that to that the fact that we’d be there in the hottest, most humid months of the year and that I’d be limited to taking the kids to activities within walking distance of their apartment (no subways/taxis allowed), I was pretty sure I’d be going stir crazy from the minute we stepped off of the plane.

The truth of the matter is that I WAS stir crazy as soon as we got off the plane but only because I was on a plane ride with a number of small children–my charges included. I’ve decided, from this most recent experience, that I’m not suited to be a travel nanny.

My sour attitude wasn’t remedied by the fact that people in NYC have absolutely no consideration when total strangers (ME) go out of their way to perform niceties (like holding the elevator open for someone!) and the ever present din of honking taxis that make one’s anxiety skyrocket.

In short, within the first few minutes of having my feet firmly planted on the Newark, New Jersey soil (or asphalt, really, cracked and hot), I was ready to get back on the plane and go home.

That’s when I knew that I needed a serious attitude adjustment: there was no way I’d survive the entire trip if I didn’t take a few deep breaths and review the positives of my situation. Here are some of them:

  • My living quarters, though a 30 minute trip from the apartment where I’ll be working, is completely separate from the family and is in a building that I deeply suspect doesn’t allow children at all. It has AC, a dishwasher, an in unit washer/dryer, and a gym–all things my apartment back home lacks.
  • I have a lot more friends living in NYC than I previously suspected! And then I have friends of friends that are willing to keep this poor west coast stray company while she serves out her time in kiddie prison in the concrete jungle.
  • Rain. It’ll probably rain here and I do miss it. But I don’t miss being caught IN it…so maybe I’ll stop this subject right here before it gets too messy.
  • I’ll probably lose a ton of weight with the combination of sweating my butt off (literally) and walking everywhere so WAHOO!
  • There’s a ton to do and see here that I’ve never done before (as my NYC experience has mostly centered around Time Square). And I hear some of it’s free, so there’s that.
  • Everything is completely paid for–so that’s not a worry. Transportation, apartment, food (while on the clock). Woot!
  • I’ll get time off. A lot of nannies that travel extensively with their families don’t actually get much time to themselves but I’ve been promised that I will.
  • My boss gave me a new iPad mini upon my arrival. Hells yes for getting hand-me-down SWAG. This single handedly changed my perspective on the whole experience. If all else fails, I’m going to take that beautiful hunk of technology and zone out–preferably not while watching the kids.