The times, they are a-changin’.
This time last year, I was in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond in lower Manhattan along with the other 10,000 incoming New York University freshman and their parents. We were outfitting my daughter’s freshman dorm with towels, sheets, a comforter, a pillow, pots and pans, and two (count ’em — two!) bottle openers.
The day after we moved her in, I rewarded myself with a ticket to the US Open.
This year, I paid it forward and spent two days at the US Open before my daughter flew in from Atlanta.
Last year, her grandmother and I flew to New York City with six suitcases full of her belongings.
This year, she arrived in New York with two suitcases. The rest of her stuff was in a storage unit in Chelsea.
Storage units in New York City are different from those in the rest of the country. This one was a 6-floor monster of a building with a huge freight elevator operated by a nice little man named Jose.
As in “Jose, can you see?” Because when he dropped us off at the third floor, side A, and pointed us to Side B, he was pointing to a black hole. “Just look for de light swish,” he said.
I felt my way through side A hoping to find the light swish, my mind conjuring up all kinds of possibilities as to what was being stored in the 287 units I passed on the way to 3A288, my daughter’s unit.
This is what was in her unit: two boxes of clothes, three large pictures for her dorm room wall, and a lamp with a cracked glass shade.
The stuff probably had a street value of $33. And she’d paid $187 to store it for the summer.
Self-storage. It’s a gazillion-dollar industry because we’re afraid that getting rid of our stuff somehow diminishes us. Even the name gives us away. It’s not simply “storage.” It’s “self-storage.” The term makes me feel as if we’re storing our very selves in those 4×6 padlocked cubicles, waiting for the day when someone else deems us useful and needed.
We have tons of self-storage for our stuff, but somehow we’ve got a “self” shortage because we never take the time to sort through what’s important and what’s simply a cracked glass lamp shade that needs to go in the trash. I wonder at what point in life do we finally find ourselves and decide what’s worth keeping and what needs to go.
We retrieved her stuff and got out of the building. Miraculously, we found a New York City minivan cab large enough for the three of us and her things. But then the miraculous turned to business as usual. There was a small skirmish between me and the cab driver when the man insisted in dropping us off across busy four-lane Third Avenue from her dorm. He refused to circle the block and get us directly in front of the dorm. I, in turn, refused to tip him. But I’m thinking he won because the three of us were loads of fun to watch crossing Third Avenue with two boxes, three large pictures, and a broken lamp.
And then it dawned on me what’s probably in all those storage units: the bodies of cab drivers who refused to drop a woman in platform flip flops off exactly where she wanted to be dropped off.