Sour Apples

10 Annoying Things  
About New York City

Readers of this blog are regularly served a mix of choice cuts and odd views about the Big Apple. But so far, we’ve managed to skip over a New Yorker’s favorite state of mind: that of constant peevishness. In fact, some of us go through the day barely avoiding complaining about everything and everybody.
Since city residents can also be polite, such annoyance, simmering just below the surface, may go unnoticed most of the time. Just don’t push it. When over eight million people need to find ways of spending the day with each other, avoidance comes off as second nature. The first? it’s advisable not to ask.
So we may not make any friends here by highlighting our own idiosyncrasies which, nevertheless, can set us off to no end. Maybe it’s the end of the summer. Or the fact that going after an easy target, say, Williamsburg hipsters, would immediately give away our terminal case of uncoolness.
But not being invited to the A-List party, or sporting the latest ‘label-sensitive’ shoulder bag doesn’t bother us the least. On the contrary, it’s a point of honor to share the morning latte with that model from HBO and still pretend that we had no idea who that was. And no one needs to know that we live in a studio.
One last word about out of towners, that engorging platoon with deeper pockets and higher expectations than ours: they’re fine. Of course, we may have a few homicidal thoughts when they block our sidewalk. But just stand for a second under a street sight and see how may of us will come running to give you directions.
You won’t find a city more open than New York to foreign accents, mispronunciations, wrong grammar, or just plain inability of speaking English. Don’t worry; we’ll e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e every word, as if it makes any difference, until you get the general idea. That should last 45 seconds. After that, get away from us.
Ah, the old New York. The cobble streets, the celebrity sightings, Central Park. Everything but those stupid hansom cabs, which by now, may be responsible to more dead horses than the whole Civil War combined. People who trade on this business of enslaving old horses for the sake of some outdated romantic ideal about the city should be treated like, well, animals.
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and other organizations have been working for years to ban the practice of using these abused, old, arthritic horses, who may be forced to work 10-hour days, and live in cramped headquarters in upper Manhattan. For your half-hour idilic (and, honestly, silly) enjoyment, they may lose their lives in the city’s traffic, and many do get run over.

Perhaps, when you first came to New York, you found them amusing. But once you’ve visited one, you’ve visited them all. Every summer, they occupy entire neighborhoods with exactly the same assortment of assembly-line socks, ties, burning foods, and cell phone offers. The only good thing about them is not under their many tents: they block cars from the cities.
Then again, try to get a cab to go somewhere and chances are you’ll be stuck in some narrow street for a few hours. Maybe in the past they did represent the ethnic diversity and history of the city; but now, one can easily find better selections of the same wares on Canal Street. Even though that you shouldn’t; most of that stuff has most likely been manufactured by child labor.

This is a city of commuters. Almost as many people who live in the four boroughs travel out of the city to work, as those who come from other states to tend to their business here, during the day. There’s one thing that they all share: they mostly use public transportation. And that’s a good thing. Still, many don’t and even more, refuse it.
Which is too bad. If you drive to New York during the week (and you’re not in the delivery business), we hate you. You’ll get stuck in some gridlock, polluting our air and ears, and you may even manage to hit a pedestrian or two with your stupid Honda. Just leave the godamn thing behind already, and take the train. If you please, of course.

Now we may be biased against Sunday marching bands because we associate them with parading for the glory of dubious tyrants and their populist nationalism, and all that. Still, come on. Do we have to have an almost weekly parade, with their customary display of belligerent drunks and the out-of-step and out-of-tune crowds waving little flags that go along with them?
Even ticker tape parades can be troubling, with their easy tossing of words such as ‘heroes’ and ‘victory’ and all that, pardon our Uzbek, crap. Does every group, part of our ‘gorgeous mosaic,’ need to also revel in excluding gays, and feature ratings-grabbing politicians? And, by the way, we don’t like the Thanksgiving one either. There, we said it.

