Monday, March 8, 2010

Who Needs Student MetroCards When We Have Jails?

Remember the good ole' days when student transportation passes were just colored construction paper? You could use them an unlimited number of times, at any time of day, and you could easily duplicate one with markers and paper if you lost yours (or for some other reason). Then came the Metrocards. ONLY THREE FARES? EXPIRES AT 8:30pm? What an adjustment that was. But when we figured out how to utilize that train to bus transfer, we could hang out before school, after school, after-after school, uptown, downtown, whatever. But no matter when and where we went, the point is that we went to school.

As a student, I never thought about the MTA or city's lost revenue from my free transportation pass. That's the way I think it should be. That's like burdening our children with the costs of feeding them. In order to fulfill a necessity, remove all other obstacles and considerations. I sometimes struggle with my 4 year old to eat her veggies. Would it make sense to ask her to pay me so she could eat them? Pu-leez. That would sound ridiculous.

Well, that's what this new proposal to cut Student Metrocards sound like to me. RIDICULOUS!

Now, I'm not just an idealist. I understand that the MTA is cash-strapped, as is the city, state, and country. Unfortunately, some items must have immunity from the chopping block. When my husband and I are trimming our budget we don't say, "Electricity? Nah, we'll just have our 4 year old light a candle every time she needs to pee." We would sooner let our credit cards go into default.

I never imagined I would see a proposal for families to pay for their children to go to FREE public school. On the one hand I think our CEOs and elected officials have gone mad and on the other I think this city must really be sinking. I mean, when I saw the preview of the movie The Crazies, I thought "they must be talking about NYC." Who is the genius who said, "our city has a 9 percent unemployment rate, people are losing their homes and drowning in debt. We need a solution. I've got it. Make them pay $1,000 for their child's education." Is it just us regular folks at the bottom who can figure this out.

No student metrocards = kids don't go to school = equals truancy = equals jail. According to the the NYC Department of Juvenile Justice, 45% of children detained were 15 at the time of their admittance ( That is the age between 9th and 10th grades when most school dropouts occur. While DYCD (Department of Youth and Community Development) is offering contracts to organizations to provide Out of School Time dropout prevention programs for 9th graders, the MTA and city are eliminating student transportation. News flash. Kids won't come to afterschool programs if they have no money to get there. If you are gonna fund one, you need to fund the other. This reminds me of those timeshare solicitations that offer complimentary vacations to Puerto Vallarta but you need to pay for the airfare. Have you ever priced flights from NYC to Puerto Vallarta? Yea. Exactly.

I have another dilemma that has been rattling my brain. For the past five years, we have heard about MTA's budget deficits. Year after year they come up with the same solution. Raise fares, cut service. Fine. If that is what is necessary, I'll deal with it. But my issue is, WHY..... is the deficit never closed or even minimized after their plan goes into effect. We pay more, get less, and then their deficit is bigger. This is not the algebra I spent all 9th grade learning. I think I may be on to something with a sequel to The Crazies. "The Crazies 2: The strapped-hangers Start Hanging." I know budgets are projections that can change. But I've worked with budgets and funding for years and when numbers start looking like this, someone ain't being honest.

Yet another dilemma. I am all for valuing workers. I supported the transit strike even though it inconvenienced me. But when critical cuts are being discussed, perks such as free passes for MTA retirees and employees are just not as important. I don't mean to de-value MTA workers, but if we are talking serious financial trouble, then something's gotta give. MTA workers have kids too. I mean, retail employees only get 20-30% discounts of their merchandise. Not free clothing. It has been reported that 15,000 MTA retirees and their spouses get free passes and that doesn't include current MTA employees, which reportedly brings the total close to 65,000 ( Meanwhile, the MTA is planning to layoff 1,000 employees. Make Sense? MTA Employee 1: "I'm glad we got these free passes." MTA Employee 2: "I just got laid off." MTA Employee 1: "I'm sure glad I got this free pass. Sucks for you though." It seems that with every negotiation victory for the Transport Workers Union, more people get laid off. That doesn't seem so victorious. Whatever happened to community members chipping in to enable the whole community to thrive. Oh, shhhhh. That's communism. I wouldn't oppose to giving a little to offset the costs of student Metrocards if it were REALLY necessary (oh wait, I do. I think these special donations are called taxes). I honestly just don't think people can afford to do that in this economic climate.

So, what is the solution? For us, the first thing to do is write, call, and protest. To write letters objecting to the elimination of student Metrocards, go here, The second thing to do is hope, pray, whatever, that the MTA and city comes to their senses before we all go crazy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Art of the Doubtful Confirmation

It's your birthday! You are having a baby! It's New Year's! Whatever it is, you are having a party to celebrate. You prepare your E-vite and send it to all of your friends. The next day you hurry to check it, sure that out of the 100 invites, 50 will have replied, "Yes." Gasp! There must be an error. 5 yeses, 15 maybes, 3 declines, and 72 unreplied? Why isn't everyone jumping with excitement to attend your party? There are many excuses we are given by our friends for why they can't or MAY not be able to attend. But what it boils down to is this - it's just not that important.

