Most of us would agree that winter isn’t much fun in most cities and towns in the cold portion of the world, ski resort towns and mountain villages excluded. If there isn’t any real form of winter entertainment in a given place, the freezing cold air and the angry people it creates aren’t much fun to deal with. If you live in New York City and you either aren’t that graceful at outdoor ice skating or don’t have anyone to do it with (check and check), there isn’t a day of winter to look forward to after Christmas. I love living here, and I can’t see myself anywhere else at this stage of my life, but I’m still allowed to complain.
You see, over the past 4 weeks (in which I’ve slept on a couch every single night… nice), I’ve noticed a few patterns of winter terribleness that are making my life a lot harder, and I want to bring them out into the light (which, unfortunately, is not bright enough or warm enough to make them go away). There are 4 altogether, and they make maneuvering a wintry New York City not only a daunting task, but an impossible one. They wipe the smiles straight off those who consider themselves smilers, and bring us right home into our beds at night instead of out with friends. I don’t have the evidence to back this up (I never really do though), but they also increase the viewership of terrible shows like “Skins” and “King of Queens” exponentially, as people who are hiding at home have nothing else to do. These 4 recurrences are a plague, and something needs to be done about them before our world is destroyed a la the black death hundreds of years ago. Let’s explore. (Pictures taken with Instagram for iPhone!)
1. Camouflaged Lakes of Slush
My daily commute to work is the same every day…. charging down the streets of NYC as fast as I can, desperately trying to get around larger, slower individuals whose walks are more crooked than the Nazca lines in Peru. Unfortunately, it’s not a consistent charge. You see, every time I get to a cross street that I have to, well, cross, I have to stop and assess one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever faced… slush lakes. Every single corner of every single street in New York has them… giant puddles of dirty, icy street water that infiltrate even the most formidable shoes and keep your feet wet for days and days and days. Most of these lakes are manageable… they’re generally easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for and, if you’re 6’4”, are very easy to leap over. Shorter people have more trouble, but I’m not concerned with them, because I’m not one.
Every day, I brave the slush lakes in courageous fashion, leaping and stretching over them more gracefully than the greatest olympic hurdlers you’ve ever watched. However, things change when I get closer to work. You see, the closer and closer I get, the less I concentrate on where I’m walking. Unfortunately, at the same time, the lakes become more and more camouflaged. A block away from work, it happens. I take a bold step into what looks like street gravel (see above), and then I sink… not just a mere few inches, but several feet down into the coldest puddle in the entire city. My lightning fast reflexes (I’m very good at a lot of things) get my foot out immediately, but it’s too late. My sock has already been soaked and my toes are already purple with hypothermia. I get to work and can’t take my shoes off, because it’s a respectable business, and end up having the worst day ever. And it never ends.
2. Trash Mountains
I don’t know how much “sanitation engineers” make in New York, but it’s apparently not even close to enough to make them do their jobs after a snow storm. Maybe they don’t want to get their hands cold, or maybe their frozen fingers can’t grip the outside of the truck as it drives down the street, causing them to fall and break parts of their bodies, leaving them physically unable and ineligible to work. Whatever it is, the consequences are severe… trash mountains. They’re on every street in New York, and they grow every day. The one you see here is a pretty modest sized one (taken in Midtown Manhattan… where they care a little more about these things, so they don’t let them get too big). It’s still impressive though – if you planned on having a picnic lunch at the top, this mountain right here would probably take a full day to hike. If you’re lucky, you’d get to the bottom by sundown, before all of the horrible trash animals come out to feed.
Others are bigger – some of the trash mountains in Brooklyn rival the ancient Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania, and may take 3 or 4 days to climb if you’re in the required physical shape to do it. There’s really nothing we can do about it – people just tend to create giant amounts of trash. It’s in our blood. Until spring comes and the sanitation workers decide it’s time to get a paycheck again, we’re pretty much at the mercy of these mountains. If you have a day off to climb them, the views on top can be incredible. If you work, like most of us here in NYC, you have the wonderful privilege of only getting to walk past an ever-growing, ever-smelling pile of rotten waste every day. What a life.
3. Never-ending Construction Projects
I don’t want to go into a huge rant on this, because I could go for days, but 90% of New York City (and every other city I’ve ever been to) is constantly under construction. And there’s never anyone actually working. The stick man on the orange sign does more work than the construction workers who put him up. I understand it’s snowy and it’s winter, but you chose the profession. Please, fix this road. It’s making taxi drivers angry, which makes the whole world dangerous for the rest of us. Not a healthy situation.
Now, I don’t really know how to describe this to you in words, so I’m going to let the pictures explain this one, because the kind of ironies you experience every day in New York city are confounding, and, a lot of times, very sad. Here:
Imagine this scenario: you’ve just picked up April, a cute, free-spirited girl you met through a friend who set you two up on a first date… which is starting right now. You’re sitting in the back of a taxi getting to know each other as the taxi driver sings along to that LeAnn Rimes song everyone would never admit they used to like. All of the sudden, the collision occurs. The taxi driver had taken his hands off the wheel for a few seconds to air drum, and now the car is on fire in the middle of a snow bank. You don’t panic yet, though. After all, you’re surrounded by the very substance that stops fires! All you have to do is wait for it to melt…. fire melts ice, right?
Not in New York City. You wait and wait, but the ice holds strong as the fire gets bigger. When the soles of your feet begin to melt, you decide it’s time to get out. You all burst out of the car and run screaming down the street. After a night in the ER, you decide to walk back to the location, only to find that the car is now completely burned out, and the snow has never melted. The irony is palpable… and very, very sad. Fred (the taxi man) probably lost his job. What’ll he do now? Better question, what do we do?
The answer is, unfortunately, to wait. Spring is coming friends. Spring is coming.