Something. Anything.

Some days (ok, weeks), I feel in suspended animation, waiting for a sign, a direction, something.  I don’t think it is just me alone; the news, the economy, the pundits all talk about uncertainty and the absence of bold action.  Universal stagnation.

The Eurozone has been on the verge of collapsing, or recovering, for months.  Every day, European leaders are frantically accomplishing nothing while “contagion” threatens to spread.  

And who let Cyprus into the euro-zone?  Aren’t Greece and Turkey still fighting over that island?  Does it really need a bail-out or did it just get in line because it didn’t want to be left out of all the fun?

And, of course, we on the other side of the big pond are frightened and our markets volatile and businesses unsure. 

So we sit.  And we wait.  This is like watching a documentary on the Black Death Plague in slooooooow moooooootion. 

And the Supreme Court doesn’t often hand down a landmark decision that also tosses a curve ball into a presidential election (ok, other than in 2000) and so the Supremes are teasing this out to the very last day.  Ok ok ok, Messrs. and Mses. Justices, we all agree that you are so fabulous and powerful.  Now, give us the f%@#ing decision, ok?

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why some of the Justices don’t like broccoli so much, and why that seems absurdly relevant to the court decision. 

And then there is Taxmaggedon: the economic cliff that our nation slides off on January 1, 2013.  We spent too much on our national credit card and still no one wants to admit that, first, we need to pay the bill and, then, we can shoot the spendthrifts.

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why every event has to have a catchy (or actually not-so-catchy) name in order to signal that it is a big deal.  Taxmaggedon is apparently catchier than “elected officials not doing their jobs and compromising for the good of our nation and our economy”.  I think “Operation Nero” might be better, althought Congress is playing with something other than its collective fiddle.

And then there are Syria and Iran.  Syria has a vague “window of time” until it implodes with civil war.  Iran has a vague “window of time” before it can explode a nuclear bomb.  What should we do?  And when?

So we sit.  And we wait. And what does a window have to do with time, anyway?  And if it turns out we blew that window with Iran, do I really need to keep saving for retirement or going to the gym?

I could go on.  (No, really, I could.)  And I fear that either the resolutions that won’t come or, if they do, they give rise to more questions and more uncertainty.  

Sooo, I’m sittin’ and I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ . . . .


Reading Tea Leaves

In my desperate attempt to see a path for business growth in these tumultuous times, sometimes I read the FOMC meeting notes (or the comments on them, which are boring enough to masquerade as the actual minutes), or my Yahoo! horoscope (it was really a sad day when Excite stop publishing the personal, love and career energy meters), or hospitality news and daily real estate digests.

I might as well read tea leaves or coffee grinds.  Because I am as good as Ben Bernanke or Angela Merkel or Mario Draghi at forecasting and certainly no worse than the deranged homeless man who “lives” on 109th just off Broadway.

In fact, the preacher man who sometimes cries out in the subway, “Jesus Christ is coming!! He is coming today!!” has a good chance that one day he will be right.

Sidebar:  At least, as to the part of his predictions that inherently require an apocalypse; the savior part of his story requires really going out on a limb.  I am not ready for that level of commitment.  Marrying a mortal is about as far as I can go with a full and open heart.

Look, I don’t need to be rich.  I just need my savings when I am ready to retire.  And, I don’t even need all of my savings.  I just need to keep my righteous indignation at companies like Walmart without secretly hoping that when I am 80 years old there will be a “greeter” job available at a nearby store.

But I really need that righteous indignation.  I really can’t retire without that.



I really don’t know life at all. . . .

When I was 10 years-old, I thought my parents knew everything.  And, in point of fact, they were very smart.  And I felt very, very safe.

SOS is approaching that same tender age.  And I am not so smart and, as each day passes, I understand less and less about the world and its workings.  And I am not someone who can watch events unfold with quiet conviction that all will be okay in the end.

Maybe my parents saw their own version of a scary, out of control world and worked hard to shield us from it.  After all, the 1950s and 1960s were all about communist infiltration, threat of nuclear war with the Soviets and the reality of wars in far-off places.

