Great. Just what I needed. Another useless, time-wasting habit.
It all started when my husband and I decided we’d be spending the next school year in Manhattan. He had to get out of Austin so he could write a book, he said (if you think the Mafia is bad about drawing people back in, that’s nothing compared to academic politics). We wanted an urban experience, but London and Paris were too expensive (note the dollars floating in your toilet these days).
“Why not Buenos Aires?” somebody asked. I don’t know. Maybe because our Spanish is so bad we’d be subject to ridicule, if not arrest. Maybe because, at our age, we don’t learn as quickly as we used to. Maybe because, dammit, we like New York. “But everybody in Buenos Aires speaks English,” she persisted, being one of those people who likes to weigh in at great length on others’ choices, invited or not. Oh, shut up.
So, we’re going in September. This is fine with my husband. He’s hardly thought about it much at all since we made the decision. Believe me, this guy can turn on a dime. No mulling, no angst, no preparation required. He’ll think about it on August 31.
I’m a different creature. I have to endlessly obsess and ease my way into new situations. I’m one of these losers who likes to get to the airport early. Imagine the preparation a temporary move requires from the likes of me.
First, I Googled New York rentals and got depressed. All we could afford, according to those ads, was a closet — and probably not even a walk-in.
Then my friend Margo told me I had to go to Craigslist sublets. Great advice — the kiss of death for a real-estate obsessive. I’ve been there ever since.
Every day, I try to resist it. Work on your novel, I tell myself. You think the second draft’s going to write itself? Finish that article you promised somebody. Think of some new ideas.
But every day, I give myself permission, the same way I used to give myself permission to smoke an occasional cigarette. Just a few minutes! Just a few clicks of the computer keys! What’s the harm?
I’m lost, I’m hynotized, I’m hopeless, I can’t quit. I flit from the Village to the Upper East Side, back down to Tribeca. I peer into apartments and lives. I become a harsh critic; a bedspread I don’t like will earn my instant rejection. Who cares if none of these places will be available when we need them? I’m — well, what? Preparing myself. Getting the lay of the land.
You think that’s bad? Well, here’s an even worse story.
“Did I tell you we’re going to Manhattan next year?” I tell my friend, Joyce. No, I hadn’t. Joyce immediately gets it — the significance of the search. The next day, while I’m guiltily lurking on Craigslist, she’s on some vacation rental site. She sends me link after link for appropriate places. Check this one out! she orders. (She’s also looking out for two-bedroom units so she’ll have a place to stay when she visits us.)
Today, I swear, I’ve only been on Craigslist once. I’ve got discipline, sort of. Pretty soon, I’ll be bored by the whole thing. Any day now. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, at least I’m not smoking.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)