Rewind: The New York Times Pays A Woman With A $2.85M Home To Lecture You About Being A Commuter Prole

Originally published October 29, 2013 — jb

Do you like commuting? I certainly don’t. It’s safe to say that nobody likes commuting. Even when you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle that you absolutely adore, the fact remains that doing almost anything else with the car or bike in question would be more enjoyable than slogging along with a group of similarly condemned individuals down the Long Island Expressway or I-5 or I-75 or the Chicago Loop. Nobody commutes because they want to. They commute because they have identified a need or combination of needs in their lives that require it. Perhaps they’re a dual-income couple with geographically separate jobs. Perhaps they cannot afford to live near where they work. Perhaps they are temporary employees, the foot soldiers in our country’s mostly imaginary recovery, going wherever the work is found while trying desperately to cover their expenses at home.

Just in case, however, that you felt your commute to be a glorious triumph, a veritable quotidian adventure, the Times has commanded that a member of the fabled one percent disabuse you of this ridiculous notion.

In a breathtakingly ignorant and Antoinette-esque work of empathy-free idiocy, Jane Brody looks out of her castle windows and discovers Commuting’s Hidden Cost. But first, she’ll brag about her little one-percenter family.

The boys, like their father, are lean, strong and healthy. Their parents chose to live in New York, where their legs and public transit enable them to go from place to place efficiently, at low cost and with little stress (usually). They own a car but use it almost exclusively for vacations.

Whereas you use your car almost exclusively for abortions, you hill trash, you.

“Green” commuting is a priority in my family. I use a bicycle for most shopping and errands in the neighborhood, and I just bought my grandsons new bicycles for their trips to and from soccer games, accompanied by their cycling father.

How lovely, particularly when you consider that she probably lives about ten miles away from children who would be taking their lives in their hands were they to commit the reckless act of riding shiny new bicycles outside in the neighborhood.

According to the Census Bureau, more than three-fourths of all commuters drove to work in single-occupancy vehicles in 2009.

That’s because most commuters don’t live in New York, you over-insulated hothouse flower.

Millions of Americans… pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial.

Thank G-d we’ve managed to genuflect to foodie-ism during this stroll down Park Slope. It’s amazing that millions of Americans are so stupid that they demand to drive everywhere. Why can’t we all be as enlightened as Jane Brody and her family? Let’s return to the source article for more of that sweet, sweet intellectual nectar:

[Some author] recounts some important countervailing trends: more young families are electing to live in cities; fewer 17-year-olds are getting driver’s licenses; people are driving fewer miles; and bike sharing is on the rise.

BIKE SHARING? What the actual fuck. The rest of us can’t even have our own bicycle now? Is this how our New Eloi will distinguish themselves: by sole possession of a bicycle? Ms. Brody’s grandchildren will each have a bike, but you and I should count ourselves lucky to be allowed to borrow or rent one.

More homes and communities are being planned or reconfigured to shorten commutes, reduce car dependence and facilitate positive interactions with other people… Dr. Richard Jackson, the chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says demographic shifts are fueling an interest in livable cities. Members of Generation Y tend to prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and short commutes, he said, and childless couples and baby boomers who no longer drive often favor urban settings.

Young people enjoy living in the city? This is news to me — said nobody ever.

Old people don’t want to mow the lawn? Amazing.

Childless couples aren’t interested in living in communities where there’s plenty of green space and good schools? OMFG.

While I don’t recommend reading the source article, for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend mailing a dollar bill to the North Korean Government, I’ve chosen to discuss it on TTAC today because it’s important to understand the mentality of people who push for outrageously oppressive anti-automobile regulation and taxation. Every idiotic, short-sighted, reality-averse program that comes from the state and federal governments, from “clunker crushing” to per-mile vehicle tracking, starts off as a vague idea in the head of somebody like Jane Brody. Somebody who hasn’t the faintest fucking idea how the majority of Americans live, somebody who lives in a $2.85 million private home, someone who is as far removed from the everyday cares and concerns of working Americans of any class as a visitor from another star system would be.

To Ms. Brody’s addled mind, all everybody needs to do in order to be happy is either:

1) Move to Brooklyn;
2) Reconfigure one’s home city to be more like Brooklyn.

Idea #1 is prima facie beneath contempt. The fact that her spoiled son could move to Brooklyn does not mean that three hundred million Americans can do so. There’s a reason most of our ancestors kept moving past Ellis Island. Idea #2 sounds slightly more reasonable when one is doddering around one’s castle, but it also falls apart under even the most cursory examination. Most municipalities in the United States right now can barely afford to keep the lights on. The large-scale re-urbanization of which our not-so-humble source author dreams would be a task that would require the entire sustained effort of the entire working population of this country, for decades.

