House Guests

Situation:  A friend from out of town will be staying at your apartment for a few days.

If this was New York:  As soon as the subject comes up, you go into full scale event planning mode that most people reserve for their wedding.  You clear your schedule.  You consider any work-related deadlines that might fall during that time, and try to move up the deadlines so you wont have extra stress during the visit.  

If you have roommates, you think about how much time it has been since your last house guest, and ask yourself if anything too grievous happened then.  You wind up promising to clean the entire apartment before and after the visit, and maybe even buying pizza for dinner.

You try to contemplate the best place to put the guest-  The blow up mattress can only fit in two places-  In the living room, but only if you put the couch on it’s side, or in the kitchen.  Depending on how much you like your friend, you’ll give up your blanket and use your sleeping bag, or vice versa.

As you start to give your house guest a tour of your place, you can see them actively trying to find nice things to say about your place, and wondering if you’re actually unemployed.  You find yourself saying “If you think this is small, you should see my last place!”  Then you change the subject by showing them how you can see the Empire State Building if you climb out on the fire escape and lean out a little.

After the tour, you start giving your guest a list of all the things they will need to know about your apartment:

  1. There are three keys to get into the building, but you only have a spare set with two of the keys, and the third can only be made by the super.  You let them know that third key isn’t needed too frequently.
  2. They can run the AC or the microwave, but never both at the same time.
  3. If you see an older gentleman enter the apartment, don’t be alarmed, it’s just the landlord’s father getting some of the Costco shrimp they keep in your freezer.  Just avoid eye contact.
  4. The water pressure in the shower is great, but there is still possibly lead in the pipes, so it’s best to keep your mouth closed when bathing.
  5.  There’s 14 different hot sauces in the refrigerator, but they belong to your roommate and you need to ask permission before using one.

The first night is great-  you go out to dinner, you show them around your neighborhood, and you catch up since the last time you hung out.  Problems really start the next day when your friend decides that you’re going to be their tour guide and phone-therapist as they try to navigate the city without you.  That evening you are bombarded with comments that you have heard a million times before-  yes, the people here are very rude.  Yes, it is really humid here.  No, the man guy playing music on the subway probably wasn’t one of the Bee Gees, even though he looked like him.

The next two days wind up being shades of the same, though you find yourself defending why you live in New York.  After your guest leaves, go out of your way to clean up the apartment, and hope that it’s going to be awhile before anyone else asks to stay with you.

Going to the Park

Situation:  It’s a gorgeous day, so you and a friend go to walk around the park

If this was New York:  You and your friend set a very specific location at a landmark near the park as a meeting point, trying to avoid the confusion of finding each other among the crowds of people.  You get to the land mark at the specified time.   You figure your friend is running late, so you keep standing there for a few minutes. Eventually you get concerned and call your friend.  It turns out they were standing seven feet away, but you just couldn’t see them.  You both play off the fact that you weren’t observant enough to find each other, and head in.  

At first, you’re excited, and maybe a little uncomfortable.  No matter where you are from originally, a few months living in New York and you’ll start staring at trees in amazement, and you’ll remember, briefly, that there is a world outside of the city.

The wonder lasts about fifteen seconds.  It’s interrupted by a biker that is illegally riding on the sidewalk and almost plows into you.  He is followed by his two children, who are just learning how to ride.  Both kids smash their bikes into your shins.  You grimace in pain and make eye contact with the parent-  they flash you a “sorry my kid hit you!” face, and you shoot back with an “it’s ok!  Kids will be kids!” look.  Neither of you are sincere about this.  

Wandering further in, you find a body of water.  It’s calm here.  The sounds of the city are just far enough away that you can tune out the sound for a few minutes and relax a little bit.  Just as you’re really starting to relax a group of tourists from the midwest discover your same little area, and ruin your little meditation by asking you excitedly to take a picture of them in the only area in New York that looks more like where they are from than anything else they have seen since setting foot in New York.  

You and your friend wander around for another hour before you realize that you are sort of lost, and getting a bit tired.  You look at the skyline for the nearest skyscraper, and then start moving in that direction.  Once you’re out of the park, you find that you’ve come out nowhere near where you thought you were.  You sigh, and head towards the subway.

Getting Ready for Bed

Situation:  Your day is done, and you are ready for some sleep.

