If you're a native New Yorker who never learned to drive and transit goes on strike--everything, that is, the buses and the trams--then you are up the proverbial creek without the fabled paddle. Today, my husband drove both boys to school but then found himself almost late to a meeting in another city. I walked my daughter to school and then rather than have her walk all the way home and then walk back up our hill to her music lessons, I schlepped her recorders and violin to school and she sat rather forlornly with me in a local cafe having a tea and a brötchen. It might have been more restful to go home after all, the freedom to lie in one's own bed for a whole ten minutes overriding the amount of walking then necessary to get you to the first music lesson. The second required a cab, and the cab company had to be called, for cabs do not cruise in our city. This being Germany, the dispatcher wanted an exact address, not the corner from which our tram runs.
"Um, er," I said, running out of German. She rapidly gave me an address and hung up on me, and luckily we found it.
At the violin lesson I sat reading my students' exams, and learned that Oscar Wilde's Jokanaan had been "decapitulated." I was delighted to find that he had also been de-headed.
During the violin lesson, I called the cab company and the lady said, "Das dauert!" (It's gonna take a while!")
"Meinen Sie mehr als funfzehn minuten?" (More than fifteen minutes?")
She sounded very annoyed, possibly because it was impossible to give me an exact answer, and told me there were a lotta cars out there on the street and how should she know, since she never took cabs.
I'm living in a place where if you take a cab, you're an elitist snob.
Which I'm not. But I'm spending money like one, because by the end of the day, when all children are home, we will have spent close to eighty euros. The folks on strike, by the way, make 18-19 euros an hour, which might not sound like a lot, but it's a dang sight more than I make, and by way of comparison, hospital nurses make 7 euros an hour. The cost of living here is around one sixth of the cost of living in New York, and health care is universal.
So it's paradise. But if that strike continues tomorrow, our piggy bank will be in shards. At least the cab came fast. No sooner had I gotten out my cell phone to try to tell the boys to put the chicken in the oven than our driver screeched to a halt in front of us.