Maybe my parents looked smart to me but were just as concerned about their future as I am now about ours.

Maybe I don’t have to have the answers; maybe it is enough that I can kiss away some of SOS’s problems with absolute promises that it — whatever “it” is — will turn out fine. Because the wonderful thing about having little kids is that sometimes they have little problems.

Maybe all that matters is that he feels very, very safe.  And so far he does.  And, protecting him makes me strong because I have to be.

So, LIFE, bring it on . . . .




Geraldo, I wear a hoodie, too.

A friend told me recently that he enjoys my blog because I write about things on the micro-scale, even though the world (the macro-scale) is going to hell in a hand basket (sidebar: whence that phrase?).  The truth, I told him, is that our problems are so large, so scary and the politics of them are so venal, that if I wrote about that I fear I will slip irretrievably into the abyss.

But I can’t continue to blog about the wedding without taking time out to meditate on the killing of one unarmed young man by some self-appointed and armed neighborhood watchman.

And the police didn’t even arrest the shooter or bring him in for questioning.  It is a moral outrage.

The final straw was the statement by Geraldo Rivera, that young Trayvon Martin should not have been wearing a hoodie.

(Sidebar:  Geraldo, the man who never quite recovered from finding nothing in Al Capone underground safe.)

Is Geraldo saying that a plausible defense is that “the hoodie did it?” 

Geraldo, I am a white, Jewish, middle-aged, lesbian and I wear a hoodie when I go to the gym.  Of course, you would not suggest that my hoodie would somehow be the reason for an assault on me.

Geraldo, you know that you meant that young black men should know better: if Trayvon Martin don’t want to get killed, he should have dressed like a model straight from the Brooks Brothers catalog.   You seem very comfortable with acknowledging and codifying this undercurrent of deadly racism.

Are you kidding me?  

People don’t carry guns unless they are ready to use them.  So, the shooter is responsible every time that gun is fired.  But, if I follow your logic (I can’t really get my head that far up my rectum), Trayvon practically put the gun in the shooter’s hand and begged him to pull the trigger.

Shame on you and all of the other people on that TV show who let you spew this stupidity and insanity without challenge.

I am a mother and my heart is breaking for Trayvon’s parents and all parents who have lost children to this kind of insanity.


Rock Climbing

About ten days ago, NYCFOB (New York college friend of blogger) asked if any of her friends wanted to go with her to get a rock climbing belaying certification.  I thought, I haven’t seen my dear NYCFOB in a while (which is ridiculous because we live within 10 blocks of each other) and this would be a great activity.  And I remember belaying SOS (my son, source of sanity) when he used to rock climb in the Field House at Chelsea Piers. But NYCFOB and I were getting our certification at the BIG wall in the Chelsea Piers Fitness Club.  Yikes.

Essentially, the belayer is the person that keeps the climber aloft even if the climber loses his footing.  The belayer has to keep the ropes taut and be prepared to keep the climber from free-falling off the rock. A rock climber needs to trust the belayer.  The belayer needs to have a fast reaction time.  The rock climber is to the belayer as action is to reaction.  The belayer can be the rock climber’s life line — trust, fear, intense concentration, brute strength, and “who-your-daddy?” all combined.

NYCFOB and I have been friends for 30 years.  We have a bond that is tried and true and secure, no matter that we don’t see each other on a daily, or monthly basis.  If she needed something I would be there and vice versa.  So, going into this I was relaxed.  But, I think NYCFOB decided to do this on a whim and didn’t know what it entailed.  I had a sense, but it had been a while since I had to do this.

Our instructor, Matt, who was 12 years-old with some tattoos and various ornamental body piercings, taught us to tie the Knots of Death, and handle the ropes, etc.   I call them the Knots of Death because if you, as climber, don’t tie them right and the belayer doesn’t recognize that the knots are not correct, there is nothing but a free fall awaiting you.

15 minutes — count them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 — later:

Climber up!!

WHAAAAAT??  One of us is climbing and the other is belaying??

