Queens Irish (or: "Only in New York")

NYC Commuter/Comedienne Erin "Irish" Conroy posted this over at comedianerinconroy.blogspot.com and I HAD to reprint it here.

This means that both blog posts this week were actually written by other bloggers.  Which is fine by me for three reasons: 1.  I was sick the last week, which made me a more forgiving commuter but a less frequent blogger.  The cold medicine also pointed me towards such regrettable decisions as 2. I joined Facebook this week.  So I have a lot of imaginary friends now.  Which is nice.  And 3. Quit complaining!  The Choose your Own Adventure Post was fucking EPIC!  Jesus. 



Only In New York!

I hate that phrase with a passion. Dummies in NYC use it as a kind of weird declaration whenever something slightly cool or slightly terrible happens; as if to convince themselves that the trade-off for living in one of the biggest and therefore toughest cities in the world is the promise of odd happenings in their daily life. Happenings that their relatives in Kansas could never understand, right? LOLz!

For example, one time last summer I was standing waiting for the bus. (Like a BOSS) I happened to be wearing a new dress that I had bought and really liked, and was feeling pretty great. As my bus began to approach, I suddenly realized that directly in front of the bus stop there was a half-full Gatorade bottle lying in the street. The wheels in my distracted brain began to turn, and I started to do the math - could that bus be pulling up directly in line with the Gatorade bottle? And if so, does that mean that I'm lined up perfectly with the -

My brain did not figure this all out fast enough, and the next thing I know, the bus most certainly did roll right on top of the Gatorade bottle. The pressure of the bus exploded the top off the bottle and expelled the entire contents at such a high and fast volume that I don't even think Mr. Wizard would have believed it. ("You LYIN', bitch!", Mr. Wizard would have said.) But I believed it, because every last drop of that Gatorade bottle was emptied directly onto me and my new dress. I stood there absolutely speechless and in shock, as what seemed like the entire population of Manhattan passed by with little smirks on their faces. Only one woman stopped, an elderly well-dressed woman with pearls around her neck. She stopped, looked me up and down with her hands on her hips, and then loudly proclaimed "ONLY IN NEW YORK!!!!!". Then she gave me a wink and carried on her merry way. I wanted to run after her and tackle her and smear my Gatorade soaked hands all over her surgically-enhanced face. Because no, Old Lady - that couldn't have happened "only in New York". A bottle could have been rolled over anywhere in the United States - nay! The WORLD. Unfortunate occurrences aren't exclusive to this city, so stop trying to act like New York is the center of the universe. I hope she got mugged on the way home. Not hurt or anything - but I hope someone stole her pearls.

This phrase popped up again yesterday morning during my commute. I was on the bus in, and all of a sudden a TORRENTIAL downpour started out of nowhere. Without any kind of warning, the bus driver got on the PA system and started singing to everyone. Some original ditty about how the rain doesn't bother him, because tomorrow is Friday, and that's when he sees his girl. It was harmless - if not charming. But then some big galoot turns around to address the whole bus with, "Only in New York, am I right?!?!", and that phrase immediately soured my mood. The guy next to me wasn't impressed with any of it either, because he pulls out his phone to call his wife:

"Hi, it's me. Yeah. Just thought you should know the bus driver is singing to us. No - SINGING. Yeah. And then I got an 'Only in New York'. Yeah. Because you should have DRIVEN ME LIKE I ASKED, that's why I'm telling you."

Haha! Comments like that are only heard ANYWHERE. Anywhere that passive-aggressive marriages are still alive and well.


Brooklyn Sean

I don't have a full post worth of material for today, so here are two small things:

1.  A good way to walk slower and be okay with the world around you and serene in your morning NYC commute is to get very sick.  I've been so doped up on DayQuil the last two weeks that even the Umbrella People haven't bothered me... much.

2.  Sean's got a new post, and it would fit nicely at I Walk Faster Than You.  I've been bugging him to write a guest post for this blog, much the way Allie and Kevin did, but for now we'll have to settle for a link to his site.  Enjoy!

His new post is here.


Choose Your Own Adventure

The Commute

“It looks like it’s gonna rain,” you say out loud to your empty apartment.  You had paused at the window to check out the rapidly darkening sky as you get ready for work.  There are many things about living in New York City you like; Sunday morning foot traffic in Manhattan, the silence of a middle-of-the-night snowfall, and a cool iced tea on a shady park bench are among your favorites.  Rainstorms, on the other hand, are not.  “Ugh,” you sigh as you continue to prepare yourself for another long day.

It is your plan to go visit your friend Sean in the hospital after work.  Sean has been your friend for many years, and has always been there for you when you needed him.  Recently, citing “keeping it green” and “being all healthy and stuff”, Sean has decided to start biking to work from his apartment in Brooklyn.  When he first moved to Brooklyn a year ago, you remember having made fun of him quite a bit, calling him a “hipster” and telling him he should grow a beard and wear skinny jeans.  You’re proud to know him, though, and he takes the light ribbing well.  Sadly, it was about a week ago that Sean was biking to his job and collided with another bicyclist.  He was seriously injured in the accident.  He’s recovering well enough now, however, that he’ll grin when you bring him a package of Double Stuf Oreos™ and hear you when you call him a dumbass for biking to work in the first place.

