Yesterday, I got in a taxi and the driver was an American. Named Paul! He wasn't jibber-jabbering on the phone, or driving as though we were the getaway car in a bank robbery. In fact, he wasn’t terrifying AT ALL.
It’s moments like that when I think I love New York. Or maybe, it’s more accurate to say I’ve LEARNED to love it. But it wasn’t easy! To me, the city is an acquired taste, like stout or stinky cheese.
So… here are the things I’ve learned NOT to do in the City, which has made my time here (16 months and counting) much more enjoyable. Consider it a public service...
Don’t… Eat Street Meat
Don’t get me wrong, I love junk food (Bloomy does too!). But consuming anything known as a “dirty water dog” is a no-no in my book. Nevermind the stale pretzels, giant clumps of crusty peanuts, rubbery shish kebabs, and drippy gyros (since when is meat gray?). I don’t care how famished you are, either keep walking, or invest in a stomach pump.
Don’t… Eat at a Chain Restaurant
Look, I like a Fridays, or a California Pizza Kitchen, or a Chevys just as much as the next guy. But there are a bazillion amazing eateries in the Big Apple. So why would anyone EVER eat at the Olive Garden in the middle of Times Square? Everything costs 3x more here than it does in your hometown, and it is probably one of the least authentic NY eating experiences you can have. For the true flavor of the city, you’re better off with street meat -- that’s saying a lot!
Don’t… Eat at The View (that spinning restaurant atop the Marriott Marquis)
Maybe they think you’ll be so distracted by the skyline (look, it’s a tall building, oh WAIT… it’s… ANOTHER tall building!) you won’t notice your $50 rubber chicken. Talk about a tourist trap. Oh, and the same kinda goes for the bedazzled spectacle (eyesore?) that is Tavern on the Green. Well, maybe just go one time, but try to hit up a holiday buffet, so that you can really get your money’s worth by eating your weight in chicken fingers. But hurry, they're closing fast!
Don’t… Wait on Line at a Restaurant
I like to EAT in restaurants, not stand in them. So if I haven’t made reservations, I don’t go. Simple as that. NY is too big, and there are too many eateries (many of which serve the exact same things) to justify waiting on line for a table. Period.
Don’t… Bother with the Empire State Building
Speaking of waiting in lines, if that's your idea of a good time, then go here. There are 5 different lines you’ll need to wait on to get to the top, then you’ll stand on a skinny balcony and look around for 5 minutes, then wait on a few more lines to get back down to civilization. Save yourself 2 hours, stand really close to your TV, and watch the end of Sleepless in Seattle instead.
Don’t… Shop at Century 21
For more years than I care to admit, when I heard people refer to this discount shopping destination, I thought they were talking about the real estate company. You know the one. With the gold jackets. Well, finally, I put 2+2 together, and went designer dumpster diving. Personally, I’d rather not elbow my way through an angry mob of aggressive foreigners/tourists/bargain hunters just to purchase a picked over, wrinkled, seemingly dirty, semi-defective designer blouse with a weird buckle on the side. Even if it is $15.99. So, thanks, but no thanks.
Don’t… Shop at Any Store Claiming to Be “Going Out of Business”
Whether it’s electronics or shoes or cornflakes, merchandise in New York City is already marked up super high. So the “sale” price likely just gets you even with the full price at a store in your hometown. And it’s just bizarre to get accosted on the street by someone wearing a sandwich board trying to sell you a $99 three piece suit with a free shirt and tie. Skip it.
Don’t… Take a Pedi-Cab Anywhere
Unless you want a sweaty teenager to take your wallet for a ride (or you like darting in and out of oncoming traffic like your own personal game of Frogger), skip this death wish disguised as public transportation. On a related note, skip the horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park. The old horses will make you sad, and the dirty looks you get from animal lovers will make you want to crawl underneath the public blanket they supply for your “comfort” (but never wash). Wrong on all counts.
Don’t… Keep a Car in the City
I miss my car. I miss my car. I MISS MY CAR. But a car in the city is a luxury you want no part of. When I commuted in, I was paying $510/month for a garage. Um, hellooo? Street parking is no treat either -- who can figure out those signs? And don’t even get me started on the damage to your bumpers, doors, side mirrors, tires, etc. So plan to ditch the wheels unless you enjoy being the poor bastard who owns a beater car.
And Finally, Don’t… Take the Subway
Forget that the subway is an underground haven for perverts. Nevermind that every platform stinks like human feces. Disregard the giant rats that scurry beneath the tracks. Excuse the fact that the voices over the loudspeakers make Charlie Brown's teacher sound articulate. Avert your eyes from the advertisements when you are actually ON the train (assuming it wasn’t cancelled, delayed, or re-routed), because you do not want to stare directly at the disfigured patients that Dr. Z treats -- or read the colorful commentary provided by fellow straphangers. And don’t even THINK about the cootie colonies that thrive on the poles you are supposed to hold on to for “safety.” Actually… don’t forget ANY of these things -- they are precisely why the best way to get around NYC is on your own two feet.
So, am I allergic to NYC, or have I just written the 10 Commandments for City Life? Tell me what YOU think below!