Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Goings On

Most times, when I read The New Yorker, I skip, or at best, skim, the opening section, Goings On About Town. I feel mildly guilty about this, as though I'm a boor who waves off all of the culture available to me, just a short train ride away, not to mention a spoiled brat who ignores the work that went into reporting on it all.

Sometimes, I take comfort in the existence of this section, thinking that if I have had the foresight to bring an issue of The New Yorker with me to a place where I'm going to have to wait, and I have read all of the articles in it, and my waiting time is still not up, then I'll always have Goings On About Town to fall back on.

Yesterday, around 1pm, I called my regular place to ask if I could bring my car in for a while-I-wait oil change. Ralph, the owner, said, "Uh, I'm actually not there. I forwarded the phone to my cell. I sent my guys home and closed up at noon. I only sold sixty-eight gallons of gas all morning."

Turned out he was fine with my coming by this morning, so I did, and even though I had to be there at the ungodly hour of 9am, I had had just enough coffee to remember to bring the latest (Mar. 23, 2020), as yet unread, issue of The New Yorker. Got to the station, handed over my car key, settled in to wait. Opened the mag ...

screenshot saying 'As a result of the coronavirus crisis and the closing of New York City venues, Goings On About Town will not appear this week.'

Okay, not to worry. How long could an oil change take, when I was the only customer in the place? The Talk Of The Town was good. Thoroughly enjoyed the first of the long articles, by Jill LePore, on the census, But Who's Counting?, and the second, by James Somers, on the study of avalanches, Cold War. Had just started the third, Emily Nussbaum on Fiona Apple, Skin In The Game, when Ralph came into the waiting area. Oil change was all done. HOWever. I did need an air filter. And a new belt. And a brake job. I asked if they could do it now. He said, sure, and that it would take about two hours.

As is usual with this fine place, he offered to give me a ride home and then come pick me up when the job was done. A small part of me felt like social distancing ought to apply (why be in an enclosed car with someone else, if you don't have to be), and a large part of me did not want to take him up on his usual generosity: since there was a skeleton crew in place, just Ralph and one mechanic, I thought it might stress him out to have to be away, even for ten minutes. So, I said, "No, thanks. Appreciate it. But I don't mind waiting." I went outside for a cigarette to go with the complimentary cup of coffee and contemplated time spent reading so far, approximate number of pages left, odds that I was going to like any of the rest of the articles, having totally scored on two already, thought about the missing Goings On About Town, and tried to remember if I had seen anything else to read in the waiting area. Aside from signs on the wall and hanging bags of snacks, I could not think of anything. Not even a tube of toothpaste [1]. I suppose anxiety would be putting it a bit strongly.

In the end, all the work was done before I got to the end of the magazine, and it only cost me $700 for an oil change! #winning

P.S. Weird thing when I got home and checked the snail mail. When I opened my box, I saw a new issue of The New Yorker. Dateline? Mar. 16, 2020. Well, it is the Styles Issue. I suppose it's appropriate that it's fashionably late.


bjkeefe said...

[1] An incredibly obscure Odd Couple reference. I expect two people to get it!

Clare said...

I remember Oscar reading a tube of toothpaste when he and Felix were on a sequestered jury. FWIW, I never read "Goings On About Town," although I do live a more expensive train ride away. However, I do read the theater reviews, because I still prefer Broadway, the Met, etc. over regional productions of nearly anything. As always with The New Yorker, in nearly every issue, there is some fascinating piece of reporting that makes me feel good about supporting it all. And David Remnick is my hero, after NBC cowed on Ronan Farrow's story about Harvey Weinstein.

bjkeefe said...

They were sequestered, but not in a jury way. (Think monks.)

I am surprised that you do not read GOAT (hey, an overloaded acronym!). I would have thought that with your interests in theatre, music, and new restaurants ...