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The beginning

June 20, 2022 pm30 10:41 pm

In 1994 work was ok – it was interesting, flexible, I liked the people. I liked my supervisor, Pat. Rich and Elliot were friendly and funny. Seth was smart. Stuey, too. Smart. And funny. There were others, lots of characters. And I liked the office – primo view of Brooklyn Heights, with the Coast Guard ferry blaring its horn every so often. I want to say every 20 minutes, but it wasn’t THAT often.

I didn’t have a degree, and wasn’t in school. I’d left my most recent college after the fall of 1991. I kind of knew what I was doing at work – but I either was making it up, or asking others. There was a lot of math. And spreadsheets. Though I don’t think Excel existed yet. I was pretty good at Minesweeper.

I’d gotten the job 8 years earlier. Late Spring, 1986. My uncle talked to me then. I was new to New York. And like many who’ve adopted the city as their own, I fell in love with it. Or parts of it. And in particular, though I was a young man, I was still a boy, and the trains held great attraction. I went everywhere on them. So my uncle helped get me a job. He had a connection. I went to work for the New York City Department of Transportation. It wasn’t the trains, but it was cool. My first real NYC summer job. And then it was the fall, and they asked if I would work the same hours in the fall. It wasn’t a summer job.

Another tangent – the particular agency within NYCDOT was new. It was 1986, and there had been quite a bit of angst over the Koch scandals, which hit DOT hard. Remember Wedtech? And the Parking Ticket computers? Well, there was more than that. Tony Amoruso, the recently ex Commissioner, was out on his ass, due to another scandal, involving private ferries and land for a parking lot, and perjury. And clusters of friends were being shuffled across the five boroughs. So I was walking into a new office, at a time when it was not just me and the office that were new. Reorganization. Shift the deck chairs. My chair was at 51 Chambers. I liked that chair.

Fast forward. It’s now 1994 and I’m doing ok. And having some fun. Still liked the people. But the pay wasn’t great. My projects weren’t going anywhere. I wasn’t all that attached. In more ways than one. I was relatively newly single again.

And it’s 1994, and Giuliani is in office. And my uncle’s connection had moved to another, cleaner metropolis. And the people I knew who could protect me – not any more. And I didn’t know what reorganization or shuffling would come, and if I was safe. Plus, no degree. Being cute (if I was) wasn’t going to save me.

So when Giuliani’s people offered a buyout for a few grand, I thought it over, and said yes. Looking back, it was peanuts. But we don’t get to look back and change our past mind. I took the buyout. It came with 9 months or a year unemployment. I went back to school. And then the unemployment ran out, and I picked up a shitty receptionist job in SoHo. And I quit that, and got a job making maps. Hagstrom. Cool work. But the pay. Ouch.

And now it was 1996 and I was finishing the last bit of my degree. Math? Nope. In my checkered college career I had been a math major. And physics. And Русский язык и Русская литература. But fourth time’s the charm – I was finishing up with a BA in Geology. With Honors.

My uncle was still in Brooklyn. “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know.” I was good with the maps, but I had taken a pretty big pay cut. Started maybe at $18k. Now at $21k, or $22k? I forget, but it wasn’t enough, despite how awesomely cool it is to make up my own streets and put them onto maps.

“What are you going to do?” “I don’t know.” “Why don’t you teach?” My uncle had been at a middle school in Brownsville. And at Jefferson. He transferred to Murrow in the second year of that school’s existence, and loved it and taught interesting things and was even chapter leader for a few terms. Now he was retired, but still teaching literature classes for senior citizens.

“Why don’t you teach?” “I don’t want to teach.” “Do you have any other prospects?”

And so it began. February 1997.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2022 am30 4:24 am 4:24 am

    This is a good tale.

  2. June 21, 2022 am30 8:37 am 8:37 am

    Murrow was a pretty unique place!

  3. Anonymous permalink
    June 22, 2022 pm30 9:25 pm 9:25 pm

    Murrow was an amazing place to teach! For a while it became the last nice place to work in the DOE, even (mostly) survived Bloomberg/Klein in tact. Too bad the current idiots running the system found a way to kill even this school

  4. Mike Madden permalink
    June 23, 2022 pm30 1:29 pm 1:29 pm

    A Teacher’s Life Journey demonstrating how we all got here – some how we all make it to one central place of teaching but our journeys are all different. Many bark at me that the hours of educators are simple and few vs. corporate which is complex and long.

    In the end we will all hopefully collect a pension and be lucky and blessed enough to enjoy it.

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