Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York in under 24 hours

I'm just leaving from New York and was here for less than twenty four hours. I came in yesterday at 11am and am now typing this up at 6:30am at JFK airport. It was business so I didn't really get to enjoy the city, but it's been an experience nonetheless. I haven't been here since I was a kid and would like to find a chance to come back here with Melissa and be a bit more leisurely.

It's a peculiar place. And although I'd love to come and live here for an extended time to take it all in, I couldn't see myself living here permanently. That's not coming from a small-town frame of mind either. I love big cities, and lived in Boston for eight years. But Boston is more my kind of town - big city, but toned down a few notches.

Random observations over the last 19 hours...

  1. There are too many cabs. Seriously. If you don't have to wait at the corner for more than sixty seconds to find a cab, there are too many. You can literally cross a street and see nothing but cabs lined up at the red light. The city might be big for walking, but there needs to be some kind of incentive for not taking a taxi.

  2. A lack of casual conversation among strangers. Midwesterners have random, spontaneous conversations with strangers. Strangers waiting for a bus, on an airplane, or standing at a crosswalk. It's what we do. There is no intention of building some kind of long lasting friendship or even having a conversation for more than sixty seconds. It just an attempt to keep life communal. But when I did this with New Yorkers, they had looks on their faces as though they were about to be mugged. In most cases, there was literally no response. That's a sad state of mind.

  3. Cars don't follow basic traffic laws. This has changed recently and I'd argue (without data) that this is due primarily to #1 above. People go wherever they want whenever they want and the city could probably save a couple hundred k a year by not painting the streets. The kicker is that whenever they are denied the ability to dive and swerve, they immediately lay on their horn.

  4. Service people forget they are performing services.I'm not sure if this is simply do to the ubiquity of service oriented jobs in the city, but unless there is a personal connection (like a doorman) or you are paying a premium for a connected service (like a waiter), they simply don't care much about your experience. This includes drivers, security folks, cashiers, and bartenders. 

    As an example, the bus driver for the airport shuttle was approached by a prospective customer at the airport during a dropoff (this is the city-to-airport shuttle). "There's a big group of us waiting for a ride into the city." The response was, "This isn't the bus." The question was repeated. The answer was repeated. How about, "Sorry, this bus isn't going back to the city."? Or, "Here's a schedule for the inbound buses." Or, "I'm not sure what the schedule is for inbound buses, but I'm not going that direction." Or a hundred other useful (not to mention polite) responses. There is very much a "i'm not in that pay grade so i won't do it" mentality among the service folks. I will say that the one police officer I spoke with on the street was not only helpful, but enthusiastic. His answer went beyond the scope of the question.

  5. The amount of manushia is incredible. I'm curious to know what the statistics are for things like:

    • The total number of doormen employed in the city

    • The total number of "security" personnel employed in the city. (The building I was in had four people at the check-in desk and then one person stationed at each of the elevator hubs to check badges. Oh, and when I got to my floor that was occupied by a single business, I still needed a security code to get into the bathroom.)

    I have no sense for the history of these things, but in the case of the security found in the commercial buildings, is this just the fallout of 9/11? Or is there really a security problem? The amount of office space in this city is staggering so I'm skeptical that it's the latter.

Despite the negative tone of the list, there are all kinds of nooks and crannies that I'd love to explore some day when I achieve freedom of time. I can easily look past everyone of these things and enjoy the city for what it is.

1 comment:

  1. lol hey, I agree with you about all of those, the best imo are #2 and #3. I always asked why we even have lines on the road anymore. And what certification do these taxi drivers have to go through before transporting people? lol and I'm from the midwest, I know what you mean by how NYC is pure silence when talking to strangers. A great example is any subway train.Nice post! :)