April 26, 2010

Unwritten Rules of Being a New Yorker

Want to be a New Yorker for a day? Follow these unwritten rules and you'll fit in just fine:

1. Walk fast. We walk at a much faster pace than the rest of the country and have mastered the art of weaving in and out of crowds with ease.
2. Talk fast. Or rather, we like to get to the point. We're very blunt and don't spend a lot of time on niceties and small talk. The advantage? A plethora of interesting conversations.
3. Move over. When we're done paying at a store, we slide over to put away change and receipts so as not to keep the next customer waiting.
4. Keep walking. When we get to the top of subway stairs we keep moving, even if we're unsure of our direction. This also applies at street level.
5. Step to the side. If we need to look at a map or other directions we'll step to the side, we don't stand in the middle of fast-flowing sidewalk traffic.
6. Walk staggered. When walking with friends or family we walk staggered, not in a line. There's not enough room here to sprawl.
7. Holding hands. We often don't with our significant other. It's not uncommon for us to walk between a couple if that's the fastest route to maneuver through a crowd.
8. Tiny spaces. We've mastered the art of cramming into teeny tiny apts, shoe-boxed sized restaurants and crowded subway cars. The photo above shows how we read our newspapers on the train: fold, fold, fold.
9. Don't block subway doors. We know that when the subway doors open we move away from them by either stepping out of the car or moving to the center of the train.
10. Hailing a cab. We don't whistle or yell "taxi," like in the movies. We stick our arm up, hand raised and voila! Taxi.
11. Overpriced. We accept we're paying $45 for a steak (just the steak) and $16 for a martini because the restaurant has to pay their overpriced rent, as real estate is at a premium (okay, an extreme premium) here.
12. Lines. We know to stand in one line at drug stores, department stores and fast food places and wait for an employee at one of the many registers to yell "next, step down."
13. Waiting for the light to change. We know to stand on the street next to the curb, not on the curb itself. Time is precious and this way we're one step closer to our destination.
14. Eating pizza. We know that a whole pizza is called a "pie," a single piece is a "slice," just cheese is a "plain" (possibly the most popular), and we fold our slice in half (lengthwise) before digging in.
15. Neighbors. We usually don't know our neighbors. We mind our own business and stay out of theirs. We may live next to someone for 5 years and couldn't pick them out of a line up - and after being surrounded by a multitude of people all day, that's just fine by us. So if we don't give you a warm smile and say "Hi!" don't be offended. It's not personal, it's just New York.

16. The end. We know time is of the essence so...enjoy the rest of your day!

April 25, 2010

We Heart NY. A lot.

When I moved to New York in 2000, I didn't think it was possible to live in a place with as much pride as my native Texas. Man, was I wrong. New Yorkers loooooove their city. You can live here 5 years or 5 decades and if someone bashes the city a New Yorker will quickly come back with 20 reasons why it's the greatest place in the country, if not the world.
It's often said you have to earn the right to call yourself a New Yorker. And while rewarding, it's a difficult place to live, so once you prove you're not only tough enough to survive, but can follow a set of unwritten rules, you may indeed call yourself a New Yorker.
The following is a hilarious exchange from "How I Met Your Mother" that demonstrates just how much passion we have for our city.

Season 3, episode 2 "We're Not From Here". (Ted and Barney pose as tourists to pick up a couple of NY women. To their dismay, the women have taken them to do tourist things all day, and now they've just survived a mugging. Thankful to be alive, the women suggest they all go back to their place and "celebrate.")

Barney: So, where do you live?
Ted: What, West Village?
Girl #1: Close. West Orange.
Ted: West Orange...New Jersey?
Girl #1: Yeah.
Ted: You guys live in New Jersey, not New York?
Barney: Theodore.
Girl #1: Yup.
Ted: New Jersey?
Barney: Teddy.
Girl #1: Yeah, but don't worry, it's pretty much New York.
Ted: Oh no. Oh no.
Barney: Oh no.
Ted: New Jersey is not 'pretty much New York.' You are not 'pretty much New Yorkers.'
Girl #1: And how would you know?
Ted: Because I live here. That's right! I live here. Yes, we're full of crap. Yes, we pretended to be from out of town so we could sleep with you and leave in the morning. But you know what's even worse than that? Saying you're a New Yorker when you're not. Because this is the GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD and you have to earn the right to call yourself a New Yorker. So why don't you girls crawl into the open sewer pipe you call the Holland Tunnel and flush yourselves back to 'pretty much New York.' Because I will do A LOT to get laid, but I am NOT going to New Jersey!

