December 26, 2005
It's A Striiiikkkke!!!!
As New York went into the countdown to Christmas, the Grinches
decided to descend upon the city that never sleeps and reward
it with a sour apple: the TWU, the Transit Workers Union,
went out on strike.
As I had been traveling, I hadn't paid
attention in the week before to the gathering storm, though
an ominous e-mail the day before my return to New York from
my apartment building's management aroused
my concerns. No strike was called on Monday though Tuesday
morning brought what had seemed improbable: a transit strike,
the first in twenty five years.
I woke to the morning news filled with images of people streaming
on foot across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, including
our Mayor, Billionaire Bloomberg, who looked very natty in
his jeans and expensive leather jacket, walking in from Brooklyn
along with everybody else.
I cancelled meetings and stayed in the apartment that doubles
as my office, watching the news until it was time for me to
go to my two o'clock meeting, which was
thankfully within walking distance, as was my 3:30. The five
was cancelled as there wasn't any way I
was going to attempt getting down near Wall Street.
My e-mail box was cluttered with emergency announcements
of cancelled Christmas Parties [ooops! Holiday Parties, in
our politically correct times].
Generally, the city was mildly cranky but well-behaved. A
populace that had absorbed 9/11 didn't even
begin to let this get under their skin. People grumped and
groaned and seemed pretty well behaved overall and as it was
eloquently by one: at least it's not a tragedy.
In other words, it's not a terrorist attack,
the grim fear that breathes in the city every day.
People seemed pretty evenly divided as to who were the bad
guys, the Union or the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority].
Neither group looks very good to me. The MTA has been under
scrutiny by everyone since rates were raised and there seemed
to be some shuffling of dollars [in the billions]. The Union
looks intransigent about what many New Yorkers seem to think
of as a good deal. If anything got under the city's
skin, it was the insistence that 55 remain the retirement
age. In a world where everyone I know is wondering if they
will EVER be able to retire, getting out at 55 with 50% of
your last year's salary seemed to be a bit
too much of a good thing.
The following morning, Mayor Bloomberg was back on the Bridge
and day two had begun, crankiness up and good behavior slightly
down; temperatures were down, too, and wind was up, making
the morning walk even brisker than the day before.
The PATH train [the one that marries New York City and New
Jersey] actually runs from the World Trade Center site up
to Herald Square [who knew?]. By Tuesday, this secret was
out and the PATH folks had systemized the entrance at the
WTC site and controlled the chaos in order to prevent unnecessary
trips out to New Jersey. As I descended on Tuesday, it was
eerie to be descending into â€the pit'
as I cannot shake the cold which enters my bones there and
which has nothing to do with temperature.
According to Mr. Bloomberg the strike is costing the city
at least a billion dollars and is particularly hard on small
business owners who make up to 50% of their yearly revenue
in December. Once into mid-town, walking is easy it's just
getting to mid-town could take four hours.
As I write this, they're declaring a truce and it appears
the TWU will go back to work while negotiations proceed having
a judge declare the strike illegal and rumors of union arrests
had little to do with the breakthrough, I'm sure; it is after
all, the time of good will to all men.
What has continued to amaze me and continues to enhance my
respect for New York is the general good grace with which
everyone accepted and adapted. The resilience of this living
organism called "The Big Apple" amazes me and occasionally
gives me some hope for the human race.