Friday, October 22, 2010


Living in New York requires a few things: a fast-paced walk, the ability to avoid eye contact unless absolutely necessary, and a basic repertoire of Jewish words. This last one includes words like mensch (a good human being), kvetch (to complain a lot), and yenta (gossipy old woman). My two (Jewish) co-workers recently treated me to a five minute display of utter disbelief that I did not know what lox was. When I saw (non-Jewish) Mark a few hours later, I got the same reaction. (Since you probably don't know either, it is smoked salmon commonly eaten on bagels, as in [Brooklyn accent] "Get me a bagel with cream cheese and some lox").

But my favorite of the new words in my everyday vocabulary would have to be schlep: to drag or haul an object; to make a tedious journey (thanks, wikipedia). It's not like I didn't know the word before, but I do have a whole new appreciation for the toil it represents now that I have to hand-carry my whole life (my laundry to and from the laundromat, my groceries from the market...).

It's difficult to understand when one has access to a vehicle. Indeed, after a recent weekend in the Catskills involving a rental car, my heart sank when I got on the train back to the city and realized that I would have to carry home the basket of butternut squashes, 10 lbs of apples, jars of jams and chutneys, and bottle of wine that had seemed like such a good idea when I had personal, motorized transportation. Of course, that night there was a huge thunderstorm and I had to make a walking, above-ground transfer between subways to make my schlep all the more enjoyable.

But my best schlep yet would have to be this evening. This time next week I'll be moving into my new apartment (hurray!). My new room comes with a desk, so of course I needed a desk chair. I found one on craigslist, emailed the owner, and arranged a pick-up time. Only then did I think about how I would get it home. My options were:
  1. Try to take it on the bus (at rush hour, and carry it the rest of the way home)
  2. Take it on the subway - which, due to the fact that there aren't many trains in my part of Brooklyn, would mean going all the way to Manhattan, hauling the thing through a subway station and getting on a train back to Brooklyn (at rush hour, followed by carrying it the rest of the way home)
  3. Just go ahead and carry it home.
Obviously I chose #3. I spent this evening carrying a reasonably sturdy office chair 1.6 miles from it's previous home to my current one. While designed for ergonomic sitting, there is no comfortable way to carry said piece of furniture long distances. I hope I looked as ridiculous as I felt.

But I did it. And returned my library books and purchased the bunch of kale I needed for my dinner from a farm stand run by local youth on the way. All this on a day that started out with me waking up 3 minutes before I had planned on leaving my apartment and managing to shower, look cute, and still arrive 5 minutes early for my meeting (although, to be fair, much divine intervention was requested and received with regard to the timing of my trains).

Now pardon me. My sense of accomplishment and I must go negotiate the purchase (and subsequent schlepping) of a 6 ft. lamp.

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