Yep, that 'pretty much' sums it up. (signing off from Brooklyn - definitely New York)

April 21, 2010

NYC: Myth vs. Fact

A friend of a friend visited NYC and decided, after one day, she didn't like it. At all. The reasons? Because NYers were "rude," she didn't feel "safe," and everything was "expensive." Like with any big city, those are valid concerns, but had she taken the time to read up a little on NYC  or even ask her friend some questions, she may have had a different experience. Below are some common NYC myths I'd like to dispel:

1. NYers are rude. FACT: NYers are direct and aggressive. If you ask for directions we'll happily give them to you. But then that's it, we're done. NYers don't care why you're going there or if your cousin went there last year and really liked it - we have things to do, places to be.

2. The subway isn't safe. FACT: The subway is, for the most part, safe. Just pay attention - to signs and those around you - and hold onto your bag (purse) and phone. 2am-6am is usually the most "unsafe" time since less people are riding, but even then, very few incidents take place.

3. Your purse/bag will be stolen. FACT: Not likely if you 1) firmly grip said item when walking 2) keep item by your feet, not on the back of a chair at restaurants 3) pay attention to your surroundings instead of the tall buildings. Observe, if you will, the little girl in the photo above clutching both bags, she knows what's up. So put away the fanny packs and stop wearing the backpack across your chest - we (probably) won't steal your bag.

4. The city never sleeps. FACT: The city naps - or rather, power naps. Yes it's loud here and our city "bird" very well may be the siren, but between 2-6am there's a lull in the amount of people and noise as commuters go home and most businesses close. However, last call is 4am so if you chose not to sleep, head to the nearest bar to find wide awake, noise-making compadres.

5. You can't visit inexpensively. FACT: You can if you know some tricks because yes, it's generally an expensive city. Try a bed & breakfast, a cheaper alternative to pricey hotels. As for food, there are many reasonably-priced restaurants, just browse the menus posted outside. Also, get half-price Broadway tickets the day of the show. There are many more tips, but those are a few to get you started.

6. All NYers have fabulous, Sex and the City lives. FACT: Not even close. If you're lucky enough to have a trust fund, a very (very) high-paying job or you don't mind swimming in credit card debt then yes, that lifestyle can be yours round the clock. Otherwise you learn to budget like anywhere else, and pick and chose your extravagances.

7. NY taxis aren't safe. FACT:  They're as safe as a roller coaster and roughly the same experience. Since drivers work for tips they're eager to get to the next fare so...buckle up! And don't worry about them not staying in their lane, we don't believe in lanes. However, we do believe in aggressive merging and cutting people off to get to our destination faster.

8. "If I can make it here..." refers to career only. FACT: It takes a special kind of person to live in NYC. You have to put up with a lot of noise, hoards of people, crowded subway cars, tiny living spaces, outrageous rents, $20 burgers. Not to mention possibly the largest crowd of aggressive, type-A, overachievers ever assembled. You want that account executive job? So do 843 other people. Good luck with that.

9. All NY Italians are in the mob. FACT: If you're looking for Goodfellas, you'll have to rent the movie. Stop by Little Italy and the picture looks quite different: older men in track suits with grey chest hair peeking out under gold chains and stark white sneakers. They're probably smoking cigars and discussing the goings-on of the block, not plotting who's next to "swim with the fishes. A mob like the old days? Fuggedaboutit.

10. Everything happens in a "NY minute." FACT: There's actually a lot of waiting. NYers certainly walk at a faster pace and expect things to happen yesterday, but we also spend a lot of our time waiting. Because not only does NY looks like a movie set, it functions like one too. You hurry up...and wait. For the train, in long lines at the store, an hour for a table at brunch. When 8.2 million people want the same thing at once, well...see you in line!

Remember, when traveling you don't have to agree with the nature of the people or their customs, but trips are more pleasant when you understand why things happen the way they do. It's the whole "when in Rome" thing. Except first, you'll need to learn about "Rome." Now if you'll excuse me, I have a line to wait in. When in Rome...