Isn’t that what we paid the instructor to do?  We would belay him and he would belay us?  We have to belay each other after a brief instruction?

NYCFOB was the first on the rocks.  The secret about belaying is that not only do you protect the climber but you can also help the climber by pulling on the rope to get him an extra boost to the next “handle” on the wall.   But you have to be careful about giving the climber rope burns in the sensitive areas where harness grabs the flesh (yeah, you can let out an “OUCH!!” right about now).  No one believes that you are helping if you give someone a wedgie (or worse).  That is just the unsung role of the belayer.

Anyway, NYCFOB was right to fear that I didn’t have the skill level.  And, understandably NYCFOB was stressed while she was waiting at the top while Matt was just then teaching me about how to let her down slowly.  She did say, “get me down, now!” or something to that effect. She didn’t know that all was going to be ok because I had already threatened Matt, “if you let me let my friend of 30 years fall off those rocks, first I am going to kill you, then, I am going to call two ambulances.  Are we clear?”  He seemed surprised and then I was surprised that no one had threatened him in this way before.  How can that be?  Maybe there aren’t too many Jewish mothers rock climbing.  But, really, isn’t this just more evidence that the flush sound you hear is our civilization rounding the drain?

Then it was NYCFOB’s turn to belay me.  Note the ever so attractive butt shot.  That bag on my butt is the chalk bag to help grip the wall and not some bizarro thong thing strafing my tooshie.

When NYCFOB was learning how to bring me down gently, I remembered that I was afraid of heights.  I started to break out into a cold sweat and get all weak.  In a moment of self-preservation, I started to stare at the wall and hoped that I would start being lowered.  Matt yelled, “let go of the wall!!”

Really?  Let gooooo of the wall???

In that split second, I realized that I was current on my life insurance and that we were close enough to the High Holy Days that this was a test of my mortal future.  I left go of the wall.  (Nah, not really.  I scraped my fingers against the wall, but the bonus was that I also got a complimentary nail filing.) Then, Matt decided that we take turns belaying him and he would “fall” a few times to give us practice in stressful situations.

Wait.  You are giving us practice AFTER we took turns holding the lives of our friends in our hands?

Are you a moron, Matt?

Ok, so we take turns doing that.  The class was over and, although I think we both thought about having a bite together and catching up, we were too physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I just dropped NYCFOB on the cab home. Today, I saw NYCFOB for a mini-reunion with other college friends.  I asked about the next belaying class in a way that suggested I was up for it and yet really scared by the prospect.  “I’ll look at the schedule and get back to you,” was NYCFOB’s answer. Phewww.

NYCFOB.  A true friend.

Days of Awe, 5772

Jews have a strange way of celebrating holidays.  Take the New Year, for example.  Most of the world celebrates a new year with parties, presents or hangovers.  Not Jews.  It’s all about death and destruction.

Our new year 5772 begins Wednesday at sunset with Rosh Ha-Shanah, the birthday of the world.  (I always forget to ask if that is based on the first day or sixth day of creation).

Every new year, we begin by fighting for our mortal lives.

On Rosh Ha-Shanah, our ancient rabbis taught that our fates for the coming year are “penciled-in” and, ten days later, on Yom Kippur, they are sealed – for life or death, for health or sickness, happiness or sorrow, wealth or not-so-much wealth. And because Jews can be lugubrious at times, we go through the recitation of how many ways we could die — water, fire, disease, famine, war, etc.  (The list goes on and on.  Who knew that there were so many ways to die prior to modern warfare?)

During the 10 days, one can sway G-d from the harshest of punishments by our good acts, repentance and atonement for our sins committed during the prior year (here, 5771) and return to the principles of our faith.  Nevertheless, it all pretty much puts a damper on any thoughts of parties with confetti, funny hats and noise makers.

We don’t even sing happy birthday to the world.  If I were the maker of the world, there would be hell to pay (no scare tactics, there) if some massive number of earthly beings, sea creatures and plants didn’t start a rousing round of “G-d’s a jolly good fellow — um — non-corporal entity”.