You place the sandwich cookies in your bag and exit your apartment, making sure to lock the deadbolt behind you.  You’re already halfway to the subway station when you hear the distant rumble of a far-off thunderstorm.  You’re another fifteen feet past that when you slap yourself in the forehead because, in grabbing the Oreos, you neglected to also grab your umbrella.  You can, in fact, still see it in your mind’s eye, hanging off the door knob of your apartment’s only closet.

You hesitate briefly, considering going back for it, but the clock on your cell phone’s display reminds you that you need to be at work sooner than later.  There are eight blocks between your residence and the nearest subway station, so doubling back four of them at the risk of being late for work is simply not an option.  You decide to push on, hoping against hope that the rain holds out until you’re safely underground.  “Besides,” you say aloud, “I’ve got a hoodie on.”  Indeed, you do.

The crossing guard at the next street is not smiling today.  Normally, she’s there about this time of day waving and stopping cars from running over the schoolchildren that sporadically dart into the middle of the road on their way to school.  Today, however, she’s looking a bit concerned as she speaks with another pedestrian who stopped to speak with her.  As you get closer, only about two blocks from the subway, she looks up and makes eye contact with you.  “Train’s delayed, today, Dear,” she says, “Police activity on the tracks.”  You happen to know of a bus stop about ten blocks away that, were a bus to come, would at least get you on the island of Manhattan.  From there, it would be another subway ride (on a different line) to get to work.  Whether you deal with the delay on your regular subway line, or you decide to speedwalk to the bus stop, you begin to realize there isn’t much chance of being on time anymore.  It is at this point that the first raindrops hit you, and you further begin to realize there isn’t much chance of being dry much longer, either.

If you carry on and brave the delayed subway, click here.
If you decide to head down the street to the bus stop as fast as you can, click here.


Rule #5: Don't Turn a Blind Corner

FiancĂ© and I saw something funny the other day.  It was one of those moments you wish were in slow motion so it would never end.  We were walking down the street, and we saw two people walking towards the corner of a building from opposite directions at the same time.  The one walking parallel to us was a young guy who was busy texting.  The person walking around the corner from him was an old woman who was busy trying to stay upright, I think.

We literally stopped in our tracks to watch what was sure to be a head-on collision.  We also wanted to see who would step aside to let the other pass.  This was one of those rare scenarios where you could actually witness the moments before the unexpected.  We decided to watch, of course.

Sadly, the end of the story is anticlimactic.  We stood across the street as the texting lad and the old woman met face to face at the corner of the building, and unfortunately violence did not ensue.  I'm not sure what we were hoping would happen, but I think we both honestly believed it would be epic; like Godzilla or the idea of dividing by zero.  As it turns out, they stopped, regarded each other, and he let her pass while he continued to text.

I convey this story not to put you to sleep (though I'm sure I've done an admirable job of that), but to bring up a very important loophole in Rule #1.  Both of the people in the example above were, in fact, Hugging the Rail.  Had I been walking behind either the kid or the older woman in the same direction they were, I would have been pleased as punch that there was plenty of room to pass.  She being elderly, and he texting, I'm sure I walk faster than them both, and would have been grateful they were so self aware as to allow that kind of space next to them.

However, they bumped into each other.  If I had been hurtling near the corner and someone else had been hurtling towards the same corner, we could have broken each other's noses, or worse, someone could have seen us break each other's noses.

And so, it is here now, in this very post, that I tell you the secret of making sure this doesn't happen.  It's something you can do while abiding Rule #1, and it's a flawless way to make sure you don't literally run into anyone on a blind corner.  The only requirement is as much self awareness as the kid and the woman in the example above exhibited.

SOLUTION:  Flick your wrist.  Of course, you should have something in your hand at the time, otherwise it's less effective and more spasmodic.  As you approach said corner, if you are appropriately hugging the rail (walking closely to the side of the building), make sure your hand passes the corner before the rest of you.  I frequently do this while holding a newspaper or kenken puzzle, but anything (cell phone, ipod, fake dance move) works well for this purpose.  If you just flick your wrist and put your hand out in front of you as you approach a blind corner, the person coming around the bend will stop prior to calamity.  That fraction of a second could mean the difference between an awkward moment between you and a stranger and an awkward moment between you and a stranger that someone and his fiancĂ©  across the street saw.

Extra points for making it look like a normal part of your gait and not letting it bother you that 99.9% of the time there's no one around the corner at all.

You're welcome.


Rule #4: Suck it up

One thing I love about children is the universal reactions to things.  Almost 100% of the time, you can watch their eyes light up if there's a kitten nearby.  You can also see the complete shutdown when they're tired.  Kids are great, aren't they?  Totally predictable in many ways, but will always surprise you.  (I'm not going to link that line to http://www.mta.info/ because that's not the topic of this post.  Feel free to do so on your own.) 

