Sunday, May 30, 2010

event of the day

today's event of the day is:

given today's sultry high of 87 degrees, i shall endeavor to find out whether wearing open-toed shoes in nyc is truly a big no no.  if it is, i am about to commit a faux pas (because failing to do so yesterday was miserable), and i shall scrub my feet appropriately upon returning home.

4.30PM UPDATE: rest assured, new yorkers DO wear flip flops.

sangria cures motion sickness

walking is easily my most preferred means of locomotion in the city.  easily.  however, i guess you can't be a new yorker until you have hailed a cab (and perhaps feared for your life whilst riding in it the first time) and until you have navigated the subway.

i crossed the cab off my list when J and i bought an ottoman in chelsea and were unable to (gracefully) carry it back to the village.  else, i have limited cab rides to trips home from the airport.  let's just say i would understand driving at a constant high speed to get to one's destination sooner (were it possible to actually drive at constant high speed) ... i do not, however, understand rapid acceleration from one stoplight followed by rapid deceleration to stop at the following light.  it is as though these cab drivers are bored or have an abnormally high drive for risk-taking behavior.  i mean, truly, how many people must, ahem, lose their lunches in your cab before you change your behavior?  fortunately for me, i am well aware of my own abnormally low threshold for motion sickness, and i have avoided entering a cab with either an empty stomach or without ginger ale (i have yet to discover why motion sickness is worst with an empty stomach - i just know it to be true anecdotally).  nonetheless, i have managed to keep the contents of my stomach to myself.  but, as i discovered from asking one cab driver how often passengers became ill in his cab (have no worries - i asked him this very politely and only caused him minor noticeable alarm), a lunch lost in a cab is not an especially uncommon outcome.  i noticed that as he answered, and for the remainder of the trek to the village, his driving became considerably less erratic.  thus, should you find yourself feeling ill in a nyc cab, i recommend pleasant conversation that directs the driver's attention toward a potential consequence of his/her driving (i inserted the "/her" to be politically correct ... but i have never seen a female cab driver ... i think perhaps this is a topic for another day).

subways, in contrast, are not nearly as likely to instigate an unpleasant visceral response.  i don't remember having any notable complaints with subway/elevated trains in chicago, dc, or boston.  and i don't remember the subway causing significant discomfort when i had visited new york in the past.  thus, although with three exceptions in my four month nyc residence, i have avoided taking the subway, i chose to do so not because i feared misplacing my lunch.  rather, i genuinely enjoy walking (and, admittedly, do not enjoy the occasional smell of urine in less than perfectly ventilated enclosures).  nonetheless, you can imagine my surprise this past friday night when one of the rush hour E trains to Queens slapped me with an unprecedented wave of nausea and J informed me that beads of sweat were dripping down my forehead.   perhaps it was because i stood during the entire trip so that older passengers had seats.  or perhaps it was because we were meeting friends for dinner and i had allowed my stomach get a little too empty.  or, who knows, perhaps the conductor had ADD (assuming the operation of the subway is not primarily automated - i have no idea how it works).  all i know is that the other passengers have no idea how narrowly they escaped a truly horrific visceral experience.  three more seconds and they would not have been so lucky.

the trip home was less aversive.  who could say why?  many factors had changed - many more seats were available at 11 o'clock at night than during rush hour, my stomach had something with which to keep it occupied  (digestion) and did not need to resort to nausea as a plea for attention, the train was less crowded, etc.  maybe these factors helped.  but let's be honest - there are few people who make purely rational decisions - few, if any, who conduct careful, controlled scientific experiments before adopting their beliefs.  so if in the vast majority of cases, most people adopt most beliefs for reasons that mostly just reflect the experiences they have already had (and perhaps ignore disconfirming experiences they encounter afterward), isn't it more fun to deliberately choose your irrational belief rather than to unwittingly adopt it?  i choose to believe that sangria cures motion sickness.  and so, my friends, i recommend a glass or two of sangria before setting foot on the subway.  i'm not sure whether it will diminish the scent of urine or, instead, diminish your ability to refrain from commenting on the scent of urine.  either way, perhaps your transportation will be more pleasant.

(as an aside, in theory, i wholeheartedly support public transportation - particularly the subway.  in practice, out of concern for the well-being of my fellow new yorkers and myself, i will continue to rely primarily on my own two legs.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

traffic tim

i remember my mom occasionally commenting that she liked new york so much because there was a place for everyone - no matter who you were, you fit in.  in one short walk through my neighborhood, it would not be uncommon to encounter quite a diverse array of lifestyles - the nyu students and faculty, the local homeless, philip seymour hoffman with his scruffy beard and grungy attire (and his lobster pajama pants-wearing friend), "punks" with purple mohawks, and hipsters with jaded expressions who have wandered into the village after growing bored of playing frogger in soho (the hipsters are the cars, and you are the frog - the game is more fun if you aren't in a rush to get somewhere), etc.

