Thursday, January 19, 2012

Things I've Learned in NYC: Part Two

To continue my mini-series of posts about moving to NYC, I had considered theming this blog as well. However, I have my list of things I've learned, and they are all over the map. So, you'll have to deal with it! Take it as a mini-lesson of NYC living...things are random and you must deal! Ha!

1- 90% of people living in NYC are not originally from here. And that doesn't matter. Most towns in the US have this pride factor. "Our family has been here since my great great Aunt Betty in 1899!". Yeah, OK, great. Sure, there are the people who have never left the island of Manhattan, but in reality? Not a bragging point. We all originated somewhere else, and migrated to the Big Apple. That's what makes this city so culturally diverse and great! Own your heritage. It's part of your story, and NYC is a place so eclectic that your story will fit right in!

2- It's really OK to wear long underwear. No really, it is. First off, no one will know you have it on. Secondly, I promise you that dress pants and/or jeans will NOT keep you warm on a 20 degree day with the wind howling through tall buildings. So, unless you want to be so numb that you may not realize if you've wet yourself...WEAR LONG UNDERWEAR!

3- Always have cash. Always. Cash only places in NYC are actually very common. And no one wants to pay the $2.50 ATM charge to get a $2.00 slice of pizza. So really, make sure you've got at least a $20.00 bill on you...or lots of quarters.

3- If you work in a secure building, on your first day they are liable to confiscate your pepper spray. Best to just learn Taekwondo instead. And it's probably more effective than the can at the bottom of your purse...

4- If there is a clearing when waiting for a walk sign...just cross, but make sure to walk quickly. Especially on the one-lane, one-way streets, you could waste hours waiting for the walk sign. It's OK. Just make sure you've looked. And also, watch for bicycles. Those idiots are more dangerous than cars, because they refuse to follow traffic laws and rarely pay attention to pedestrians. Can you sense my bitterness towards them? It's there...

5- If you pay over $12.00 for a've been ripped off.

6- You're mood is likely intensified just because of your surroundings. Be aware of that. If you're stressed, getting on the subway can really set you off. If you're sad, being surrounded by millions of people you don't know can add to the depression. If you're angry, you'll run into several more idiots. BUT: if you're happy, you'll notice more joy in the city than anywhere else! If you're giggly, you'll see funny outfits, statues, or signs that will keep you laughing! If your curious, there is always a new place to go! There is really no way to avoid the fact that NYC can intensify your moods. You just need to be conscious of the mood you are in, and make sure you have ways of dealing, breathing, and bringing yourself down (or up) to a manageable range.

7- Dishwashers, In-building laundry, Central AC, counter space, closets, more than 2 windows: ALL LUXURIES. Really. And for those luxuries? You'll fork out the dough! You can live without them, I promise. Window units and fans are excellent and I guarantee half the stuff you store in your closet you NEVER use...if you are even aware it's there! Essentially, know your own priorities, then make concessions and move on. My priorities? Location and a secure building. Storage space, size, floor plan, dishwasher? Doesn't matter. Want more space? Don't expect to live anywhere near NYC, so hope you are OK with long commutes. Can't have everything....unless you make in the 7 figure range.

8- Be open to the experiences from day to day. People watch! Enjoy the random mariachi bands on the subway! Detour thru the park on your walk home! Pay attention to the different colors that light up the Empire State Building! Go to festivals! Chat with the person next to you at the cafe. If you're going to go through the hassle of living in NYC....then LIVE IN NYC! (But, please, don't live in Queens...)

A note to my lovely, faithful readers: I promised you something that I missed in my last blog. I've delivered. First one to tell me what it is can give me a topic to blog about...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things I've Learned Since Moving to NYC: Part 1

Two of the questions I am most frequently asked (aside from the annoying ones about marriage, career, and other things I'm clueless about) are "What's it like to live in NYC?" or "What have you learned?" So, I've decided to make a little mini-series on my blog about my ponderings around those subjects. This go-around, I'm focusing on the day-to-day life. What is it like to commute via subway? What specific qualities or skills have I needed to learn or adapt? And a few common misconceptions or assumptions that can be explained by the daily life of a New Yorker.

