Wednesday, September 17, 2014

if you see something...

I’m in the library today.  I go in to pick up a couple of books that I had reserved and that are now available.

While there, I approach a table for four to read today’s paper.  Two of the seats are taken, one is empty, and the fourth is occupied with a backpack. I assume it belongs to one of the two people at the table.  I sit down.

A few minutes later a young guy comes over.  He addresses the three of us now sitting at the table.  “Hey, do you mind if I move this stuff so I can sit here?” he asks.  No one minds because the backpack belongs to no one at the table.  The others go back to reading, and I say, “Isn’t this one of those situations where if you see something you should say something?"  Everyone smiles politely.  No one takes me seriously.

So I call over the head librarian. At least I assume he’s the head, since he is the only one on the floor who is sitting at an actual desk and looking official.  I tell him about the backpack.  He stands up and loudly addresses the room.  “Did anyone leave a backpack sitting on this chair?” he asks, pointing to the backpack.  No one responds.  And no one seems to care. 

“Why don’t you see if there’s any identification on the backpack?” I ask.  “I’m not going through anyone’s stuff,” the head librarian responds, and returns to his authoritative desk.  Job done.

It strikes me as strange that I am the only one who seems remotely concerned about this.  I want to scream,  “Come on people, remember the ads we’ve all been seeing for the past 13 years?" — some even picturing abandoned backpacks!



But I don’t.  But I do get up to leave.

At that moment I see a man from the other side of the library, casually walk over to the chair, and nonchalantly claim the backpack. He’s wearing earbuds and likely didn’t hear the librarian.


Okay it was nothing, but still.  Is anyone still paying attention?

Monday, September 15, 2014

should have used the phone

Like most people, I often use email to communicate.

Yesterday (Sunday) I send this email out to some Upper Eastside friends.

I have a groupon thing I need to use by tomorrow night.

It’s for burgers at Bistro Burger (87th and First).  Let me know if you are free for a delicious but fattening meal.

First to respond.

A few email back that they can’t come, but one responds today (Monday) with some questions.

10:37 FRIEND
Let me know the deal...and by the way I think the place is Bareburger? Cause that is on the corner of 1st and 87th...unless there is another burger place that snuck in when I wasn't looking. Possible! How are you!!

10:28 ME
burger bistro is on the other corner….

NEED TO USE TODAY

burger meal for two
one shared appetizer
two burgers with one topping and cheese each
one shared side

anything else (drink, add’l fries) we pay for.

let me know.

10:37 FRIEND
How much is this? Sounds like a huge meal!

10:51 ME
don’t understand your question…let me know if you want to come.

11:18 FRIEND
What is the cost is my question? I must say I am not really in the mood for
a burger but would be nice just to see you! So wanted to know what the
tariff to see you is!

11:21 ME
see email above…coupon covers what’s stated…anything more is out of pocket.

would be great if you could come.

11:32 FRIEND
I am not a groupon gal...so I am lost. The coupon "covers" what’s stated, but don't we have to pay for the coupon? So what is the cost for each of us if we only have what's stated. The dinner isn't free I would think. Sorry I
just have never done this. So forgive me.

11:42 ME
I already bought and paid for the coupon…it cost me $25…valued at more….so your cost would be anything not covered in the coupon…like cokes, an extra order of fries…and tip (based on actual value)...not very much…under $20, probably less.

12:54 FRIEND
Sure. I thought it was tonight and my stomach is not feeling like burgers, but maybe by tomorrow.

Tomorrow?  For a coupon that expires tonight?

I think next time I’ll call.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ask and you just might get

A week ago I get a call from Jill.  She has a question on a return.

Yesterday I get another call.  My friend Amy needs advice on a coat for her son.  We go online together and make decisions on color and style.

Today M calls.  I play back the message (I wasn’t home) and she actually has me conferenced in on her call with Apple.  She wants my input on what size Apple phone to get.  I would have told her the 6 plus.

Also today I send my mom a link to a charcoal cape from All Saints that would be perfect for her.

I am a skilled shopper.  And an outstanding negotiator.  When I told a friend recently that I wish I could monetize this skill, she emailed back:

Maybe offer trouble-shooting workshops for women.  Stand up for yourself, or something like that.

I think it’s a good idea.

I have so many examples to choose from.  From items as big as a couch to as small as a cup of coffee.

But today’s little incident even surprised me.

I recently bought a Moncler winter coat at a large department store (I’ll keep it nameless).  With my many reward cards that have been accumulating for a year, and a big credit I had for returning two bracelets I bought in 2012 (the clasp broke on both), the cost of the coat came down to little more than a nice sweater.

Last week I actually pre-purchased the coat. I had an envelope with all my reward cards and $400 cash.  I came home and couldn’t find the cash.  I think I tossed it by mistake.  Needless to say, I was really really upset.  I didn’t take the coat home with me, as it was more beneficial to pick it up a few days later.  Something to do with an impossibly complicated points and power points promotion.