If This was New York:  It’s about midnight, but you’re still so wound up from your day that going to sleep seems impossible.  Still, the hours between midnight and seven AM are the hours you put on your schedule for sleep, so you have to honor that or else the rest of your week is going to be screwed up.  

You start by doing the dishes in the sink.  This isn’t because you’re OCD, it’s because the only sink in your apartment is in the kitchen and you need a place to brush your teeth.  As you brush them, you take care not to smack your head on the cupboards.  

You then wash your face and take a sleeping pill.  You look out the window to see if it is cloudy.  If it is, it means that the planes on approach to La Guardia will be flying a little lower than normal.  Since they go right over your head, this can make a big difference in how you sleep.  If it is cloudy, you’ll put in a pair of ear plugs.

As you make your way to the bedroom, you do a casual check of the mouse traps to make sure they are still set.  It’s been awhile since you’ve heard a mouse, but you can never be too careful.  You once again have that passing dialog in your head if it would just be better to get a pet cat, but then you remember that would mean having to maintain a litter box in that tiny apartment, and you’ll never forget how awful your friend’s place smelled.

Climbing into bed you remember that you never set an alarm, but then you remember that it’s a week day and the construction site across the street will start up at 6:30 tomorrow, and the jack hammering will wake you up before the alarm would, anyway.  As you start to drift off, you incorporate the sounds of the homeless guy on the street yelling about his uncle into your dream.  It’s going to be a good night.

Going to the Post Office

Situation:  You have a package to send to someone, so you go down to your local post office.

If this was New York:  Before you leave your house you pick up the package to see how heavy it feels.  This is an important step because you know you’re going to be holding it for a long time.  If it feels light, you walk out the door.  If it feels heavy, you might put it into a bag so it can hang off your shoulder.

You set out for the Post Office which now seems to be farther away than you remembered.  As you get closer you start praying in your head that it won’t be too crowded.  Once you get there you find that your prayer didn’t help, and there is a swarm of people standing in line solemnly, like they are waiting to pay their last respects to their boss that died in a traffic accident-  slightly better than being at work, but not nearly as much fun as being at the doctor’s office.

You go and stand in the line.  Every couple of minutes a bell rings and a board lights up, announcing which teller is open.  You do a quick calculation and realize you’ve got at least thirty minutes of waiting ahead of you.  The person standing in front of you is holding some paperwork and seems to think they are at the DMV.  The person behind you looks like they took a break from drinking to get a money order to pay rent.

Forty-five minutes and 8 games of Doodle Jump later, you are near the top of the queue.  The package has become unbearably heavy by now, and you’re just kicking it on the ground ahead of you, hoping that the recipient will just assume that the scuff marks were a result of shipping.  

Now that there are only a couple people ahead of you, you are watching the board and guessing which stall you’ll go to.  You’ve never gone skydiving, but you get a little taste for the anticipation of a jump as you become the first person in line.  When you bell rings, you scramble to make your way to your assigned booth. 

Making eye contact with the Post Office Representative is a little like a first date-  you are a little anxious and a little nervous.  Your gaze is met with a look somewhere between contempt, malaise and, depending on the time of day, a bit of hunger.  The rep listens to your request, and assuming that everything is in order, takes your package and charges you for the shipping.

If there is a problem, like you forgot a certain kind of tape across the top, you are now at the mercy of the rep.  If they are in a good mood, they will tell you to make your changes and then come back to them.  If they are in a bad mood, they will just send you to the back of the line.  You now pray that your phone has enough juice to get you through another 8 rounds of Doodle Jump.

When you step onto the street, you feel like you’ve joined the world of the living.  Take a breath, and continue with your day, wondering what the world was like before the days of email when our parents and grandparents had to stand at the Post Office all the time.

Getting a car fixed

Situation:  You have some car trouble, so you take your car to a garage to have the repairs done.

If this was New York:  The first thing you do is ask friends for recommendations of where to go.  Then you realize that you are the only one of your friends that has a car in the city to begin with, and then you question how many of these people are your friends because of of your car ownership.

You pick one of the garages in your neighborhood pretty much at random.  Not that it matters which one you pick, you still feel like you made the wrong choice the second you pull your car into the place.  There’s a big sign up on the wall that says “Not responsible for lost belongings”, and you do a quick scan around your car for any valuables.  Then you realize one of the mechanics is doing the same.  You try to ignore that fact and tell them what is wrong with the car.  

