This article first appeared in The Scarsdale Inquirer on January 24th, 2015. (It is a very Scarsdale-specific piece, but I think you should read it anyway, even if you don’t live there. I don’t live there either, anymore.)
Hello from the great little state of Rhode Island! I hope all is well with you in this New Year. I trust that the village is coping as best as it can in my absence, with commuters still commuting daily, town bakeries still producing delectable delicacies, and SoulCyclists still tapping back. I plan on visiting soon, but in the meanwhile, I thought I’d check in and let you know a bit about my new life here in coastal New England.
We have so much to catch up on that I really don’t know where to begin. So, I might as well start with grocery stores.
We don’t have much in the town of Barrington, RI, but we do have a big Shaw’s supermarket. It’s one of those sprawling suburban markets with bright overhead lights and a gagillion aisles and lots of room for multiple carts to pass each other. It’s the kind of place where time just stalls as you oooh and ahhh over how many choices there actually are in the Pop Tart world.
I really believe I could fall in love with this supermarket if only I didn’t get traumatized every time I tried to enter the store. Why do I get traumatized, you ask?
Because of DeCicco’s.
The first time I tried to enter Shaw’s, I bumped right smack dab into a large man exiting the store. That’s odd, I thought, shaking myself off and proceeding through the door. What was that guy doing, going out the entrance? Idiot.
The second time I tried to enter the store, I could not for the life of me get the door to open. I actually stomped on the rubber magic carpet mat for a good ten seconds before I heard sniggering – oh, perhaps it was more like snickering – coming from a spot just behind me and off to the right. I turned to find my worst fear realized: two teenagers were pointing and laughing at me. Obviously, they were idiots too. But then why did I feel embarrassed?
To get away from my humiliation, I once again tried to enter the Shaw’s market. I looked up from the rubber mats and studied the left side door, looking for signs, guidance. And there it was, a red Do Not Enter sign. I looked to right and found a green arrow.
And that’s when I understood. All this time, I had been trying to enter Shaw’s on the left, which is the de facto DeCicco’s way in. The left way had been, several times a day for the past 12 years of my life, the correct way into a supermarket.
But, leave Scarsdale village, and it turns out the left way is not the right way. Who knew?
So the big take-away here is that whenever I find myself thinking that someone in Rhode Island is being an idiot (and I do tend to think this quite a bit), chances are good that it’s only because I am a New Yorker and I haven’t learned that, outside of New York, I am the idiot.
I am learning to stop and study the signs.
The next thing I’d like to discuss is transportation. In Scarsdale, my children took the bus to school every morning without fail. I see now how lucky I was to have this daily ritual. The school bus was my religion, and George the bus driver my savior. By 8:30, I could be back in my house, alone, ready to write.
Not so in Barrington.
The first neighbor I met scared me with her slightly hysterical enthusiasm for my arrival. “It’s so perfect that your kids are the same ages as Gina’s and mine! We can definitely carpool to both the middle school and Hampden Meadows!”
Ugh, carpools. I pictured my mornings into infinity: a constant stream of scrambling to remember who is driving when and last minute schedule changes and miscommunications. My heart sank as my face tried to form into the pleasantries of a smile. “Ooo, yay, carpool!” I managed to sputter. “But, isn’t there a school bus?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. And then she highlighted all the terrible aspects of the school bus: it comes too early, takes too long, middle and high schoolers travel together, and the town is in the middle of a 2-year bridge construction project, a la Popham Road, and then she cheerfully waved goodbye.
I imagined Andrew leaving the house at 6:40 am on a dark, January morning to cross a wide street and wait on the far side of a treacherous road without a sidewalk or a working street light and then have to squish between two 16-year old stoners on the way to a minimally supervised gymnasium of horrors that would keep him prisoner until homeroom release time at 7:40. Zoe, meanwhile, would arrive at her school on the far side of the bridge half asleep and in need of a barf bag.
Thank goodness for my carpool, that’s all I can say.
Next I’d like to talk about how awful it is having no friends. (Fine, I’m exaggerating. I have four.) But what I honestly don’t have is friends with kids on the swim team who live near us.
When we looked at homes to buy in Barrington last year, I fell in love with a house in a beautiful neighborhood that overlooks Narragansett Bay but is way the hell far away from town. I knowingly made that choice. I used to live in walking distance from Scarsdale village. I could be in the middle of making tacos for dinner, realize I had no taco seasoning, go to DeCicco’s (in the left door), and be back in front of my frying pan before the meat had browned.
But in Rhode Island last year, perched on the edge of the world with my real estate agent, salt wind whipping my hair as I admired the local lighthouse, I figured, what does it matter if this particular house is a good 2 miles away from the downtown of Barrington? Any home I select here will always be approximately 169 miles away from Pamela Robbins.
So now I drive around a lot, wishing I had more friends.
Which makes me want to talk about the bike path.
There is no train line through Barrington. But there is a bike path. Rumor has it that the East Bay bike path is the 3rd most travelled bike path in America. I was impressed with that for about a moment, before I remembered to decide that this person was clearly an idiot. Then I remembered that I am most likely the idiot here, so perhaps the person was not confusing RI’s East Bay bike path with the one near San Francisco. (Though I highly doubt it.)
Whether 3rd or 30th or 300th, this bike path is an impressive 22-mile stretch of flat ribbonny asphalt, with views of ponds and the bay and more ponds and the bay again, and the YMCA, and then another pond, and some ice cream shops, and, oh, you get the quaint picture.
In warm weather, even I ride a bike along this beautiful path. Yes, on a bicycle! Smiling! It’s a goshdarned miracle, I swear.
Largely because of the bike path, zillions of kids ride their bikes to school in Barrington. I saw 40-50 bikes parked outside Zoe’s upper elementary school every day in the fall. Middle schoolers also bike by the hundreds, and Andrew is transitioning into That Kind of Kid. I expect that by spring, he’ll be there.
Maybe by spring, we’ll all be more comfortable in our skins here. I will have made enough friends to count on both hands, and we’ll all ditch our SUVs in favor of bicycles, which we will ride into town together, where I will show off my cool ability to enter the Shaw’s market on the first try.
But until then, I’ll still miss you.