Wednesday, April 04, 2007

30 posts in 30 days, day 2: errata

I actually realized that I misspoke with respect to the top three programs on our rank list yesterday. Or to keep it abstruse, perhaps I should restate it that our top four programs are Columbus, Ohio (home of the world's first Wendy's); Denver, Colorado (home of the elevated hematocrit), Miami, Florida (home of countless spry retirees); and New York City (home of Gray's Papaya, featuring the world's greatest hot dog). Not knowing where we're going to end up has not prevented me from doing relocation research, however. I'm just doing relocation research for three or four places simultaneously, figuring that hopefully one of them will pay dividends when the match results come in. Want to know about the school system in Columbus? (Shitty in the city, excellent in the suburbs.) The housing market in Miami? (Much cheaper than New York, with a preponderence of ceramic flooring). The anesthesia job market in Denver? (Not as rich as in some areas of the country, but there are some positions out there). The inability to focus my information gathering in any one area has forced me to realize that there are plenty of nice places to live outside of New York, and that it might actually be kind of exciting to try something new for a few years.

Or, we'll hate it and come crawling back, begging to be forgiven for our hubris.

* * *

Oh, speaking of hubris, I knew even as I was writing it that I was stirring up trouble. Remember back in January when I was talking about out perfect, wonderful two-nanny system? Well, literally days after I posted that entry, one of our nannies disappeared. Literally. Like we don't know where she is. It sounds kind of light-hearted when I write it like that, but actually, it's kind of scary, and we still don't really know what happened to her.

(Harp-like flashback music)

So we had two nannies, one who worked Mondays through Thursdays (I will call her "Roslyn"--perhaps I gave her some other pseudonym in the past, but I cannot remember it, it's all very Spy vs. Spy with the identity-cloaking here) and one who worked Fridays only (I will call her Elena). Elena (the Friday nanny--keep up, people!) we've known for a long, long time--she helped us combat entropy in our apartment about once or twice a month since before Cal was even born, which I know, makes us sound so haute bourgeoisie, like, uch, they have a nanny and a cleaning person? But anyway, just forget about that part for now.

After Georgia (the first, bad nanny that we fired) was no longer in our employ, we asked Elena if she would help us out with Cal once a week as well, because we trusted her and liked her and she had some childcare experience in the past, through her church group and all that. After we hired Roslyn we continued to have Elena come once a week, both for the backup system that I had mentioned, and because Cal seemed to genuinely enjoy having Elena around. It was a nice situation.

One Saturday shortly after I posted my last entry in January, I got a call from Elena. She just wanted to let me know that she accidentally left her cell phone charger at our place on Friday, when she had been over to watch Cal. I told her I'd keep it safe for her and she could pick it up on Monday, as she was planning to come by on Monday to help us do some cleaning. Did she need to come by and get it sooner than that? No, she said, Monday would be fine, and after exchanging some chit-chat and pleasantries, we hung up.

After work on Monday, I came home and asked Roslyn if Elena had come by. She hadn't. I didn't think too much of it--Elena had a busy and varied work schedule, and we weren't too rigid about the cleaning schedule anyway, we just allowed her to schedule our cleaning day for whatever was most convenient for her. It had happened before that Elena had to change what day she was coming by to clean last minute, and she would always call us a day or two before to let us know. She hadn't called this time, though, which was somewhat unusual. I figured she was planning to drop by the next day (she knew Roslyn and Cal would be home anyway, and she had the key to our apartment), so I didn't think much of it.

When I got home from work Tuesday night and saw that Elena hadn't been by that day either, I figured I'd give her a call. She'd been ill about two months prior (some sort of respiratory thing that kept her out of commission for a week or two), and I figured that she was probably home sick again. I called her cell, got her voicemail, and left a message basically checking in to see that she was OK, and to call us if she needed anything. I expected to hear back from her over the next few days. We didn't.

By the time Friday rolled around and she didn't show up for her day with Cal, we knew something was wrong. When it came to watching Cal, Elena had always been utterly dependable, and even in the rare instance that she was unable to make it in (as when she was sick in the fall), she would always call far in advance and let us know. For her to just not show up was completely out of character. We called her cell again and again, countless times over that week. We kept getting her voicemail.

There were a number of scenarios that Joe and I envisioned, each in different shades of grim. Best case scenario, we figured, was that she had a family emergency, and had to rush home to South America, where her parents and siblings were still living. Worst case scenario was that she was seriously ill or injured, in the hospital. Or worse. New York is generally getting safer, but that doesn't not generalize to all parts of the city, and I know that Elena lives in the outskirts of Queens, sometimes taking the subway very early in the morning or very late at night. I didn't say anything out loud, but I started reading the Metro section of the New York Times very closely.

The thing that Joe and I have discussed endlessly since this all happened is what we should do next. Certainly I feel that we have some sort of moral obligation to make sure that Elena is all right, but we're not really sure how we should go about it. Despite the fact that we've known her for over two years, when it comes down to it, we really don't know all that much about her. We know her full name, but both her first name and surname and the combination thereof are very common. We know approximately where she lives, but not her address. We know little bits and pieces about her outside life (other jobs she held, the fact that she went to a Christian church regularly, other places that she's lived before settling in New York several years ago), but absolutely no specifics. We don't know her land line number--in fact, I sort of doubt that she has a land line, though like everything else, I'm not certain about that either. We know her cell phone number but not her carrier, and given that we have her cell phone charger, there's a degree of confounding to the fact that we were unable to reach her through that number. Was her phone battery drained, or was she unable to answer for another reason?

Most importantly, we're not really sure of her immigration status. We honestly never asked. Maybe it's not cool to admit that, but hell, this is New York City, it's not an uncommon fact of life. My first instinct when we realized that she was "missing" was that we should call the police. I don't know what I would really tell them, but surely, there are resources that the police have to work up missing people. But is that really the right thing to do in this situation? First of all, we're not really as close to her as family members or even her friends through her church--we know hardly anything about her, we don't even have a picture. And furthermore, if she wasn't really missing--this was what we were especially worried about--would we actually be getting her in trouble? Clearly something is not right, but the last thing we want to do is make things worse for her. Or perhaps her uncertain immigration status has a role in this after all. Could she have been deported? Arrested? If the latter, I would hope that she would at least feel like she could call us for help, but like I said, we haven't heard from her.

Months later, I still have a lot of moral unease about this situation, what we did, what we should have done, if there's anything that we still should be doing. What do you think? What would you do? It's like Randy Cohen in "Ask The Ethicist." You be Randy Cohen.

My one consolation is that I know that Elena was very active in her church. Again, if I knew the name of the church or where it was, this could be a much simpler matter, but I don't. However, I know that she went several times a week, and volunteered regularly for a number of church-based programs with children and the elderly. She has friends, she is networked. If she really is missing, her congregation would know more about where to look and who to contact. It makes me feel better to think about this, but does not absolve me completely. Somehow the feeling of passing the buck, assuming that other people will do the right thing, turning a blind eye and telling myself what I want to hear. "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."

What would you have done? What would you do at this point?

Currently watching: "Manhattan." Classic Woody Allen. If for nothing else, watch it just to see the very young and very gorgeous Meryl Streep. And Mariel Hemingway.