there is a place for even the most eccentric new yorker.  in fact, there is a place for one eccentric new yorker on washington square east.  i think i will call him traffic tim.  i have not really figured him out.  like many working people, traffic tim appears to get up every morning, get dressed, and head off to his job.  the peculiarity is that i don't think this man is actually employed by anyone - he appears to be a uniformless self-appointed crossing guard.  every weekday, he can be found directing traffic, and directing it quite passionately, near nyu.  he yells directions not only at crossing pedestrians (who most certainly hear him, but rarely react), but also at passing cars (whose drivers may or may not hear him, but do not appear to comply with any of his commands).  the first time i passed traffic tim, i thought perhaps he was suffering from violent schizophrenic hallucinations.  i instinctively averted my eyes and walked past him quickly.  now that i realize he is just a crossing guard (however unauthorized he might be .. and now that i think of it, however delusional that might be), i am torn between strong competing urges.  on one hand, shouting and aggressive movements and hand gestures are still pretty good cues that a situation is one that may be best avoided.  on the other hand, even if traffic tim's behavior errs on the side of delusional, he seems relatively harmless.  i have to fight the urge to stop and watch.  i want to watch traffic tim to see whether he notices if no one complies with his directions - or whether he just goes about his business, disregarding input from the world.  if he does notice, i kind of want to play along and wait until traffic tim tells me to cross the street - no one likes to feel ineffective.  

i am curious, though.  does traffic tim have a wife?  does he wake up every morning, have breakfast with her, and then kiss her good bye as he informs her he is off to work?  when he comes home at night, does he tell her about his day and all the ungrateful college kids who nearly got hit by cars or about the irresponsible drivers who disregarded his directions?  does she play along?  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the 8th street tabouli drooler

look, 8th street tabouli drooler, i understand that the pita is so packed full of falafel that you can't cram in enough tabouli and veggies all at once.  yes, the pita is unbalanced - falafel bunched at the bottom and veggies can barely fit in the top.  i get it.  i too once suffered from a plight of too much falafel in my pita.  i also get that your book was so interesting that you were floating off in a cloud of oblivion ... no one could expect you to concern yourself with mundane hygienic issues ... or with the disgusted comments coming from customers behind you (i seem to remember hearing "that is so not cool" and "gross!").  ordinarily, i would really congratulate you on your complete indifference to the opinions of strangers.  ordinarily, i would be rather impressed and i would have nothing critical to say to you.  but to be fair, you were infringing on their right to drool-free tabouli.  

you see, 8th street tabouli drooler, you may be perfectly aware that you are free from such minor annoyances as the herpes simplex virus or h1n1.  you know you are clean.  and sure, i believe you.  but just try for a second to put yourself in the place of the other customers.  they are patiently waiting for their falafel-packed pitas, some of them perhaps contemplating how to get enough tabouli into their own pitas.  they are calmly minding their own business when they see you stand up with your half devoured pita and return to the toppings bar.  and okay, sure, haven't we all been tempted to do that on occasion?  so the threat level at this point is probably orange (you know, we have some inkling a threat is there, but i'm not sure any of us really took it seriously).  i think maybe we expected you to go ahead and get another scoop of tabouli but show some consideration by shaking the spoon until the tabouli dropped onto your sandwich of its own accord.  that, my dear 8th street tabouli drooler, would have been forgivable.  but it really is "so not cool" to scoop out the tabouli and wipe the serving spoon against your half-eaten pita.  not just once - several times.  you just kept scraping the serving spoon up and down your drool covered pita.  and when you finished, we watched what you would do next.  as though there were some possibility that you might not wedge the serving spoon right back into the tabouli.  of course we should have known better.  now, again, i believe that you are clean ... but how do the other customers know this?  how do they know you didn't just break up with your boyfriend because he didn't tell you he had herpes and now you want to punish the world by spreading your disease to everyone you encounter?  the point is - they have no idea that you are just a sweet thoughtful young lady who was just too enthralled with her fiction to pay attention to hygiene.  but think of the other customers.  humor them.  keep your drool out of the tabouli.

now please don't think i am unsympathetic to your quandary.  i have solutions for you.  you can order the junior falafel sandwich - it only has 3 falafel balls in it, leaving plenty of room for your precious tabouli.  or, do what the guy behind you did.  get a tray.  put a piece of paper on it.  then just start dumping giant spoonfuls of tabouli onto the tray.  sure, the guy behind the counter raised his eyebrows and probably contemplated calling mr. tray dumper on his not quite kosher behavior.  but at the end of the day, the falafel joint was just too busy and mr. tray dumper was on his phone, appearing to be far too engaged with a matter far more important than smuggling out a week's supply of tabouli.  so mr. tray dumper carried about his business, and the guy behind the counter helped the next customer.

please, for the love of tabouli, just dump it into onto your tray.