Living year-to-year like this makes a person wonder why a Jew takes out a 30-year mortgage, or eats vegetables instead of ice cream.  I guess I understand the 30-year mortgage — why buy something with cash if your fate the next Yom Kippur is shall-we-say “tentative”?  Better to borrow money and leave more liquid assets to your heirs, should the fate have a negative prognosis.  But vegetables?  Well, I guess on a day-to-day, they are important to digestion, the specific details of which are somewhat of a preoccupation of our people.

It isn’t all sack cloth and ashes.  We do gather for a meal together but we are focused on not talking about the tragic outfits at synagogue or the odd recombination of couples from last year, because it is not settled law whether for atonement purposes, these sins are included in last year’s sins or next year’s sins.  And we act so sure that we will live another year, that we don’t start with dessert.  The sheer hubris should get us deeper in trouble, even if we don’t have to account for it until 5773.

And then there are people like me, who think that G-d (if G-d even listens to the rituals we ascribed to Heavenly declaration) has billions of creatures to judge, so that’s why some of the good get caught up with bad and the some of the bad seem to get rewarded.  Also, what a downer to have to note everyone’s sins 24/7 (ok, G-d rested on the Sabbath, so 24/6), and then have to remember all of them to give an initial prognosis on Rosh Ha-Shanah and then listen to 9 days of whining about why it wasn’t really stealing, gossip, adultery, pork or whatever.  On the 10th day, I would flood the earth and start again.  Wait, G-d did that once.  (And by the looks of global warming, it is happening again.)

Still, I am looking forward to these ten days of awe.  It is a religiously mandated time-out of the usual rhythms of life.   At different times during these ten days, there is time for quiet, for chanting, for meditation, for family and for solitude.

Something in me needs space to think about my family and the world and my place in both.  I have a visceral need to course-correct some aspects of my life and to resolve to do some things differently and do other things better.   I think this need comes from my fears about the future of the world, our country, our economy and our humanity and their effects on my ability to provide for my family.  And I need these Days of Awe to figure out how I can transform my fears into hope and action.

May this be a year of peace and other blessings for all of us, all over the world.


Like a Hurricane

Our newly re-acronymed child, SOS (source of sanity) needs to go back to TLP (the little prince), at least for a little while.

On Saturday night, we hunkered down after checking in on all local relatives who might need help.  TLP wondered why we couldn’t camp out at the beach like his cousin, his aunt and his other grandfather (not my dad).  (In fact, to add insult to injury, we made him come home from visiting them at the beach in anticipation of the hurricane.)

They aren’t camping actually.

In fact, they didn’t intend to “camp”, since they live in a perfectly lovely house in East Hampton.  We tried to explain that Hurricane Irene could cause downed power lines and flooding, which would then lead to “indoor camping” by necessity and not by choice.

TLP thought it would an important manly experience, except he forgot that he is a (little) man who likes his amenities, let alone “essentials” like TV, computer access, running water, flushing toilets, etc.

You get the picture. He knows what he wants until he realizes that it is not at all what he wants.  Until that eureka moment, he has the determination of . . . of . . . well, POB (partner of blogger).  Genes are a boomerang.

It is ok that he is not so self-aware of his lack of earthiness.  He is only 9 years old.

Sunday dragged on and on.  TLP couldn’t really focus on the usual mind-numbing TV because he wanted to go back out to the beach.   The hurricane washed out our week at the beach, at least initially.  When the owners of our rental called to say that the power was out and there was flooding on the property, TLP became inconsolable.  Ok, ok, ok, ok, his entire life up to this point has been a vacation.  It is I, I, I, I, I, I, who needs a vacation. Me, me, me, me, me. (It may be important to note that I am ranting here and not TLP.  I can see how you might be confused.)

POB needs some time away, too, but she has had the summer off so, this year at least, a week at the beach is more tradition and less a sanity-saving device.

I had already started looking at other options.  Of course, anything west required a plane and airports were backlogged.  Going south was clearly a non-starter since that was the trajectory of the storm.

