In Love With Inconvenience: The New York City Parent

 

Brooklyn Bridge, Looking East, New York City Side, July 7, 1899

Brooklyn, Land of the Schleppers

One thing I love about living in the city is having interesting, sophisticated, worldly conversations with the smart, creative people one meets here. To wit, one of my recent favorites, concerning the question, “How do you get in the door?” I bet moms in the suburbs don’t have stimulating conversations like this one.

In the strange case that you were curious, here’s my version: If we are in the double stroller I kick Harper out, make her walk up the front stairs, then pull the stroller up the front stairs into the vestibule where I park, unload, put Ollie in the carrier, then lug everything up to our third floor apartment while shouting at Harper, “Go! Go! Don’t pick up the neighbors’ shoes! Just walk! No, don’t sit down and talk to Pretend-Murray! Walk! Up!” Or, alternately, if we are in the single, umbrella stroller, then I kick Harper out, make her walk up the stairs, unload whatever groceries we’ve acquired or cubbies that have been stowed in the basket, take these up into the vestibule, then fold the stroller and insert it into the stroller-pile in the hallway before lugging everything up while shouting, “Walk, Harper! No, Pretend-Murray doesn’t need a time-out! Go up the stairs! Up! Up!”

My friends and I like to discuss our other fox-chicken-chicken feed type conundrums – how to get groceries, walk dogs, take the subway, etc – in excruciating detail, grateful for every inkling that someone else has it worse. “Oh, you have to store your stroller in the basement? Drag!” It’s very enriching. And it’s not just the everyday household stuff either; it’s schooling (“How many pre-Ks is Punky applying to?”); it’s housing (“I hope the co-op board approves us so we can move into our $800,000 studio!”) – we just like everything to be about 12 steps more complicated than it is anywhere else.

But as I was transporting an IKEA haul up our rickety stairs the other day, having performed extremely complicated car-moving maneuvers (coordinating, as I do, all driving outings with times when the car has to be moved for alternate side parking/street cleaning anyway), it occurred to me that I probably secretly like all this ridiculousness. After all, it is a kind of a puzzle, a riddle to feverishly occupy my mind while my body performs numbingly boring tasks like grocery shopping. It becomes a kind of a game to multi-task as many tasks as possible, to transform an ordinary errand into a complicated series of strategic moves. Everyday life, become chess.

That said, I wouldn’t mind a slightly less crafty opponent, sometimes.

8 responses to “In Love With Inconvenience: The New York City Parent

  1. I think about this all the time so I can relate. I have to tell you, when we moved to Miami, we didn’t have to think about any of that stuff. The weather was perfect, we had a garage and even a guy who brought up our groceries (most Miami buildings come with one), there were elevators everywhere and I happily traded all that in for our previous apartment which was a four story walk up with early alternate parking if we were lucky to find a parking spot 🙂
    Funny post.

  2. Just had a conversation yesterday with a mom regarding bathroom towels in her small bathroom. We got into the minutiae of where to store dry towels, where to hang wet towels, how she might make space for each family member’s towel while keeping them all in the bathroom, even what kind of hooks would be best. It was hilarious how into this discussion we both were. I LOVE solving puzzles of space and time.

    • Oh wow, that does sound good! Did you solve the tiny bathroom towel riddle? Because I need to work on that one too. I think we all just smell moldy all the time. In a great way, I’m sure.

  3. It’s a uniquely New York experience, the type of creativity that is cultivated because of a lack of space. We loved it. We don’t miss it.

    Also that constant mind work builds character– it shapes people in intriguing ways. Like, when you leave you feel sort of inexplicably unable to just relax into the new (vast!) surroundings, sort of like a fish out of water. All this space! What to do with it? How to be in it?

    Maybe it just takes a year or so to thaw out– or maybe it depends on how long one has lived there, and how ingrained that way of being had become. Even though we are in Seattle now, I sort of feel like that mentality will always be a place I can go back to– I think that’s because of the physicality of it all, how your body and mind have to work together to pull off such ridiculous feats every single day. The muscle memory of living life in that city may not ever fully dissipate. I sort of hope it doesn’t. I always want to remember what it feels like to be a New Yorker. We’ll see.

    • Muscle memory — yes. It’s so physical, all the work, the constant brain-logistics. But then I think about living out in the country or something and think of all the work that’s associated with not having conveniences nearby, having to actually know how to do things and do them yourself — and it makes me incredibly nervous to think about! I guess it’s always something.

  4. I know…yard maintenance= no fun…

  5. Funny enough, we are still drawn to parks over playing in the yard. I wonder if it’s just because we got so used to the “social” interaction that parks allow for. Or maybe it’s just because we don’t have swings in our yard. Probably that. ; )

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