…or Why I Could Never Leave NYC
A typical day for me starts and ends with noise. I can’t call it sound because it’s not always pleasant. The sound of the crying baby, woken up by construction machines that believe starting their morning at 6am would be okay. The horny couple with all their windows open, wanting to get one more encounter in before they both go off to work. Then there always seems to be a car alarm, near or far, going off non-stop until its owner realizes it’s his/her car, shuts it off, and it goes off again seconds later. I put music on at a decent level, to distract, not drown out, the sounds still managing to enter through my tightly closed windows. It comforts me to know I’m not the only one trying to get her day started. But if my music is too loud a neighbor will hear it. How do I know? Because the competition of loudness will begin. That is a good sign that you are living in NYC. We don’t confront each other unless it’s absolutely necessary. Instead we respond with louder, bigger, and better. When I think of what it means to represent a New Yorker I can sum it up to louder, bigger, & better.
By now I’ve left my apartment building. If you really want to become a true New Yorker, try living on the fifth floor of a walk up! Once outside the sounds I had muffled by my windows, my music, and my neighbors music, blend into the sounds of the street. It’s difficult to be outside anywhere in NYC after 7am and not see a handful or more of people. Especially if school is in session. The elementary children are outside with their tired parent, exuding an energy unimaginable, while they wait for the “cheese bus.” the high-schoolers are in their school uniforms, yet still managing to display their individualism in their own way. They travel in cliques on their way to school and I find myself trying to weave my way through them on my hurried way to the subway.
What can I say about NYC’s wonderful maze of underground tunnels? Nothing that would make a non-New Yorker who may be thinking of braving the overpopulated city rush here I warn you. But who knows, you might appreciate the hustle and bustle of city life? In any case, the MTA is rarely a smooth ride. There always seems to be a delay. And if the delay isn’t on the train you’re on it will be on the train just ahead of yours. Either way, the earlier you leave to try to avoid the usual train issues, the more likely you are to encounter a problem. You might find yourself beginning to think that the MTA has it out for you? I’m here to tell you, you couldn’t be more wrong. The MTA has it out for ALL of us. They have the monopoly on transportation here and believe me they know it. Everyone has to get to work and unless you’re crazy or from upstate New York or Connecticut and drive, your only way of getting to work is by public transportation. During rush hour the trains are crowded. In most cases it is because the tourists refuse to move to the center of the car, thereby causing massive annoyances by the entrances to the subway cars. Perhaps they fear they’ll miss their stop if they aren’t right by the door? Whatever the reason, trust me when I say, a true New Yorker not only does not care about the reason but will easily become agitated and violent if said persons don’t move out of the way.
After I’ve braved the trip to work on the subway, sometimes taking anywhere from 30 minutes to and hour, I long for nothing more than to get out from being stuck underground all the time. If you are like me, prone to dizziness and stress if I’m in an enclosed and crowded space for too long, my solace is my music. It also serves as a way to ignore the crazies and the betters who frequent the trains as well. Once outside, I take a deep breath. Being sure to take in the smell that so many who have not lived here their whole life instantly cry out about the stench. It’s a mixture of things I dare not mention. But if you want an idea, think of all the worst smells you’ve ever smelt in your lifetime, put them altogether, and you’ve got what almost every block of NYC smells like. If you don’t have any, visit your local dump, then come to NYC (especially any entrance/exit of MTA subways) and smell the similarities. But I’m getting sidetracked. The actual train ride, if it’s empty is made up of jolts and shakes and rumbles as it makes its way along the tracks, ending with a sudden jolt of a stop. If you’re standing and not holding on or assuming the appropriate standing position, you could find yourself rushing to stop your fall. If it’s a crowded train with barely enough room to have your own breathing space then the erratic movement of the train I described earlier becomes more obvious to you because there’s always someone who wants to be cool by not holding on and constantly bumps into everyone around due to loss of balance. If you don’t have the ability to maintain your own balance don’t risk it. You come out looking less cool and more annoying! If you have to think about it, don’t do it either!
If you’re like me and work in midtown Manhattan or are a visiting tourist, and obviously everything you all want to see is in midtown, then walking the streets is a nightmare. It’s made up of several kinds of people. But for brevity, I will only talk about three that are pretty self-explanatory.
1. The slow-moving or constant stop and go and stop again tourist. And I mean the ones in large groups or groups of two who insist on doing all of this in the middle of the sidewalk!
2. The New Yorker’s who’ve lived here most or all their lives and know where they’re going, like me.
3. The panhandlers and people handing out advertisements for some local business.
Those of us in the second category have to contend with the other two constantly getting in our way and hindering our quick progress. That’s something else about living in New York City that happens gradually over time; your pace. You’ll find, the slower people walk around you, the quicker you want to move. We know where we are going most of the time and if we are late to our destination, the fault could easily fall on those who are always amazed by their surroundings. The best example I can give is every morning, without fail, it takes me 10 minutes or more to walk 3 city blocks, from the subway to my job. If the streets were clear and the traffic lights were on my side, it would only take me a minute or two.
Even better than traveling to work is the journey home. If you thought people were in a hurry to get to work on time, you have to see how quickly we are all trying to get as far away from work as possible once 5pm hits! Malfunctions abound, trains become behind schedule, to catch up to their schedule they begin to skip certain stops, which always includes my stop! I’d go on but I feel my blood pressure beginning to rise. So I suffer through the ride home which almost always seems to take longer than the morning ride. I take solace in the music playing in my ears (I never leave home without my music), the book I am reading, and the seat I almost always get. I’d discuss the seating situation but why spoil an encounter you should experience all on your own?
This describes my work week, Monday through Friday. My day begins at 6am and ends at around 10pm, where I can be found in my bed, enjoying the silence I get in dribs and drabs. I say that because there is always sound creeping through my windows, even at the dead of night. In NYC it’s more alive than dead. My weekends, if I can help it, do not include traveling underground. Whenever possible I take the bus. The trips are longer to get to my destination, but after 5 days and 10 trips (back and forth) underground, trust me, time is a blessing.
There is much about living in New York City I left out. I’m sure by now you are asking yourself, “why on Earth would you want to stay there?!” I leave you with the example I see every night, whenever I ask myself that very same question:
The train I take home, emerges from underground at the best moment. As the sun goes down earlier and earlier in the Winter time, my description is more beautiful to the eyes and mind. There is a moment, if you’re paying attention, when in the distance you can see the city sky line. It is like no other, especially at night when you can see all the lights illuminating clearly from the many towering buildings all clumped together. It is not something that can be felt or experienced through photographs. You’ve got to see it to appreciate its beauty. There are several places in NYC where you can see the skyline. I’m lucky enough to be able to see it every night I travel home. When I see it, I stare, misty eyed, as if I’m seeing it for the first time.
Maybe I just love my city so much seeing the skyline makes me emotional? But all I know is, no matter how unsafe the people on the streets with nothing better to do may become, I see New York City at night and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I could never leave. This is my home.
Run and Tell That!