We’re jumping seasons here, so we’re definitely not talking about the fruit kind. We mean those post-snowstorms mountains of slow-melting ice, that decide to turn into a deep pool of water, at the exact moment that our working shoes touch them. It’s just a moment, but it last the whole day. Who can forget that sinking feeling, when you wiggle your toes with a swish noise, while our socks get quickly soaked?
That it usually happens when we’re already late to whatever, is no coincidence. It’s all part of that conspiracy that Murphy’s Law has been warning us all along for such a long time. Our pledge, thus, is that it may take several decades, but one day our trained eye will be able to detect solid from slushy snow. At that moment of triumph, we’ll probably completely lose our minds.

Back to high heat and humidity, we used to have a certain sympathy for those who dedicate their lives to tell everybody else how wrong they are, and that they should repent. Now we kind of hate them. And if they’re in the middle of a crowded subway platform, and their sing-song voice is designing hymn-like circles in the air, well we have to contain ourselves.
It’s OK if you believe and all that. But either you’ve got a better job than most, to spend so much idle time in fetid stations, or nobody can stand you at home and kick you out every morning, so you won’t annoy the hell out of them. In any case, we can’t help but think that, if what you’re talking about is really so valuable, you’d be selling it, not preaching about it.

We’re generally all for bikes instead of cars. But we’d be even more for civility over bikers. Specially those who ride against the flow, don’t stop at red lights, and don’t even apologize. Now why on earth would a sweaty biker take the already crowded subway at rush hour, and give everyone the evil eye while virtually covering three seats, even without being seated?
It’s beyond us. No, we understand, everyone needs a break. It may be raining. You may have the cramps or are heading to Coney Island. Your significant other just dumped you. Whatever you’re going through, we feel for you. We really do. But to board our train with your smelly feet? Get the hell out of here.

We have no idea how come we’ve lost all our patience with saints, and angels, and pious souls, and enlighten smilers. We no longer can stand them, and call us cynical, but we just don’t believe that their minds are so high up, and their hearts so in tune with the universe, and their bodies so crafty at producing aromatic waste.
The same goes for when we’re at the Spring Street platform, with its jet-propulsion levels of noise. If the train’s approaching, and someone presses their palms against the side of their heads, just like innocent Buddha would do, we don’t know why, but we feel like telling them to beat it and go find an Ashram to live somewhere else. Yeah, that’s right, we’re bad.

Then again, here’s something that may get us back to your good side: we despise the self-important, cellphone loud talker. But the more they’ve become a cliche, the more they’ve been evicted from trains, theaters, restaurants, and pretty much any other place where at least two strangers have to share the same room.
Oddly, our only sympathy toward this situation of their own doing comes from its similarities with the swift ban exacted to smokers. Except that, at least for a while, smoking was sexy. There’s nothing of the kind about these louts. And unless you’re a stalker or something, why would you be even marginally interested in listening to a stranger’s conversation?

There are eight million stories in the naked city, used to go the intro to the TV series. But that prickly intern that just interrupted your reverie, and told you to wait before crossing the street, because there’s a movie shot in progress, is probably not working in any of them. In fact, he or she may be a film student with little to say, and a lot of ego to support.
If you live here, you know the drill: there’re the lights, the trailers, the tent with the junk food. There’s hardly a famous actor on sight, but that’s probably because we never stick around to spot them. It may also be just another commercial. But unless you want to be cast as prima donna, even if you live right there, you may have to wait until the little Scorcese shouts: cut!

4 thoughts on “Sour Apples

  1. Lisa at fLVE says:

    I feel bad for the horses… 😦


  2. louvain95 says:

    Great post indeed! You should publish a book:” Everything you should have learned about NY, but didn’t” ;)))
    A few days ago, I was also struck by your passing comment about the way to walk a little ahead of someone while talking to them, least they ‘d feel threatened. That titbit kept me flabbergasted!
    Have a great WE, no dead horse, no loony preacher, no cell screamer! Lou


  3. Wesley, that’s a great post. The slush picture rang several bells. I turn into a recluse on slushy days. So did the car picture. Take care, Micheline


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