The Heat & the Mordant

New Ways New Yorkers Find Bikes,
Mosquitoes & Flip Flops Annoying

If you live in this city, you’re bound to be a five-borough complainer. And if it’s about the weather, in itself a subject capable of making a screeching whiner out of even the most pious nun, any unexpected change is greeted here with grinding teeth and clenched fists.
That’s how last week’s heat wave brought together three predictable features of the season to an unhealthy boil, as this fair town bubbled with nasty epithets galore and vituperative profanities thrown at flying biters, fatigued riders and unwashed walkers alike.
For even though there aren’t many redeeming qualities about mosquitoes who show up uninvited at outdoor cookouts and private cocktail functions, they should be expected to be an integral part of this town’s ‘gorgeous mosaic.’ Still, thank goodness someone always finds a new way to get rid of them.
As for New York’s tardy entrance in the row of world-class cities with a liberal tilt towards biking, as with everything else here, it got kind of complicated. And many blame Mayor Bloomberg, a man who’s yet to see a corporate logo he doesn’t like, for turning this green idea into a factory of another kind of green for its sponsor.
On top of that, or rather, underneath it all, there are those distraught by someone else’s exposed toes, which let’s face it, after a few miles of accumulated street grime, are indeed an unflattering sight. But to drive pedestrians to loudly make deleterious observations about each other’s personal hygiene? Who knew?
It’s all part, of course, of the unduly sense of entitlement and delusion shared by Manhattanites and their kin, who wish to believe they preside over whatever happens around, and have no qualms saying something about it; the do-you-have-a-problem-with-that? kind of attitude that we all so dearly embrace and like to brag about.
As we approach the zenith of the season, baking sidewalks and sweaty subways included, we thought that now would be as good a time as ever to, what else? complain a little about things we have absolutely no sway over. After all it’s been said that summer makes our brains lazy, never mind the glistening of our bodies.
We’d have written all about it earlier, but haven’t you heard it? the heat wave has wilted us all to prostration last week.

There are many ways to admire and compliment the city for having made so many bicycles available to all, but do you really think we’re about to go over a single one of them now? Forget about it. We can think of at least three things that make many residents simply hate this corporate-sponsored expensive fancy of a program.
One is the price, or rather, what it takes to get into the system, so you can ride away in one of those heavy blue bikes. Just the private data gathered (and leaked) from your credit card that the bank banking the program will collect is enough for it to make a profit, and for you to write about it on your Facebook. That’ll teach them…
Also, riders, bike messengers, cabbies, and out-of-towners weekend drivers are in nobody’s list of favorite city dwellers. So granting first-time tourists the chance to ‘discover’ their way around is asking residents to simply abhor anyone fool enough to risk everybody’s lives on a speedy two-wheeler balancing act.
They say that the NYC’s program is the world’s biggest. We say, who cares? Haven’t they heard? there’s a guy who had a much better idea: a cheap, sturdy cardboard bike. Couldn’t we be the best, instead, for a change? It’d be a perfect program, specially if you’d combine it with the revolutionary accessory developed by a U.K. group: a paper pulp helmet.
So, there you have, Mr. Mayor: instead of giving another unnecessary handout to your wealthy friends, you could have gotten us all behind you for a change, creating a program truly ahead of our time. It’d also be an inspiration to city kids who, instead of aiming at becoming another CEO, would consider taking an interest in recycling for once.

Granted: mosquitoes that are not carrying some kind of virus are just an annoyance. Good luck telling that to New Yorkers, though. It’s one thing to be relieved that dangerous diseases such as the West Nile Virus, carried by them, have skipped the city this time around (knock on wood and all that). But you’re not about to catch us being too happy about it either.
For annoyances, even of the most trivial kind, have a way to trigger a rare unanimity of collective disatisfaction, that rises up from the outer boroughs inward, as a background drone. And no matter what we know about the disgrace they represent to underdeveloped countries; if they come over here, we’ll sure let them all have it.
The question is, how? Fear not: every year intrepid scientists and immunologists come up with new ideas on how to kill flying bugs. Everything but to fix the environment, that is, but that’s something else entirely. Thus the kill-mosquito-strategy du jour this year is patches. Just like those that help you stop smoking.
But either you wear the small, non-toxic clothing patch that turns you invisible to mosquitoes for up to 48 hours, or science plays scary monsters and genetically alters the bugs, so to make them lose interest in you, if you’re part of a certain 20% of the population, you’re out of luck either way: your blood tastes delicious to them, no matter what.
So, as research continues to find ways to stop mosquitoes from being vectors of lethal infectious diseases, if you live in the city, you’re luckier than you think. The solution is deceptively simple: when your friends complain about being bitten, tell them to stand in front of a small fan. That will do it.
Paraphrasing a famous movie director, who shall remain unnamed, and was once caught in a compromising situation with an underage relative (haven’t them all?), the feet wants what it wants, and it wants it now. So, as the thermometer rose, so did the number of sightings of exposed toes and toenails and crusty heels and so on and so forth.
Naturally, someone would have to take issue with it. And as thousands of feet walked unvarnished, unhinged, and mostly uncovered from Brooklyn Heights to the Bronx Grand Concourse, from the Queens Boulevard to the Staten Island ferry station, they were hatefully followed by a patrol of unsatisfied New Yorkers (aren’t them all?)

A recent Dana Stevens story on The Salon wrapped it all testily on its headline: Your Flip-Flops Are Grossing Me Out. It went downhill from there, warts and soot and dog poop and all. Naturally, sides quickly were taken and for a brief moment at least, the conversation took a mutual accusatory tone, that few other bodily parts can usually convey.
Again, granted, the sandal itself hasn’t been kind to everyone, to say the least, despite its estimated 6,000 years history, barely separating our hardened soles from rusty nails, sharp edges and organic waste found on the ground we all stand. Reality is even grittier and at any other time of the year, to wear it is a losing proposition.
But at the beach, on the grassy knoll, or even on an evening stroll, what can be more relaxing and uncompromising than to wear the practical and clever contraption between your toes? A lot, as it goes. About those toes: apparently those exposing them are unaware of how much grief they’ve been causing to those around them. Cut it/them out, they say.
Or storms in a teacup. You may go ahead now and say that this whole talk about all things annoying to New Yorkers, and how these fabulously enlightened individuals can always find new nooks and crannies to complain about is just plain boring. We won’t mind and, in fact, we feel slightly guilty for having led you all astray.
Then again, we can think of a hundred other subjects, utterly more pretentious to talk about, just so we don’t have to talk about what’s really important, whatever the hell it may be. And you couldn’t say that there’s a better time of the year to safely discuss what’s inconsequential and superficial than during summertime, when the living used to be easier.
In other words, we complain so you don’t have to. We find the reasons to criticize it, so you can go on and play the good cop. We find stories to tell, and you’re kind enough to read them. Now, for those still hating the warm weather, a friendly warning: we’re fast approaching the final stretch of the summer. So go get those coats cleaned.
Read Also:
* 50 Summers
* Biking in the City
* Heat Riders

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