It is a beautifully grey autumn day out… A crisp chill in the air, artsy patterns etched into the slate clouds, the last smudges of color tacked to the trees in distant smears of yellows, reds and oranges, the shadows of skyscrapers jaggedly cutting into the mock horizon like a monochrome game of tetris …
So why the eff are you whistling Xmas carols? On a crowded subway train? While blocking the doorway? At some insane hour for a Saturday morning (8AM)??
Oh, little mouse, you are the only thing that keeps me sane… Homer Simpson
Ok, so maybe the subway rats don’t keep me sane. But, I’m the doormouse I keep myself sane. And, today’s affirmation is all about my New York City sanity because I am glad I was brought up a smart city boy.
Unlike some people dwelling in this swollen metropolis and the vast visiting hoards, I was fortunate enough to pick up a few good tips over the years thus avoiding the stupidity that plagues the better part of humanity here.
That’s not to say I dislike my fellow citizens and the tourists to my town. I love them. They are who make New York the amazing city it is… Besides, they mean well. Even if there’s a large subset of them that lack the common courtesy, and common sense, to let people off the subway car or elevator before trying to crowd their way onto it. It’s not like two people can exist simultaneously at the same point in the space-time continuum or anything…
So what do I know that I’m happy to have figured out?
Say hello to the doorman. The one at your office building. When you’re visiting other buildings. As you pass them on Park Ave. at the fancy people’s buildings. It’s polite. While you’re at it, say hi to the conductor on the train, to the police offers and even the coffee cart guy. Trust me, most don’t get much positive interaction during the day. And, coming from someone who thoroughly dislikes any kind of extraneous interaction with strangers if I can do it anyone can. The rest of your manners like please and thanks wouldn’t hurt either. there’s entirely too many shitbags that cannot show common courtesy in general, don’t be one of them. We’re too densely packed to do otherwise and consider how aweful life is in other cities down south or the mid-west where some BS version of hospitality includes quick draw competitions. We don’t have those, so just be nice, would you?
Don’t stop at the top of the subway steps to get your bearings, get out your umbrella or check your cellphone. You should walk to the curb to get your bearings, have your umbrella out before entering the stairwell and wait till you’re at pace walking down the block to check your phone as it won’t have a full signal immediately anyhow. While you’re at it, don’t stop at the bottom of the steps either, walk fully into the station and then move to the side to get your metrocard out or figure out if you’re on the right platform. The same goes for moving through the turnstiles in either direction too. I could go into the infinite reasons why from having watched all the calamity that occur when people don’t and I’m glad I’ve learned from their mistakes.
Stay to the right. It works when you’re driving a car (unless you’re from England) so why can’t you apply the same logic to walking on the sidewalk, on the train platform, on steps and escalators, in cross walks, etc.? It shouldn’t be a huge leap of faith to figure out you won’t run into as many people if you don’t walk to the far left into oncoming human traffic and part of that means not walking in a group four people wide on a confined sidewalk. Thankfully, I figured out how to apply the rules of the road and how to use a stiff shoulder to remind other people how to be polite and stay to their own right when they unknowingly crash into me and that act so surprised.
Be cautious walking over those steal cellar sidewalk doors. Not every landlord does the necessary maintenance on them and you don’t want to end up a fully story down unexpectedly. While you’re at it, be careful with manhole covers, especially with pets and small children, as ConEd isn’t exactly known for grounding them, or for properly securing them. Same goes for the subway ventilation grates, they’re especially dangerous as as metallic slip and slide in wet weather. And be sure to step fully over sewers and other drainage openings so you don’t accidentally slip in. It happens more frequent than you’d guess and your ankle will never be the same once it does.
Enjoy the sights but don’t randomly stop and stare. Humans are not outfitted with brake lights, or turn signals for that matter. When you make unusual, sudden unexpected movements you get run into. That’s your fault not mine. And, be careful saying “I’m sorry.” I know if you mean it and most of the time a conceited one will earn you a, “if you were really sorry you wouldn’t have done it in the first place” remark. I carry a camera almost everywhere and routinely document my city sightseeing but there’s appropriate ways to enjoy the amazing architecture and other uniquities that make New York, New York without disrupting the commuters and the rest of us who are walking with purpose and conviction. New York is fast paced. I fully encourage you to take it all in, but take my advice from years of experience, move to the slow lane if when you do. It isn’t worth being plowed over.
Embrace technology. Learn how to effectively use the Metrocard machines, the ATM, the self-checkout at Dwayne Reed and Gristedees and wherever else they exist. It is not that difficult to follow the instructions on the screen. If you are confused, or unsure, or otherwise unable to deal with it don’t stop the rest of us who know how it works just stand in the real line for personal support and quit making things more difficult for the competent non-Luddites in the crown. Similarly, if you are using super-fast forward technology and it inevitably fails at least have a back up plan (like cash) and don’t stand there like a self-absorbed douche and have some respect for those of us who will in the future allow you to continue to use said technology.
Realize that New York City is still co-joined neighborhoods and avoid the gentrification and homogenization. There are few places in the United States and increasingly few in the world where corporate franchises haven’t stripped communities of their uniquely individual personalities. New York still has lots of mom and pop (and small city owned franchises) for our staples like pizza, hot dogs, bagels, kinishes and so on but it’s our ethnic diversity in general that truly makes it an experience an experience. There’s nothing unique about Friday’s or Applebee’s in Times Square when you consider only a few blocks south is Koreatown and some of the most amazing bimibop this side of the international date line, nevermind one of the landmark Irish pubs outside of the Garden and, of course, Greys Papaya dogs… you can get that generic shit anywhere and nothing makes me, an olde timer, (or a hipster) more pissed then when you indulge in the predictable (that goes for starfux too people).
Quit whining. I fully realize that I’m doing it now and the irony in saying it. But the cliche of New Yorkers being whatever and whathaveyou has been proven untrue so many times over it makes my defense of New Jersey actually fresh and that’s pretty worn thin (wink wink nod nod). Fact of the matter is whatever preconceived notion you come into New York with it is sure to fulfill. Manhattan is home to 1.2 million people and offers employment to over three million more each day commuting in from within the over 25 million people living within the surrounding counties where the regional GDP is over 10% of the GNP and is the microcosm of the Great Melting Pot experience that is our great nation. I embrace this diversity and the grand experience it provides…so should you.
So, the reality is after 1300 words I won’t change anything. There’s no chance this changes anything at all in my commute, on my weekend fun or as part of my daily experience here. People will do what they do because that’s who they are… many believing they are the only person getting on or off the train, going up or down the steps, getting a breakfast, lunch or after work snack or generally using the same city I have grown to know and love. They will take for granted it, assume it will always be the same and believe their actions don’t impact the lifeblood of it. Incorrectly, of course. And, that’s why we lost a landmark like CBGBs for cultural influence, why the Olde German Neighborhood of Yorkville is hanging on by a thread in the wake of homogenization along 86th street, and despite all the diversity along its boarders still Times Square area looks like a neon Disney Land monoculture.