Northwest, maybe. Lake George.  Aaah, the Sagamore.  I loved the Sagamore years ago, even though tennis whites were required on the courts and I had to buy clothes in the gift shop.  What does a New York Jew know about tennis whites?  Oh, yeah, Wimbledon.  But that is in England.  Oh, wait!  These people descend from those who came from England.  Ahhhh.

I called the hotel and they had available condos, etc.  So, maybe they allow lavender on the tennis courts?  After all, these are trying economic times.

I took down the information and said I would call back, because I needed to confirm with POB that she was ok with all goyim all the time at a WASPy retreat. POB has some of that blood line in her so I figured her first question would be ask what would there be for us to eat, because clearly she understands the differences in the traditions.  We don’t drink martinis and we don’t eat honey-roasted bar nuts (we eat healthy, raw nuts).  Clearly, we would starve.  In fact, she did ask, and I looked at her with the “after all these years, you think I can’t read your mind” look.  In a calm, but slightly hurt voice (intending to get some martyr points), I told her about the condos with full kitchens that we could stock up in case we couldn’t recognize any of the food.

I guarantee you the first thing anyone at the Sagamore would think upon seeing our family is not, “oh, Jews”.  Especially when they see my accidentally too-severe Janet Napolitano (US secretary of something) style of haircut (thank you, IFOB (Italian friend of blogger) for drawing that parallel).  In fact, I was betting on an upgrade to the furthest and possibly nicest available condo on the property.  We would get the privacy we want and, if they were particularly freaked out, I planned to ask about Shabbat services.  Hell, they would offer in-condo dining, absolutely free.  Grand slam homer for a patched-together vacation, if you ask me.

My delusions of vacation were interrupted when I called back to book the reservation.  In the 6 hours between my calls, Hurricane Irene had hit them hard.  That area was not supposed to be really affected.  I felt bad for my gloating over the dyke-Jew plague I was going to bring on them.  So, we’ll go there sometime soon, when my hair grows out and we will pay full price.  It is the least we can do.

Ok, no vacation plans.  And the boy who earns the acronym TLP is inconsolable.  So, today, Day 3 of When Havoc Struck The Blogger Family, we set out to the train museum in Danbury, Connecticut.  POB and I decided we needed a road trip and we needed to ease TLP into the staycation reality.  He was happy and POB and I were relieved to have him immersed in something.  And the trains were pretty cool, I have to say.

Tonight, we got word that our rented house will be in reasonable shape on Wednesday.  TLP is over the moon.  We are all relieved as well because it is good to get away.  Still, we have tomorrow.

Using some of my martyr points, I have cleared a Blogger mental health and physical wellness morning tomorrow, which means I get to run and look at the river for a while before we all have lunch.  Then, on to preparations for the delayed vacation.

I am thinking of showing TLP pictures of the damage caused by the hurricane and some pictures from Tripoli so he understands that life is not always a vacation.  I just don’t know when is the right time to introduce reality into a happy (and privileged) childhood.  I don’t want to scar him, but I want him to be grateful that we and none of our family was irreparably harmed in a natural disaster that claimed lives and livelihoods of so many.  I want him to have empathy, but I don’t want him to be afraid of what life throws in our path.  I want him to learn to “roll with it”.  I want him to understand his good fortune.  Maybe these are not 9 year-old thoughts and ideas.  Maybe that is too much to put on someone so young.

Parents out there:  HELP!!!



Chopped Liver

Since POB (partner of blogger) has been “at liberty” this summer, she feels the need to explain the incredible discounts she gets on everything she buys.  I absolutely don’t care.  I trust POB with my heart, our son and our bank accounts.  It is her meshugas (craziness).

A typical conversation:

“I bought these pants but since they are last year’s color, I got them for $40 and you always need another pair of khaki-colored pants.  I know I have three pairs now, but the others don’t fit me anymore. . . .”

“If the others don’t fit you, then you only have one, which you bought.  So, you needed it.  They look great.”

“I didn’t really need it [air quotes], but they are good to have.”

“Why are we having this conversation?  I am really glad you have something that fits and looks great on you.”

“But it was a good deal.”