*Disclaimer: These are qualities and observations from a daily standpoint. It does not represent how I live my entire life or how I always am. So, don't take it too seriously and enjoy!

1. The majority of New Yorkers are not mean. I've had many fun and interesting surprise conversations on the subway, in cafes, or on street corners. I've seen two factors go into this idea that New Yorkers are mean.
       A- We have places to be in a city that runs like clock-work: DOWN TO THE SECOND. So people who stop in the middle of sidewalks, stroll with their friends taking up the ENTIRE width of the sidewalk, or get up to the register then take another minute to decide whether they want chocolate or vanilla are just plain in our way. And if you miss a particular subway or bus and have to catch the next one, you've missed the next connection and it's thrown a huge kink in your timing. And generally, the boss doesn't take the excuse of: "people were in my way."
      B- NYC has a population of over 8 million people. On a very very small island. The chances of you running into mean and or cranky people is INSANELY HIGHER than that of living in a smaller, more spread out community.

2. The elevator ride up to your office is really just another changing room. Have to wear heels with your suit to work? Throw them in your bag and change out of your flats between floors 1 and 15 to avoid the blisters and getting stuck in subway grates. Need to wear that skirt or dress in January? Throw a pair of warm sweats on over the hose and under the skirt, then strip it off between floors 12 and 22 so you avoid the flu and your leg hair doesn't grow back asap. Raining? Tuck your pants into the knee-high rain boots, wear a long trench-style poncho, and wrap something over your hair (umbrellas don't work...I'll get to that later). Then, as you go up 30 floors, you'll have time to change shoes and unwrap your hair and fluff it (because it will be dry!) I promise you won't get strange looks, because everyone else will be busy doing the same.

4. You've gotta have a "New Yorker game face" on. That includes the expressionless mouth, unfaltering gaze ahead, straight back, and quick steps. If not, you run the risk of being taken advantage of by sales-people, beggers, pick-pocketers, and other various types of people.

5. Always, always have a "plan B" route to get somewhere. Subways and trains are so amazing, but they do run into trouble at times. For instance, last night, my subway home was shut down due to someone being struck by a train. If I didn't know a back-up way to get home, I would have been at that subway stop for hours...or have to fork out my life savings for a cab ride.

6. If there are 3 empty seats on a subway, you don't take the one right next to another person. This is an unspoken rule, and I am not sure as to the reason. I just know it exists. And if I'm sitting on a subway or train and there are 2 empty seats across the way but you choose to sit directly next to me? I'm creeped out and on guard. Immediately. I may also give you a strange glare...

7. If the lights flicker or you hear strange noises on a subway, and no one else is panicking, THEN ITS OK. Generally speaking, New Yorkers have seen it all. So if at any point and time, you question whether you should panic, look around. If everyone else is still on their crackberry, reading, or have their eyes shut, you are just fine. Chill out. No need to cause a scene.

8. Umbrellas during major commuting hours rarely, if ever, actually keep you dry.  Ever tried sharing a sidewalk with 250 other people with umbrellas? I have. It doesn't work. And they don't care whether you get wet, they only care if they get wet. So don't expect them to avoid you or lift their umbrella up a tad when passing. I've found I should just wear a hood and walk quickly, weaving in and out of the umbrella people. That way I stay dry and I'm not cranky because my umbrella was attacked by 22 others.

9. And finally, after all these other things, you have to learn not to let stuff get to you. New Yorkers have a resilence like I have never seen before. From little things to big things. Guy pushes you out of the way and takes the last seat on the subway? Give him a dirty look and a scoff, then move on. If you let that ruin your day, you'd never have a good one. Have two major and uncommon natural disasters in one week, resulting in weeks of no power? Survive, share the funny story of you saving your Snapple Apple, then go to work the next day, because inevitably they will get the trains working before your hot water. New York never shuts down, so the faster you can recover, the easier your life is going to be.

All in all, my biggest lesson on daily living in NYC is to try and make light out of all the shit that happens. Because living in this city is hard. And stressful. And can really wear you down if you don't learn coping mechanisms for the day to day stuff that is bound to happen sooner or later. But, even through all the madness, I love this city. I love life in this city. Everyday is a new and unpredictable adventure! And I wouldn't trade it for anything.