So, if a kid on the school bus passes gas, what do you think you're going to see?  Most kids will laugh and scream and wrinkle their noses, and a few will put their hands over their mouth/nose.  But there will always, always be one or two that pull the front of their shirt up to cover their nose like a burqa, as if Mom had last washed it with some anti-stink detergent that also happend to smell like grape bubblegum.

Oftentimes, as well, you'll see children put their fingers in their ears due to a loud noise, like a car horn or loud music.  These are universal, and a totally acceptable reactions to the aforementioned scenerios...

...if you're 6.

Once you're older, and have been to a couple of concerts, fireworks displays and professional sporting events, you begin to outgrow that behaviour.  Instead of putting your fingers in your ears to keep away a loud noise, you turn your iPod UP.  Rather than pull your shirt over your face, you wait out the smell, or, in very bad cases, remove yourself from the location entirely.

New York City is full of interesting, and sometimes overwhelming scents and sounds.  But part of being a New Yorker is that we have to deal with some discomfort in order to continue surviving in this town.  So you make do, and you add little things here and there to make the discomfort more bearable.  In extreme cases, one will even find onesself outrunning discomfort by trying to control the behaviours of others - even going as far as writing a blog that outlines the rules of commuting or some such nonsense.

But this post isn't for the kids who smell something bad and pull the front of their shirt up, and it's not for the kids who put fingers in their ears when real life get's too loud.  It's for the adults that do.

For every blog post, every gripe, every "rule" I make up about my fellow New Yorkers not doing what I would, in an ideal world, like them to do, there are about five or ten examples I don't mention.  This is because it's simply a part of living in New York - you put up with things.  You suck it up.  The trade-off for living in such a crowded, noisy, dirty, inarticulate, insensitive, sprawling, pushy, intense, perverse and depraved city is that you can take advantage of the fact that it's expensive, too.

But I suck it up.  I keep walking, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.  Sometimes a rat will cross my path.  Shiver, but cope.  Keep on walking.  Sometimes there will be a roach in the restaurant.  Notify your server, maybe never eat there again, keep on living. 

We bear the discomfort with armor that only  New Yorker has, knowing that, by doing so, we can safely say, "We're New Yorkers" when we're next in the midwest buying cigarettes for $3 a pack.

But the adults who cover their ears when the subway pulls in?  The ones who cover their noses with the front of their shirts when Mystery Smell invades the train?  They are not New Yorkers.  Regardless of their actual residence, they are tourists, and the presence of such weakness is far worse than a Chinese dinner being consumed on a subway car or a siren passing by.


Staten Island Allie

The Staten Island Ferry - It's free and everyone gets a ride!

The following email was written to me by one of this blog's readers, and I had to share.  Thanks for reading, Allie!

(As for me, I've only been on the Staten Island Ferry once.  I was alone, and it was coming back from a birthday party that was held as far away from the homes of the majority of the guests as possible.  My hunch is it was the hostess' way of trying to trap me there and make it my home borough.  I managed to escape via a tiny little train that was a lot like the NYC subway (without being physically connected to NYC, apparently Staten Island is technically part of NYC).  Said train took me to said ferry.  Said ferry took me past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to Battery Park.  From there I took the subway back to the most normal place I'd been all day: Queens.  God, help me.)



From:  Allie J.
To:  Jordan Knol
Date:  Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 3:59 PM
Subject:  Saturday

I was on my way home from the bar on Saturday night.  I caught the 4:30am ferry to Staten Island (which was packed of course - children, weirdos, loud, drunk Staten Island Guidos/Guidettes). 

As I was walking to a seat with my group of friends, I noticed an old friend/coworker from a few years ago.  She wasn't alone though, she was sitting next to this guy - very cozy with him, maybe even holding hands (I wasn't 100% on this at the time because it was 4:30am after a night at the bar...) - who I quickly realized was someone other than her husband (at the time I forgot she was married and just thought to myself 'oh her and her boyfriend must have broken up'). 

So I proceed to say hello and act all happy to see her and we start catching up and she introduces the guy next to her as her friend (no big deal)... After about 4 minutes, you can cut the tension with a butter knife.  I, however, lacked the ability to stop talking since I was slightly intoxicated and continued to talk to her the entire 25 minute ferry ride from NYC to Staten Island - Awkward Turtle

The ferry docks and we say our goodbyes and when we get out of earshot, I tell my boyfriend what just happened and how awkward this whole situation was. I decide to give her the benefit of the doubt - maybe it wasn't as bad as it seemed and she just felt like it could look bad if taken out of context.  Ten minutes later I completely forget about this whole ordeal anyway. 

Well, at about 4:00pm the next day, my memory is refreshed with a Facebook message from her saying that it was an old friend from way back when, and her husband didn't know she was out with him... oh, and:

"Don't say anything to anyone, please."