One of the many things that I wish I understood about New York City before I moved here is the simple act of getting around. Having always had a car when I lived elsewhere, I likened myself to a typical suburban soccer mom and lived out of my mini SUV. On any given day, you could find a number of important objects in my floorboards: extra pairs of shoes, work shirts, left over McDonald’s, gum, umbrella, change, dirty dishes. You get the idea. My little CR-V was my massive purse.
But living without a car was an aspect I didn’t think twice about when moving to The Big City. Public transportation was available and I figured that would be adequate. And it is. But there are a few general things I wish I’d known:
1) It will take you an hour to get just about anywhere. Get use to it.
2) Treat the subway like an elevator. Let the people off before you get on and move all the way in if there are people behind you. This is basic curtesy like letting people with canes or elderly or pregnant women sit down. It’s also nice to let parents sit with their kids – they’re less likely to get lost this way.
3) Don’t go into the park at night, even just to cross through. You’re just asking for trouble.
4) Ultimately, the subway is one of the single most disgusting things. You don’t realize this until you witness a sniffling child wipe they’re dripping nose on a hand rail or have your own nose fill with the smell of a homeless person shitting on a seat and you ask yourself – where is the Lysol?Simply put, hand sanitizer is your best friend.
5) You have to start living simply. My first reaction to living without a car was to simply replace the storage space with a gigantic backpack. But I soon discovered several problems with this plan. First of all, I have a bad back. I should have pinpointed the issue beforehand but I had the image in my head of Emily “hiking” through the city like it was a camping trip having everything she needed in her pack. My screaming back soon informed me that my reality of city life was vastly different from what I had pictured. Not only that, but have you ever gone into a gay bar at midnight on a Friday with a backpack containing your apartment? Because I have. And it’s not very conducive to dancing in an environment of people already unimpressed with your gender.
This idea of simplicity on the move has slowly carried over to the apartment as well. I don’t think anyone has to explain the sizes of New York City apartments, but please understand that Perry and I got extremely lucky when it comes to space. And we’re still struggling for it – the contents of my closet usually displayed on the floor (although that’s probably just because I’m messy). And things will only get more cramped as we add on two roommates over the summer.
6) Those little carts aren’t just for homeless people. They can be really helpful when grocery shopping, doing laundry, or buying toilet paper in bulk.
7) A good pair of shoes goes a long way. I’ve never been a girl obsessed with shoes. I’ve liked them, even loved a few, but never have I found the need to obsess. Until I moved here.
Since my move, I have watched as my shoes have slowly begun to disintegrate. I’ve seen my once favorite shoes be shunned to our entryway, no longer welcome onto the clean floor of our living room due to the filth of New York sidewalks that now covers them. Pairs I use to show off and save for special occasions are now despised when my feet swell into watermelons.
The value of good footwear cannot be appropriately expressed. I have never known the importance of arch support more so than after working five shifts in a row and while waiting for the subway, used those little raised dots on the yellow line to massage my aching feet.
The worst part is that you can’t just go buy a pair of walking shoes and use them every day. I mean you can, but there’s one little problem – shoes are kind of important. It’s an unfortunately true fact that many people in this city judge you by your shoes. And indeed, a great deal about a personality can be gleaned from the analyzation of a pair of shoes. But I digress. I simply would hate to be judged poorly based on the fact that my feet are overly sensitive due to waiting tables. So I have begun the grand task of trying to purchase a pair of perfect shoes – ones that speak truly to my character that also have enough cushion to not make me want to cut my feet off at the ankles when I come home at night.
And please don’t even get started on high heels. Some things are simply not practical in this city and they are one of them. If you come here having delusions of fabulous Sex and the City moments as you walk up and down 5th Avenue in a pair of Manolos, please let me know you’re coming. I will be ready to point and laugh and then take pity on you to hail you a cab. Because THAT my friends is the secret behind these fabulous New Yorkers (other than them all being on television and not being real), they not only have the money to buy fancy footwear, they also have the money to protect their aching feet by taking cabs everywhere.
I don’t take cabs. I ride the subway. I don’t wear heels.
8) If for any reason you think you might fall asleep on the train ride home, hide your valuables in your bra and wrap the strap of your bag around your leg.
9) Road rage quickly becomes sidewalk rage. You know when you scream obscenities at someone who won’t go at a green light or cuts you off in traffic? Well, perhaps this is why some New Yorkers are considered rude, because it is really difficult to keep your voice down after someone stabs you in the face with their umbrella or stops mid-stride to take a picture with their iPhone. Especially when you’re late or dealing with a place like Times Square that is swarming with tourists who only seem to be looking up.
10) And finally, never start laughing when someone makes a general statement about race on an Bronx bound 2 train. Especially if you are a hundred forty pound white girl from south Alabama.