Friday, July 18, 2008

Tips for new New Yorkers

So, I've been in New York for 2 months now. And only just now do I feel like I have my feet semi-planted on the ground. I now know the subway system, where the most essential post offices and Subway sandwhich shops are. I know there's a Pinkberry and a 24 hour FedEx Kinko's (they're not in the same store, mind you) at 59th Columbus Circle. Have found the Equity office, so I know where to sign up for auditions. I signed with 3 temp agencies and have a functional kitchen and bathroom. And I know where the Trader Joe's is. I've got the basics down.

I'm no New Yorker by far (don't know that I'll ever be one), but I have already amassed a few tips on how to assimilate just a bit easier into the fray:

  1. Wear Flats. This is not a glamour city by any means. Your makeup sweats off while you're walking and I just can't understand why women wear heels in this city without the use of a taxi. Apparently, New Yorkers walk "12 seconds per 60 feet, or about 3.4 mph," but they're still not the fastest walkers in the world, according to the Post. In any case, my feet would fall off without my sneakers or my flat baby-doll shoes. If you must, girls, carry a pair of flipflops in your hand or purse (yeah, get some with designer jewels on it if you must) and you'll feel much better off when those 3-inch heels begin to burn.
  2. Be an artful dodger. Walking through the crows of fast-paced New Yorker and as equally slow-paced Tourists, you'll want to know how to weave your way through a crowd, run, stop on a dime, twist your body and shoulders at the last minute. Take a modern dance class to get your body used to sudden, jagged movements. Or, do some American Football quarterback practice routines to learn how to evade contact with other people's shoulders as you walk through Times Square.
  3. Learn sign language. The busses, foot traffic, cars, subway trains and general hubbub of the city makes a gentle but constant roar throughout the city. You can only escape it if you manage to walk into a park. Having conversations over this roar and the louder screams of train and bus brakes is practically impossible. You must either shout over it, stop conversation altogether until the bohemith of travel technology passes, learn to read lips, or continue your chat via sign language. In any case, it's no wonder New Yorkers are stereotyped as loud. They are well trained to be heard over any sound known to man.
  4. Buy a handcart. One of the main tools of the average New Yorker is the little metal handcart on wheels. This brilliant piece of ancient-technology is much appreciated by the NY'er with too many things to carry and not enough arms or shoulders to carry them. Great for weekly grocery shopping or just carrying that piece of equipment that is too unruly to transport by hand. Just choose a handcart that is sturdy. The larger the wheels, the more maneuverable the cart will be. Make sure it folds for easy hallway-entry storage.
  5. Take a tip from the 18th century. You know you it's hot in New York when you appreciate the humid, smelly yet a-few-degrees-cooler air that flows off an incoming subway train. However, it's best not to be at the mercy of the heat - take matters into your own manos and buy a hand fan. Y'know, that old-fashioned kind that folds up, Asian-style. This $2 thing of wonder will help you brave the most humid of days, sunshine and sticky subway trains and all. And you'll look fashionable doing it. Many times I've whipped out my fan under the shadow of a large, imposing, 150-year-old building and wondered how many women have stood at this precise place, fanning themselves from the heat. And they didn't have A/C to hide in either.
  6. 24 hours...where? They say this is the city that never sleeps. It sleeps alright. Stores might stay a bit later than most cities (allowing people who get off of work at 6 to walk/subway their way over for some last-minute errand-running) and public transit runs all day long (with limitations at night). There's a 24-hour FedEx Kinko's on the aforementioned 59th Columbus Circle, the Duane Reade pharmacy line (on practically every streetcorner known) has some 24-hour stores, and (GLORY OF GLORIES) there is a 24-hour Post Office where one can check PO Boxes, mail and buy stamps (yes, there will be a live person there 24 hours a day). Some coffee houses are 24 hours, and at least a few Starbucks in the Times Square midtown area are open until 1:30am. So, it's the city that gets tired at 2am and takes a cat nap until 6am, basically.
  7. Pack light or on wheels. Make sure when you walk out the door that you're not carrying much. Learn to let go of the tiny things in life that add up to an extra 10 or 20 pounds on your shoulders. You don't need to bring that book you *might* read when you already are bringing one you *know* you'll read. Or, put those in a wheeling bag. Or buy the audio book and listen to your iPod. Your shoulders want to feel as lightly weighted down as possible.
  8. Speaking of iPods...Get Canned. The noise of the subway will likely drown out any low frequencies coming in through your earbuds, and no volume control I've seen can force the sound into my ears loud enough...without the use of noise-reducing cans like the ones sold by SkullCandy. There may be a bit of sweat accumulating around your ears while you wear 'em, but when they're covered you'll be able to actually hear the NPR interviews you so diligently downloaded via iTunes this morning.

    That's a short list of what can be much longer as I continue to live here. I know I sound like a magazine article writer (hey, TimeOutNY - you hirin'?) but these are ultimate truths that cannot in any way be argued against. And I'm a New Yorker now (?) so I should know.


Jeffrey said...

You have learned much in a short time...

ThePete said...

New York does that to us. To function at all, ya kinda gotta hit the ground running.

Great post, by the way!! ^_^