When you were a little kid, parents picked a nursery school because it was easy to get to. You went to the school and said something really deep like: ”I’d like my child to attend this nursery school because you are only two blocks from where we live.” They said: ”That will be $1,400 for the year, thank you.” And that was that. Now it’s a lottery to see if you can even get an application to nursery school for the privilege of paying more than your rent for your kid to go three hours a day, two days a week. And if you go on to a private school like you did, that $1,400 a year becomes $40,000.
But that’s New York for you – EXPENSIVE! In life and in death. I don’t remember if I told you about this, but my friend Helene died recently and I went with her niece to help plan the funeral. We agreed to meet at the funeral home. As usual, I was early, so I waited in a very tastefully decorated waiting room.
On the table in front of me was a small green book with the embossed title “Casket Prices”. Next to it were two other books: “The Reason for a Jewish Funeral” and “How to Get to the Cemeteries Serviced by the Riverside Funeral Home.” Since I had always assumed that the reason for a Jewish funeral was that a Jewish person had died, and since I knew how to get to any cemetery I have relatives in, I opted to read “Casket Prices”. Let me tell you, it was a real eye-opener.
Just then our “Grief Counselor” arrived. Her name was Alma, which she pronounced “Ahhhhlma”, as though all her air was coming up from her knees. Good sales person that she was, Alma jumped in with both feet.
“Let me explain our price list to you,” she said – “some people find it a bit confusing.” I found it amazingly simple. “The transportation fee from the nursing home to the funeral home is $595; the ‘disinfecting’ fee is $225; the hearse is $425; do you want the embalming for $450? If not, then you get the refrigeration for $450,” and so on and so on and so on.
I told Alma that the only thing I found confusing was why it cost $495 to transport someone from 79th St. and 3rd Avenue to 76th St. and Amsterdam Avenue when you could do it in a taxi for approximately $12 and in a rented limousine for approximately $50 – and that would include drinks and a TV in the back of the car.
Alma then told us that if we wanted the top-priced casket (we didn’t), it would be $32,000. I told her that for $32,000, it should seat six and make 0-60 on the highway in under ten seconds.
“And,” said Alma, “of course there is the honorarium for the Rabbi.” The “honorarium” is $350. I thought that for $350 we ought to be able to get the Pope. He may not know the right prayers, but he certainly wears more interesting clothes!
“And now,” said Alma, “Let me print the contract for you.” A contract is an agreement. What Alma was printing was a bill – no agreement necessary. Either you pay it, or you find a Whole Earth Catalog and do it yourself.
So for $350 for the Rabbi, $850 for the cemetery and $7900 for “services rendered”, my friend Helene will be buried. Knowing Helene as I did, I am sure she would have said, “Add $20 and buy a drink for you and for Alma. You certainly do deserve it.” Now that would be money well spent!
Have a nice day, Mom