“This is your meshugas, right?  I am here so you don’t look like you are talking to yourself, right?”

[Mean, but loving look in my direction.]


Last week, I noticed that POB’s roots were growing in a little.

Remembering her meshugas, I say to her, “Please don’t try to save money by not getting your hair done regularly.  I am committed to your blond hair.”

You might think because I am a girl, I can get away with saying that to POB, whereas a guy couldn’t.  WRONG. 

“Are you trying to say my hair looks bad?”

Aaaaargh.  If only we can rewind the tape in life, I would have said, “I see your roots.  Make an appointment with your colorist.”  Instead, I had to backpedal with, “what’s important is how you feel.”

POB thought about it for a moment.  “After we get back from vacation, I’ll get it done.  Who am I going to see until then?”


“Really, is that your final answer?”  Oooops, I guess POB forgot I would be seeing her.  What am I?  chopped liver?

Thank G-d she joined me on the seventh rung of Hell.  Otherwise, it could have been a “situation”.

What is even better is that the appointment is this afternoon and POB had already had reservations on the Jitney in from Long Island.  The only issue last night was whether SOS (our son, source of sanity) was staying with his cousin and aunt out at the beach or coming back with POB.  (SOS is coming home, thank G-d.)  There is a hurricane coming after all.

After the hurricane passes, POB and I are going discuss elevating my status to paté.

Vacation Day 1

Actually, vacation started last night (we like to keep to a Hebrew calendar and start holidays at sundown).

POB (partner of blogger) and our son (now known as our collective Source of Sanity, SOS) are already out of town on our family vacation (too long of a back story).

I was really, really tired.  I wanted to disconnect and decompress, so I watched a Phineas and Ferb marathon (courtesy of our DVR).  The riff the writers did on the Mexican-Jewish Festival at the local Jewish Center was hysterical.  Also as funny was the skit about Phineas and Ferb as detectives out of the Maltese Falcon, Dragnet and then CSI:Miami.  I know, I know, it is a cartoon for kids, but it is far superior to most things on TV.  Still, it would be hard to watch it if you didn’t have a kid.  And you need to watch a few to get into the groove.  But I digress.

I spoke with POB and SOS and then got into my jammies.  It was 9pm.

I slept until 10am this morning.  I was tooo lazy to make fresh coffee, so I drank cold coffee from the fridge.  I waited until 10:30 to look at my blackberry. I thought that was pretty damn healthy for someone with my level of neurosis.

I alternated between Phineas and Ferb and Bloomberg on the Markets, as I read the paper.  The paper and the markets were depressing and P&F was over.  I dragged myself to the gym.  It was about 11:15am.  It was already raining but I went on a short run just to get my adrenaline going.

First words of the day, spoken to the barista at Le Pain Quotidien on Broadway: “Iced double espresso, please.” Aaaah, VACATION.

I don’t use an iPod anymore at the gym.  I feel a little to isolated when I do that.  Unfortunately, today, the shows on the TV monitors featured the hunt for Qaddafi, Hurricane Irene and Warren Buffett.  Ok, not relaxing.  So, I try to focus on other things.  Not so much going on at the gym on a random Thursday morning, so my attention drifts back to the TVs.  Somehow I think this relaxation thing should be easier.

I leave for a nap.  This vacation thing is starting to work.

I have stress dreams about forgetting to go to classes and having to read everything on the syllabus in one night.  Ok, so I checked my blackberry and sent some emails.  Ok, my love-hate with vacation is more volatile than the stock markets.

So, vacation is not a cold turkey kind of experience.  I need to eeeeeeeeeaaase into it.

I go back to the gym (I was raised to be an over-achiever) and lift weights and, in my best yoga position, breathe in good oxygen and expel bad humors.

All this does is make me hyperventilate. “Why,” you ask?  HOW CAN YOU ASK WHY? Don’t you read the paper, watch the markets and look at the Hurricane warnings?

Of course, I can’t really relax.  POB and SOS are staying at her father’s beach house with her sister and our nephew.  Right in the path of Hurricane Irene.  As is the house we are renting next week.