I remember Ellen DeGeneres saying in one of her stand-ups, that call-waiting is a popularity contest. If your friend clicks over and says "Hey, can I call you back?" what they just said to the other caller is "let me get rid of this other call." And you, my friend, have just lost the popularity contest. Well, it's the same idea with parties. Rarely, when you give people a month to six weeks notice for an event, they already have a prior commitment. So, this means that the majority of the maybes and nos you get, you get because they are either waiting for something better to do or they don't think it is worth it to find a baby sitter, travel to another borough or leave the house again once they get home from work.

So now, to the focus of this blog. The doubtful confirmation. Yes, an oxymoron. Translation... "I will definitely try to make it," "I am planning on stopping by," and "I think I'll definitely be able to come." WHAT? They might as well say "I am definitely thinking of possibly considering heading in that general direction." What they mean is, "if all of my other plans that I have yet to make fall through and I don't have to work late... and the weather is perfect (no rain, snow, cold, or slight wind)... and my feet don't hurt from wearing uncomfortable shoes all day, I will be there." Why can't we just be straight with our people? Just say, because, it's just not important enough to commit to.

My good friend got married several months ago. I confirmed my attendance and made plans to be there five months in advance, even though in that five months I moved and had a baby. Plenty of excuses not to show. To avoid any conflict, I reminded my husband of the event every couple of weeks and put a reminder on the fridge. My husband and I had to borrow a car (ours was not in great shape for the long drive), prepare my mother to babysit for the 3 month old newborn who was not adjusted to bottle-feeding, and find appropriate outfits (which was not easy for me as I had just given birth). That is what it means to commit to an event.

We all have those few events we will attend, no matter what. But for the rest of them, we just flake. Further, we put on an act, so that we can flake and still look good. There are three general styles of flakiness:

1) The Dependable No-Shows. These people ALWAYS confirm immediately. "I'll be there, no doubt." But they don't show up. After the event, you await that phone call from them with the story of "what happened." These people always have something crazy that happened to them that prevented them from showing up. Their excuse is so elaborate that you cannot dispute it. These people prefer to look good up front by immediately declaring to the world that they will be there for you, and then quietly not show up. However, once in a blue moon, they will make a cameo appearance for the last 5 minutes of the party or even after the party is over.

2) The Definite Maybes. These people are just that. They are great at saying maybe. Unable to commit. These people never say yes so you can't hold them accountable for not showing up. They usually say something like "I'll try to stop by." Who are you kidding? You aren't going to alter your plans just to stop by. But at least they make it seem like they are really trying to make it. "I'll try." Or "I'll see what I can do." What does that mean, really? What are they moving around? Who are they canceling on? What are they seeing if they can do? Nothing. What this really means is "if on the day of your party, my almost as sucky plans fall through and I have no other back up plan, I'll come out of desperation. Time to re-evaluate that friendship.

3) The After-Party Apology. These characters are avoiders. They don't RSVP either way. Don't call you or email you. They completely avoid you until the day after the party. Then the day after, you can guarantee you will get a phone call from them saying "Your party was yesterday?! I can't believe I missed it." Yeah right. They would actually rather seem completely disorganized than just admit they don't really feel like coming. "You mean you didn't see the E-vite and 5 reminders until, conveniently, the day after? I can't believe they all went into your spam folder for the 3rd party in a row?" I actually had a "friend" who called and said "so sorry I missed your shower" to which I said, "you didn't. It's actually not for three weeks." She sounded excited not to have missed it and then proceeded to say, "let me check my calendar to see if I can attend on that day." She never called back or attended, despite the many reminders.

I will be the first to admit that I have been a culprit. When I say maybe to an event, what I mean to say is that I am not sure if it is worth me finding child care, putting on makeup, putting aside drink money, and using the little free time I have, to attend. Everyone has there general event guidelines. These are mine. I'll say yes to a good friend's special occasion... no to an acquaintance (if you have nothing to say to me at the party besides "so glad you could make it," the answer is no). I'll say yes to dinner or a lounge. No to a club. Yes to Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn. No to the Bronx or Queens (Staten Island is not even a consideration). No to any place with a cover charge, wait in line, or 'no-jeans' policy. No to anything before 11am and no to any weekend getaway (sorry, no Atlantic City pool parties for me).

So there are my ground rules. I encourage you to figure out yours so we can all be straight with our people. We may think we look good in the moment by giving our friends a half-ass yes or a definite maybe, but our people always see through the BS.