Like it or not, America will continue to exist as a country where personal transportation is highly valued. No matter how much Ms. Brody might cheerfully envision a world where proles are packed onto a train while she strolls to her afternoon tea, such a world is decades, if not centuries, away from becoming a reality. We like our cars. We like being able to go somewhere without asking the government or the bus company or the train authority for permission. We like being able to travel with the companions of our choosing, even if that companion is an empty seat.

Times are hard right now for many people, but they are emphatically choosing not to give up their cars — not if they have any choice at all. The American fleet is older than it’s ever been, but it’s still rolling. From her castle windows high above the world’s capital city, Ms. Brody and the New York Times have seen how hungry a lot of Americans are — for gasoline, for energy, for work, for a future. Their solution is simple: eat cake. Move to a $2.85M house and let your strong, healthy children walk to soccer games. Live the lifestyle they live. And if you can’t, feel free to drop out of the American Dream posthaste.

Luckily for these modern-day aristocrats, this isn’t pre-Revolutionary France, or even pre-Revolutionary America. But that’s subject to change, you know, and when that day comes and a nation full of hopeless, unemployed, desperate people makes a final journey into the cities to take what’s left, Ms. Brody shouldn’t be surprised if she’s one of the first ones up against the wall.

37 Replies to “Rewind: The New York Times Pays A Woman With A $2.85M Home To Lecture You About Being A Commuter Prole”

  1. John C.

    I bet the dear ladies house has gone up a lot in the last few years. Empty nesters bid them up to live the lifestyle she so enjoys while the average person becomes ever more removed from her life. Notice how Hilary and Barack bought similar homes upon cashing in at the end of their terms, because they are all about the common man.

  2. hank chinaski

    I assume that this was posted for the recent Amazon announcement.
    Great piece.
    Park Slope was a crime ridden mess not long ago.

    ‘Here’s a Section 8 voucher. Go ruin the suburbs.’

    • ScottS

      Amazon’s new headquarters in Crystal City. WTF I said? But this was entirely predictable. Jeff Bezos owns one of the poshest and most expensive homes in Washington D.C. This was purely for his convenience and lifestyle. 50,000 new jobs? Those poor bastards will mostly be prisoners to the already choked, dangerous, and expensive highway and public transportation systems. Enjoy your +$1.00 per mile ride on the express lanes. Can’t spend that much to use the highway to get to work? Then ride a motorcycle or move over to the prole lanes with other riffraff and over the road trucks.

  3. gtem

    Holy hell, stunning that these people are that insulated and ignorant in their “bubble.”

    Before I found my current barber, I kind of hopped around a bit at the cheap chain places and got to know a couple of gals that worked there. Almost all of them were commuting 30 minutes across Indy to get to a goddamn Great Clips job. The current barber is no different, he drives his ’06 TrailBlazer a good 15 miles to get to work. That’s the state of the “middle” (median) class these days. And this lady is bashing them over the head about it. Good grief.

      • gtem

        Do it Jack, do it. My 1940s garage would literally not be able to fit it (and is already acting as storage for my 4Runner), but I can’t stop thinking about this beaut.

      • gtem

        Awesome! There’s a lot of ex-GM guys around Indy that used to work up that way, some super bright electrical/mechanical engineers, before GM shipped all that circuit board/electrical related stuff off to China.

        I like the idea of a very exclusive yet affordable and easy to run/repair car like this that would absolutely gobble up our bad Indy roads. This Ninety-Eight would get more looks getting pulled up by the valet at St Elmo’s than a new S-class, guaranteed, as well as cossetting its passengers better over bad roads than the S-class.

        Although perhaps even more fitting than hitting up St Elmo’s downtown, I’d go down to Iaria’s, fits the mood better.
        Down a few $6 Manhattans and a $13 plate of carb-coma and mosey on home in my cigar lounge of a car.

          • gtem

            Oh I’m just saying it LOOKS like the inside of a cigar lounge. I enjoy a sniff of second hand smoke every once in a while (strange nostalgia), but strongly dislike my own things being permeated in the stuff.

  4. brawnychicken

    Thing is, it’s not even the rich old bags in these neighborhoods that believe this. Even the people scraping by to live in the trendy urban centers think this way. And they absolutely look down on their suburban brethren-even when those suburban people are more successful in every measurable way.

  5. safe as milk

    i live and work in the middle of this and i can confirm that these people are as clueless as this article suggests. it’s funny that she brought up the bike sharing thing. i was a charter member of citibike and i eventually quit for two reasons: 1) the price of a walmart special is cheaper than a year of citibike. 2) the docking stations are often full or broken.

    • JustPassinThru

      This brings up an important point: Group ownership or access, as in “___sharing,” is essentially the same as no ownership. It is property that nobody owns and nobody takes interest in or care of. It’s the failure of timeshare resort properties; the reason why rental cars, even when serviced properly, are just beat to snot.

      Only when an individual has ownership, and investment, in something, does he regard it and treat it with care. Public property? Think of all the wonderful things that are considered “public.”