POB and I have a wedding to go to on Saturday evening in Westchester.  The original plan was for POB to leave SOS with my sister-in-law and nephew on Friday and we would pick him up once we settled into our beach house rental on Sunday.

I am ready to call it Hurricane Irene a disaster that requires us to change our plans.  I want my family, and my sister-in-law and nephew to come back to NYC and stay until the storm passes.

The problem of course is that people don’t believe the media anymore because media hypes everything for ratings.  Like the boy who cried wolf.  But, I don’t care.  I am willing to be wrong on this because there is no victory in being right.  And I will just rant against corporate-controlled media in a blog entry.  Win-win situation.

Of course, when I went shopping, I didn’t really stock up on much, except some expensive tap water labeled as natural spring water and lychee fruit, which are refreshing and a pain to eat.  I guess I am not a good natural disaster shopper. That’s why POB needs to come back.  She knows what to do.

Ok, maybe this vacation thing gets more relaxing once you get into a groove and natural disasters are out of the way.  So far, I think it would be more relaxing to be at work . . . .


The Slippery Slope

I rented a humongous car on Sunday morning for the multi-generational family sojourn to and from Rhinebeck for a family barbeque.  I am a regular at the rental car place and (as long as no one is waiting) I kibbitz with those behind the counter while I wait for my car.  It is a nearby location of a national rental chain with huge corporate profits.  Still, they’ve been in the neighborhood for decades and that’s important.

When I arrived I asked for a portable GPS (remember the trip to Philadelphia?  see prior blog entry), since I forgot to request it when reserving the car.  The car that was scheduled for me had to be driven from another location.  20 minute delay.  No GPS.  I built in extra time so I was ok with it and since no one was around, the people behind the counter and I, well, kibbitzed about this and that.

The guy in charge of the car intake and outflow (how else would it be described) radioed that the exact same model with GPS had just been returned!! Awesome.  Except there was 1/4 of a tank of gas and since the car itself was the size of a military ops vehicle, I would need to refill shortly after getting on the road.

Noooooo problem.  I know that someone would have to go to the bathroom within 5 minutes of clearing Manhattan. This is my family after all.

When I got in the car, there was a full tank of gas.  Hmmm.  I must have heard wrong.   I picked up the brood and off we went.

This morning, I had to return the car.  If you live on the Upper West Side of New York City, you know it is a pain to get gas.   The stations are shoe-horned into crevices along streets leading to major highways and bridges, so getting gas can be life-ending experience.  I look at the fuel gauge.  A little more than 1/4 filled.  I remember that I was told that the tank was only 1/4 filled.  I look at the print-out from the rental place.  Yep, it says 1/4 filled.

I am tired.  I am late for work.  I am late to return the car.  I was planning to write the premium check for my life insurance later this morning when I got to the office.  No one will know if I return the car as-is.  In fact, according to the company’s records, it is a gallon or two ahead. And, don’t I pay enough already to rent a car in Manhattan?

No one will know.  No one.  Actually, someone will know (yoo hoo!!).  I will know.  I who try to teach my child to do the right thing not because you will get rewarded if you do (or get punished if you don’t) but because it is the right thing to do.

I will know.  My parents used to say, “if doing the right thing were easy, everyone would do it.” Yeah, but I can navigate the mania of city driving and I can afford the late charge, the cost of a tank of gas and being late for work.

So, I go to the scary gas station where you have to back out onto a two way street just yards away from that access and exit ramps of the West Side Highway and do a high speed, ultra-alpha-macho U-turn.  Did I mention the school down the street?  Luckily, it is a really long block and there is nothing residential until the corner.  And, anyway, I am always early on my premium payments so if something happened, my family would be ok financially.

I can’t help but think [for those of you who think I am an easy chair liberal who often contemplates my navel, wait for it .  .  . wait for it . . . and a one and a two and a . . . ]:   If we were struggling financially, would I look at it as a gift and stay quiet? (Think Paul Muni in, “I am a Fugitive From the Chain Gang”

Maybe doing the right thing depends on what lies in the balance.