I turned to the guy sitting next to me, a complete stranger and I said…
Before I finish that story, let’s rewind.
I woke up sweating. I never wake up sweating. The night before had a nice breeze so I slept with the window open.
Some cosmic douchebag decided to turn up the thermostat sometime in the night, hike up the humidity index and call it a brand new day.
Had to shower again just to feel clean.
I step outside and I’m sweating already. I’m a little late because I had to shower so I have to jog which makes the sweating even worse.
My subway station is nice enough to sound an alarm when my train is approaching. I hear it at the top of the steps so my jog turns into a sprint.
It’s my train. I run faster. The doors close when I’m a mere 3 feet away. I turn my head and make eye contact with the train operator. I plead with him with my eyes. C’mon man, be a human being here. Open the doors.
No dice. The train rumbles forward.
I finally understand what a “New York second” means. It means that if you’re late by a second, you’re actually late by 15 minutes.
Fifteen minutes. That’s how long I sat in that dank sauna that people call a subway station. People who visit New York ask me all the time… “Chris, why do NY subways smell like urine?”
“Because people pee on the floor.”
The only ones not minding the sticky heat and the smell of urine seem to be the rats who are feasting on 5-day old rubbish. This makes me think about the movie Ratatouille and how I wouldn’t want a rat preparing my food after all.
The rats scurry away as the R train finally arrives. Oh Happy Day. There’s just enough room for a 170 pound Asian guy. But only just.
I’m crammed in between a slew of interesting people. A fat bearded man who looks about 50. This makes me think that he didn’t earn enough money in his lifetime, otherwise he wouldn’t be caught dead in this sardine can.
Behind me is a Latina woman who somehow has the strength to carry her 4 year-old son in her right arm while feeding her infant in the stroller. The baby is cute, but begins to screech and scream. This makes me want to punch a baby.
To my left is a man who obviously just went to the gym. He smells worse than the urine.
This is how it is all the way to my stop. When the doors fly open, everyone floods out.
The escalators are broken and the Collective Groan happens. The Collective Groan is something that happens only in NYC. When a subway skips a stop to run express, it’s the Collective Groan. When a busy road is shut down because they’re filming a movie, it’s the Collective Groan. When an escalator that’s supposed to take us up five flights of stairs breaks, it’s the Collective Groan.
The line forms to make the steep ascent up the stairs but it’s moving slowly. I scan up and I see a poor old woman struggling to take her next step. She’s holding up the line. This makes me want to punch a poor old woman.
I’m finally out of the subway, but I have another 8 blocks and an avenue to get to work.
I begin my walk and I get solicited twice. Once by a man selling pizza coupons, the other time by a musician trying to sell his CD.
I get asked for change three times. The third man is wearing shoes more expensive than mine.
A tourist asks me for directions. He’s in the wrong borough and I don’t have time to explain it to him. I shake my head and say I’m not from this area.
An ambulance wails by. Jackhammering construction. People talking…no, yelling, into their cell phones. Cars honking. Now a firetruck siren.
I nearly faint from dehydration when I get to Starbucks (my office for the time being). After what I’ve been through this morning, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice drink.
“I’ll have a Grande iced caramel macchiato.”
“That’ll be $5.62.”
I glance up at the barista. Are you kidding me?
She just shrugs her shoulders.
I’d like to punch her but it’s my own fault for ordering anything but a tall drip.
After work, I need to make a Bed, Bath and Beyond run. I take a bus and make two subway transfers just to make it to the store.
Inside, the employees live up to every stereotype people have about rude New Yorkers.
Excuse me sir, where are your space rugs?
No verbal response, just a lazy finger point.
Excuse me, do you sell futon covers?
This time, a head bob in the general direction of the futon covers.
I’m sorry, can you use your words to just tell me exactly where I can find it? Perhaps an aisle number or a quick list of right turns and left turns? That way, I won’t have to ask another one of your unhelpful colleagues when I eventually lose my way. Thank you.
Time to checkout. Here again, I’m a conditioned Californian. I still buy too much in one go and I forget that I have to haul all of this down six blocks, down the subway station stairs, into a subway car, onto a transfer, and then up three flights of stairs before the final three blocks.
I ask myself a simple question: Why is it so fucking hard to shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond? No one in New York has a good answer.
It’s the end of a long day. I’m drenched in sweat. I have loads of merchandise weighing me down and I just want to be home.
That’s when the train operator comes on the intercom.
This train will be skipping the next 9 stops. For all local stops, get off at Roosevelt and take the downtown train back.
The Collective Groan.
At Roosevelt, everyone gets off. We wait another 20 minutes for the local return train.
A guy asks the operator if it’ll stop on Steinway, my stop. He nods yes.
We both get on.
I turned to the guy, now sitting next to me, a complete stranger and I said…
Why do we put up with this city?
He shakes his head. I don’t know man. I just don’t know.
I think I know.
If you really love something or someone or some place…
There’s a part of you that hates it just as much.