Headmaster's Thoughts: December 2019

I find it incredible that I can write about the irony that Volkswagen, Hitler’s car, should be exposed to spew noxious gases (yes, gases) into the atmosphere and then cover this gas issue up. Even better, no one seems to have made that connection. Let us take it again…car that Hitler made famous, gas fumes, lies, and cover-up. Somewhere I have seen this before in history but not in contemporary news. Okay, I will put it down on paper here.
We are not allowed (sensibly) to be diverted by our telephones while driving. Yet there are ever-changing screens facing drivers on the West Side Highway, which are, let us face it, diverting. That is what the advertisers are paying for; that is why the sophisticated pixilated screen is changing every six seconds. Has no one noticed? I can write it here. One of the advertisements is for the Hospital for Special Surgery. An excellent hospital…if you get into an accident while reading the sign (and why else is it there but for you to read while driving?), at least you know where to go for your orthopedic injuries. Even the entrance to the West Side Highway was bizarre. During October, the overhead electronic sign as you entered the toll said, “text and drive.” I kid you not. Only when it changed in a minute or so, did the sign re-conform to “while driving don’t,” which you were supposed to see first (and I did not). But this is a highway that is sponsored, as the sign says going South just before the 79th Street exit, by Donald J. Trump. I wonder if that counts as a campaign poster? It seems early, and I thought the law was that campaign signs could only be up for 60 days before the election. But, I should remember, it is the West Side Highway.
Jayme and I frequently drive on the Hutchinson River Parkway (obviously, I am in a travel mindset while writing this). Inevitably, trucks get stuck under a low bridge. Notwithstanding signs that say clearly that no trucks should be on the Parkway, why are trucks so frequently trapped under a bridge? GPS! The truckers have been following their GPS instead of looking at signs at the side of the road. One day there may be a GPS for truckers, but until that day, there will be trucks with concertina like roofs ripped off by those low bridges built by Robert Moses.
See what fun this is? You can get things off your chest. One of my daughters recent flew from Tokyo to JFK in business class (she was making a speech in Semarang, the future capital of Indonesia). They literally ran out of food, and she was in the last row but one for business class. They said they were sorry, but they had no more food. Can they not count how many business class seats they had sold for that long flight? I would not dream of naming the airline, but they say they have “friendly skies.”
At York, you have me (and others) as outlets if you think we can do better. Try complaining to any major airline, cable company, utility company, or internet provider. You will get a computer trying to answer you. It will give you a menu. If, and this is a big “IF,” you get an operator, he or she will be 6000 miles away (at least). I had a problem with my Citi Bank credit card (yes, in the theme, it was a question about a travel expense,) and the person at the other end kept on saying they were from TD Bank. At least that is what it sounded like to me. TD Bank, TD Bank! Nice person, no ability to help whatsoever, and no ability to refer you to someone who could. Indeed, they are not even allowed to give you their name or where they are. Now you know why I write like a curmudgeon every so often. As the late great James Brown would say, “I feel good”!
I am sorry to brag (then again, why not?) but when you ring York Prep, unlike virtually every other private school in New York, you get (drum roll please!) one of two friendly ladies who answers and sit at the desk when you enter the school. These nice people are there all the time the school is in session. No “press nine if you want Spanish” (why always 9?), no “press three if you have a cold”…just helpful front desk people who we value for their patience and cheerfulness. And, when they answer the phone, if they cannot help with your question, they will refer you to someone who can.
So what is the upshot of this December “Thoughts”? I have really not wished all of you a happy holiday, but I do wish it for you, and I recognize how stressful this month is. We have to buy presents. But breathe easy, the prices will all drop next month when that pressure to buy is off. I say, let us celebrate whatever we celebrate in January. Ebenezer Scrooge was not all bad.
Of course, you will notice that I have not even mentioned education (which is something I should do). But I have just made myself feel better. I suggest you try this, start a blog, and, when life gets a bit frustrating, as it does, blow off steam by writing. You will feel happier; I know that I do.
Oh, and many thanks for reading this stuff all the way through!
Ronald. P. Stewart
York Prep School