      –Public Schools

      –Public housing

      –Public assistance (welfare)

      –Public toilets.

      So, yes. A community bike is going to be about as useful and desirable as an abandoned bike. Presuming it doesn’t first become a stolen bike.

  6. Rick T.

    It’s like the clueless people who think that the solution to poverty in putting money away in HSA’s and 401(k)s when many are a major car repair away from homelessness/joblessness.

    I find I don’t mind my (variable) consulting commute as much the last several years since I have a car with Apple Play and discovered podcasts. Currently listening to Hard Core History for the longer than usual one for the next several months. Compelling.

  7. stingray65

    What a great idea. If I sell my $30,000 car and $400,000 spacious suburban Hicksville home, and trade my dull commuter lifestyle for a small (but tasteful) $2 million apartment in the center of NYC (or similar culturally superior city), and then I will be able to walk to my job and save $2,000 annually on gasoline. Of course I’ll be paying $1,000+ per year for the convenience of a doorman in my building, and with the crappy inner-city schools I’ll need to pop $10,000+ per year (per kid) for private schools, but it is such a small price to pay to save on those commuting expenses. And instead of dumping money into a depreciating car, I can just pay $1400 for an annual bus/subway pass (I’m sure interacting with the masses on the bus will keep me from living life in a bubble). Of course when biking or bus aren’t convenient options, I might need another $1400 for an occasional Uber or car rental for weekend trips to the Hamptons, but again it is such a small price to pay for the convenience of city living. Of course all this pleasure and culture isn’t free, so I will be more than pleased to contribute to the cause by paying higher property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, insurance rates, and medical costs (hey someone has to subsidize those uninsured illegals that bring all that wonderful diversity to city life). Since I’m too culturally backward to subscribe to the NYT, I thank you Jack for bringing this enlightening insight to the wider audience.

    • JustPassinThru

      If I had $2 million to spend on a condo, I wouldn’t need the commute or the car. Or the job.

      I’d live out here in Flyover Country for my remaining 20 years, and not WORRY about what wonderful new scheme the Socially-Aware Society Ladies are coming up with to Save The Planet.

  8. Ronnie Schreiber

    Considering how the coastal elites feel about us deplorables in flyover land it’s interesting how folks in New York and California live in such insular monocultures.

    Jack, someone we both know who grew up in wealth and enjoys a pretty nice private fleet was spotted on Twitter complaining about “the rich”.

    • everybodyhatesscott

      Jack, someone we both know who grew up in wealth and enjoys a pretty nice private fleet was spotted on Twitter complaining about “the rich”

      The definition of rich is somebody who makes more money than you. None of these people think they’re rich. Maybe the hedge fund guy who makes 5 mil a year thinks he’s rich but he knows a hedge fund guy who makes 20 million so probably not.

      • stingray65

        The way most hedge funds are going these days – they may need to suffer on only a million or two, which makes them eligible for housing assistance in NYC.

      • Ronnie Schreiber

        The only hedge fund guy that I knew, Tony Glickman, passed away suddenly earlier this year (coicidentally, the same day thay my mom died). He was the brother in law of the twins who are my oldest friends. A few years back was listed as one of the 100 top risk managers in the world. When I’d see people complaining about hedge funds, I’d get confused because Tony was a complete mensch, philanthropic with both his money and his time. Though he was well known in the financial community, a lot of people in the community where he lived knew him only as Rabbi Ozer Glickman, a dean at Yeshiva University’s rabbinical seminary. Tony, z’l’, was rich and he knew it. He and his wife had six kids. Someone once asked her why she had so many kids and her response was, “we can afford it.”

        • Yesac13

          Ronnie –

          Was Tony Glickman known as “Fat Tony”? The reason why I ask because somehow your description makes me think he was the Fat Tony in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books. NNT never said who exactly Fat Tony was but he did say he died recently. In case you do not know who NNT is, he’s the Black Swan guy – wrote a book titled with that name.

  9. Mitchell MacLeod

    What an ignorant piece of work….I live downtown in a condo and do not own a car, but certainly am not going to be in that situation once I retire!

  10. jc


    I love the clueless rich who have never spent a minute of their lives in any activity that actually creates wealth.

    Preferably, grilled with a light white wine sauce.

  11. DougD

    Sadly the link to the original article no longer works, but the individual points don’t seem that outrageous. Lots of people do live in cities, and the solutions listed are viable in areas of high population density.

    I would agree she should have gotten out a bit more and seen some of the vast distances people travel daily, either by choice or without choice. Also I think she was kidding herself about using her vehicle exclusively for vacations. That’s one of the best reasons to rent a vehicle.

    And the outrage at being lectured from on high? C’mon, what are all of us here for every week?

  12. Narcoossee

    This reminds me of the regular skewing of Peggy Noonan over at peggy noonan
    Like their politics or hate them, this is some funny stuff.


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