Today I go to pick up the coat.  I had wanted navy but was told the store could not get navy.  I settled on black.  But today, when I go to pick up the coat, there it is in navy.  Hmmmmm. 

I exchange my pre-paid black coat for the navy, no problem.

I am with a friend who is also buying a Moncler coat. She hasn't used her store card in ages. I suggest she reactivate; she does and gets 20% off. 

I end up in conversation with the manager, who happens to be nearby.  I tell her the story about the $400, and also about my inquiries and assurances that the store is absolutely positively unable to get me navy. 

Our conversation progresses.

Me:  “Can I ask you something?  I know this is an incredibly ridiculous thing to ask. But since my friend just got 20% off her coat purchase, and since I lost $400 here — which I admit was totally my fault — is it at all possible to get any kind of discount on the coat?

Nice Manager:  “I was thinking the same thing.  Unfortunately I can’t give you the whole $400 back, but I can give you two.”

And with that, she takes my receipt, and puts through a credit of $217.75.


I am immensely grateful.  I come home and write a thank-you note to the manager.

It never hurts to ask.  And who knows, you might just get a response you like.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

glad I stayed

13 years ago today.

Like everyone else, I was overwhelmed with grief. And sadness.  And in my case fear.  Fear of what was still to come.

I imagined terrorists overtaking the city.  Bombs being randomly thrown through windows as we slept.  Explosions on the subway.  Killings in restaurants.  All sorts of nightmarish scenarios.  But I never imagined beheadings.  The world has become so much scarier.

13 years ago I didn’t want to live here.  I was too afraid for myself, and my 8-year-old son. It was only five days before that Alexander had started third grade.


I looked at houses in Connecticut.  I was ready to flee to Fairfield County, a place that felt safer than Manhattan.

For weeks after, I found excuses to leave the city. 

One weekend it was New Jersey, to the beautiful town of Bernardsville, where Terri and her son lived.  

Another time it was Woodstock, NY to be with Susan and her family.

Then it was to Norwalk Connecticut to be with Julie and Ken.  I was sure no terrorist would find us there. 

One weekend in September I met my sister Jean and her daughter Sally at Six Flags in Western Massachusetts.


And a few weeks later we all spent a weekend in the quiet town of Sturbridge Massachusetts.


I didn’t want to be in Manhattan.

Sometimes we would sleep at Carol’s apartment, just a couple of blocks away. I felt safer being with more people.  I tried to mask these excursions as “fun adventures” so Alexander wouldn’t sense my fear.  Or worse, become fearful himself.  He was only eight, and didn’t understand the magnitude of what had happened.

I bought Cipro, though never took any. 

I had rubber gloves to open mail (though these, too, I never used).

I packed an old leather backpack to use as an escape kit for me and Alexander, should we need to flee Manhattan. 

I didn’t buy duct tape and plastic (as advised by Homeland Security) to seal my apartment against nuclear, chemical, and biological contaminants.  That solution sounded ridiculous.

But I did watch the official threat levels, and got nervous all over again when “high levels of chatter” were reported.

I was glued to the news.  Coverage was relentlessly scary and sad.

Homeland Security came up with its color-coded alert system. New York City has stayed on Orange since the attacks 13 years ago.  The rest of the country has settled in on yellow.


I am no longer fearful when I go to sleep at night.  I don’t worry every time I get on a subway or bus.  And I recently did away with my little get-a-way kit. 

I am embarrassed that I ever thought of leaving.  It makes me feel cowardly, and disloyal to the city I love.


I am glad I stayed. I can't imagine ever feeling more at home than I do here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

public speaking

As a member of the BAFTA Screening Committee, I intro films.  I am less nervous now than when I first started doing this a few years ago.  Tonight we are screening MY OLD LADY, with a Q&A after with the producers.


The intros are pretty straightforward.  Nothing very clever.  Just a thank-you to those deserving of it, a summary of the key cast and crew, and a reminder to turn off cells. I certainly don’t need to print out my words beforehand but I do.  I even practice. And while I definitely don’t need my notes, I carry them for comfort.


One of the first few times I did an intro I was with Alexander.  

After my few words before the audience, I sit down next to my son.  He leans over and whispers, “I overheard the couple in front of us.  They were really disappointed in your introduction.  Said it felt rushed and didn’t capture the essence of the film.” For a moment I believe him.  

But then I remember all the off-broadway plays I see and all the stage managers who tell the audience to turn off their phones and all the people (including myself) who do not pay attention and who are there solely to see a play.

It kinda takes the pressure off when you realize no one cares what you have to say when you are introducing a film.  Delivered well or delivered poorly, with notes or without — it doesn't matter all that much.  

I'll tell that to my fast-beating heart the next time I stand up to speak.