I thoroughly enjoyed today’s New York/Regional article about the fleet of luxury vehicles that idle outside the YMCA on 92nd street and Lexington, which I read bit by bit on the subway this morning by craning my neck while a man who actually subscribes to the New York Times read an article on the opposite page. It covers the notable increase of these vehicles outside the Y every morning as they drop passengers off on the red carpet that leads up to the pre-school.
Yes. Pre-school. Not post-school. Not even school-school. Pre-schoolers are being dropped off for the day in hired cars that cost about as much as a year’s tuition will by the time they get to college.
This article tickled me so much for several reasons. One, the photograph beside the headline is absolutely precious. A little girl wearing tiny brown sandals and a wide-eyed expression toddles forward, her arms posed as if she might be marching, from the open jaws of a Mercedes SUV. A round man in a very black suit and gleaming dress shoes holds out an umbrella large enough to swallow her whole.
It is the very picture of a young child about to begin a day filled with chatter, play-dough and animal crackers while her parents are off somewhere else (note that this driver isn’t just waiting in the car, he is also am umbrella-wielding escort) engaging in hoity-toity babble, pushing around dollars and dough, and munching daintily on tea and crumpets. Do they know how adorable their little girl looks on her way to school? Only if they had time to read the Region section of today’s paper.
I also love the fact that this article contains the phrase, “subsequent research,” indicating first that initial research took place, and second that it did not prove sufficient. And what did we glean from the subsequent research? 1) Most of the escorted children have fathers who work in “capital management.” 2) Most of their parents have been married for at least 10 years. 3) School officials have far too much time on their hands.
I have to say that I found it quite interesting that all of this effort went in to running background checks on the students’ parents and no one bothered to investigate the drivers, the ones who are actually spending time in a moving vehicle with the kids.
Finally, I am most fascinated by the letter sent home to parents by Nancy Schulman, director of the apparently famous nursery school at the 92nd street Y. As a former student, employee of my hometown public school system, and camp counselor, I have had the opportunity to skim my share of letters from school officials to parents. Most recently, I had the pleasure of reading lines transcribed from a letter to parents of Simsbury High School students, which included, “Please forgive us for going into detail here,” and went on to describe the “front-to-back dancing” that is now prohibited at school-sponsored social events. Like much of the mail that public school administrators send home to parents, it blamed students and society and encouraged parents to “have a conversation” which their society-ruined students.
The best part about Ms. Schulman’s letter is what sets it apart from all the rest. According to the article, “The letter…reminded families that one assessment Ms. Schulman and her colleagues are asked to make by lower-school admissions officers is whether the applicant’s parents have been “cooperative” with the school’s requests.” She scolds the parents! You tell ’em, Nancy!
This whole scenario reminds me fondly of Eloise, the rambunctious six-year-old who lives at the Plaza Hotel with her nanny, Nanny. Where are Mom and Dad? Absent, absent, absent. Meanwhile, their far-from-demure daughter runs helter-skelter about the hotel, generally wrecking havoc in every possible way.
Now, I know it’s just a picture book and I know nobody wants to read about the Eloise who lives at the Ho-Jo’s over in Jersey City. The point is that, while it’s clear that Eloise loves living at the Plaza, she would be equally happy to wreck havoc on a less glamorous setting. Maybe more so. Little Eloise can’t tell the difference yet.
I only wish there were a way to preserve the look in that little girl’s eyes as she is delivered into the world from the climate-controlled backseat of her Escalade or Beemer or whatever. I hope that she doesn’t forget that “paper cups are very good for talking to Mars,” as Eloise taught us, the very moment she enrolls at whichever private private private Kindergarten her parents have selected.