[Nothing new in that. A cliche, actually. But nonetheless true.]

The parking pass machines at the Princeton Municipal Parking Garage are being replaced.  Parking passes are sold at the two entries, for either $20, $40 or $60; the incentive to invest in the larger amounts is that when you do, you get an extra $4 or more added to the card, over and above what you purchased. The incentive to keep a pass in your car at all (rather than take a ticket each time you enter) is the ease of getting out of the garage when you leave; you slide your card in a machine at either of the two exits, the cost of your parking is subtracted from the amount left on the card, the gate lifts, and out you go. You don’t even notice what you’re paying, especially if you can afford to load the card with $60 at a time (plus the additional dollar incentive); the amount left after each exit drops so slowly it seems quite a while before you have to reload the card.

Now for six weeks, while the replacement of the machines takes place, pass holders like me have to take a ticket when they enter anyway, and later pay in cash or by credit card at another machine near the entrance before getting back into their cars to exit.  For this reason the other day I found myself in a line at the machine where you pay the ticket before exiting. The line was short but the waiting time long.  The woman ahead of me was having difficulty figuring out which slot was which.  She complained loudly that the machine wasn’t giving her any change.  Then she shrugged and began to walk away, as if that’s what you might expect these days, when it seems every corporation and institution and merchant one deals with is trying to squeeze a bit more profit out of each transaction in which you engage with them.  In this instance she was wrong. Not giving change without prior notice would have been blatant fraud, and the subject of all kinds of indignant letters to the editors of Town Topics. Just as she was about the enter the elevator with her paid ticket, the machine made gurgling sounds and vomited out a handful of change.

I was next.  I used a credit card and the machine reported digitally that I had paid $6.50 for my three hours in the garage.  The woman behind me noticed.  “It’s gotten so expensive,” she complained. “It shouldn’t be so expensive.  It’s a town garage.”

“Of course, it’s expensive,” I said.  “What do you expect? We’re in Princeton.”  Then I rashly continued this line of discourse, channeling the economic observations of Richard D. Wolff. (You can find him on YouTube if you’re interested; he’s very funny while being dead serious. In my view, he’s also 95% right.)  “And why do you think your Princeton real estate taxes are so high?  Double what they are one county north of us!”

She was holding a box that from the look of it may have contained a small pizza.  She clutched it more tightly, as if I were about to suggest something subversive.  She was right.  I was.  But since she said nothing, I went on.

“It’s because of the university,” I said.  “Rich and famous Princeton University, a private educational institution that holds title to about a quarter of the real estate in the township and also owns millions and millions of invested dollars generating  more millions every year in unearned income — yet pays no real estate taxes at all, much less any state or federal tax on what its investments produce.  Who do you think is paying to run the town?” I went on. “Who is paying to send firemen to put out fires on campus and to deploy policemen for redirecting traffic while the university builds and builds? You are!  If Princeton University paid real estate taxes, our personal real estate taxes would drop way down, and yes  — the cost of tickets to park in this municipal garage would too.  If you think about it a slightly different way,” I concluded, “at least half the cost of your parking ticket is going into Princeton University’s pocket.

“But, but…” she sputtered as I turned towards the elevator.  “If there were no university, there wouldn’t be a need for the garage. And then where would we be?”

She hadn’t gotten it.  “Who said there wouldn’t be a university?” I exclaimed.  “Of course there would be.  It would just be paying its fair share like the rest of us, instead of getting richer and richer year after year. So it would grow a little more slowly. So what? Many of the rest of us wouldn’t be tsk-tsking in the garage, and pinching pennies to go on living in Princeton.

I didn’t know that woman.  I shall never see her again.  And I shouldn’t have said it. Imposing real estate taxes on private universities, colleges and posh secondary schools is not going to happen, at least in my lifetime, and what’s the point of talking about things that aren’t going to happen?  But as I rode up to the third floor where my eleven-year-old two-door Honda Civic was parked, I felt like a heroine. Perhaps the woman with the small pizza will remember what I said — if not the next time she parks, then the next time she gets hit with an installment of her annual real estate tax.  Great oaks from little acorns grow. Another cliche that’s true.



…I couldn’t resist.  I thought it was funny.  “It” was tacked on the wall of an examination room at Princeton Healthcare, where I was waiting with Bill to meet a new doctor.  His old doctor in this particular speciality had retired, without much notice (and without being that old), and I had shoehorned myself into the initial meeting between Bill and new doctor to hear for myself what new guy had to say, so I could nag Bill properly between visits.

“It” (the thing I thought was funny) was a list of answers second-graders had given to questions about their moms, as published in some town newspaper unknown to me.  Immediately, I thought “Blog!”  (It was the sort of thing many blog readers, although not necessarily mine, seem to “like.”) Unfortunately, I saw no way of discreetly ripping it off the wall, so I had to wait till I got home to try to find it on the web.  And I did!

These are the first five reasons I can think of for why I shouldn’t be using what I found to reopen TGOB after having been absent for a while. (If I’d pondered longer, I’m sure I could have come up with more.)

(1) The website on which I found it was a Tea Party site.  (Boo, hiss.)

(2) It has absolutely nothing to do with getting old.

(3) I haven’t been a mother of a second-grader for thirty-nine years, and as best I can recollect, neither of mine would have given any of these answers.

(4) I don’t normally include God in my blog posts, as I really have no idea what that word means (I tend to think of it as metaphor), and am not at all sure what it means to other people either.

(5) It is beneath me, and perhaps also insulting to my readership, to pander to what I imagine is popular taste when I know everyone who has chosen to spend some time with TGOB is both highly intelligent and discriminating.

But I am a weak woman, riddled with human frailty, so here it is anyway.  Enjoy it if you can.  If you can’t, cheer up: For next time, I have in mind a wry observation about the international economic situation.

P.S. Also do feel free to comment on any of the answers.  I myself am quite partial to the second answer to the question of why the child’s mom married the child’s dad.


Why God Made Moms

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?

  1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
  2. Mostly to clean the house.
  3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

  1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
  2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
  3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

  1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
  2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

  1. We’re related.
  2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?

  1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
  2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
  3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

  1. His last name.
  2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
  3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

  1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
  2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
  3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?

  1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
  2. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
  3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?

  1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.
  2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
  3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
  4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?

  1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
  2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

  1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2.  Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.



That’s the message Christopher Robin put on the green door of the tree in which he lived (in The House at Pooh Corner) when he was not actually inside the tree.

It has been brought to my attention that I have not been present inside TGOB — which coincidentally has a green background on its home page — for quite some time; that some of my dear virtual friends and followers might be wondering (if not indeed worrying) where I was; and that I should put up a notice to the effect that I have gone fishing.

Unfortunately, I don’t fish.  (Except once, when I caught nothing.) But not to wonder, not to worry.  I seem to have overwhelmed myself with new undertakings and have always been unable to multi-task so as to fool everyone all of the time that I am on top of everything.  I am not on top of everything, and since posts don’t clamor to be written regularly in the same way assignments for regularly meeting classes and lessons and group meetings clamor to be properly prepared, guess what fell by the wayside?

However, if you just hold on a bit longer, I shall be “backson,” as six-year-old Christopher Robin would have put it, as soon as I can. And with more new stuff to read. In the meanwhile, if you’re really bored, you could go try to catch a horrible Heffalump with honey and report back on how that worked out. I’d love to hear.