If it’s a quick fix, you’ll stand there and one of the mechanics will get to work.  There’s another guy standing around there trying to talk to you, and it’s unclear if he is another mechanic or just someone that likes to hang out at garages.  You talk to him a bit while keeping an eye on the guys working on your car… not that you know anything about cars and what they are doing, but it seems like the right thing to do.  If it is something more complicated and you have to leave it overnight, the mechanics will tell you to leave all your valuables in the car.  They will swear up and down that the garage is safe despite the gigantic sign telling you otherwise.

When the repair is done you pay them whatever they ask for.  You shake hands with the “mechanic” that was talking to you, and then excuse yourself when he tries to start telling you about the 3rd time that he saw “The Who” in the 70’s.  Then you go home and Google the costs of the parts they replaced and discover you paid 300% over the retail costs.  A week later your car starts to exhibit some other problem mysteriously.

Getting Coffee

Situation:  It’s 7:34 AM and you want to get a cup of coffee before going to work.

If this was New York City:  You walk into a local coffee shop-  if you live in Manhattan this is almost certainly a Starbucks, and in Brooklyn it’s an independent place.  As soon as you walk in you realize that you haven’t actually spoken to anyone yet that day, and you realize just how complicated human speech is as a general concept.  

After a few minutes in line, you groggily state your order.  Your barista is either super caffeinated and way too awake, or was drinking the night before and is surly and is contemplating the benefits of going back to school for accounting.  Depending on how long they have been working there and how often you pop in you may exchange some pleasantries.  If you’re single you will ask yourself when you’re going to get the courage to ask out the barista out but then remember it’s their job to be nice to you.

As you’re waiting for your drink, you consider also getting a pastry of some sort. You do some quick calculations in your head around how hungry you are, how unhealthy the pastries look, and if you really want to be “that guy” scarfing down food on the subway.  

When your drink is ready, you groggily take it from the barista and grumble some words that you hope make sense.  You pause for a second to put your headphones in and head for the subway, hoping that the lid on the coffee is tight and won’t dribble down your front.  

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Going to the Beach

Situation:  It’s a gorgeous summer Saturday, and you and some friends decide to spend it on the beach.  

IF THIS WAS NEW YORK:  It’s common to bring a book to the beach, but you bring two because you know you’re going to need one for the 2+ hour trek on the subway to get there and back.  Once you arrive at Coney Island, you fight the crowds to get to the boardwalk.

Once on the boardwalk, you see a guy carrying several parrots and a giant snake.  You make eye contact with him, which is his signal to drape the snake around your neck and demand $5 for the act.  You give him the money out of gratitude for taking the snake back.

You walk until you see a less crowded section of the beach. You set out your blankets, being careful to remove any shards of glass or needles in the area, and make sure there’s no one in your general vicinity doing something weird or showing an inappropriate number of body parts.  

You take a stab at going into the water.  You can’t tell if the water looks dirty of if it has just been a long time since you’ve been to the ocean.  Even though it’s a hot day, the water is still uncomfortably cold.  You head back to your blanket instead.  You and a friend take a shot at playing frisbee, but there are so many people around, every other throw results in a small child getting hit in the head or running into a guy fifteen times your size.  

After several hours, you head back towards the subway, stopping to get a  hot dog and funnel cake.  The fried-food induced coma makes the two hour subway ride back pass in minutes.

The only other time you have been to Coney Island: You feel asleep on the train and wake up there at 3 AM in February.  You stand on the platform for twenty minutes waiting to board a train back to Manhattan.  You nearly get frostbite.

Image by jmehre on Flickr

Greenmarket Shopping

Situation:  You decide to spend an afternoon leisurely perusing the local Greenmarket, checking out local food and meeting local farmers.

IF THIS WAS NEW YORK:  You arrive at the Greenmarket to find it eerily similar to a cattle round-up: throngs of people are being pushed through a funnel of a walk-way in between various stands. You squeeze through to check out apples, only to have an elderly woman elbow you while exclaiming,”I’m here first!”

While holding onto to some hope that this activity will be leisurely, you approach a farmer to talk about the different varieties of honey he is selling, only to see that he is engrossed in a conversation with a Libyan man in his mid 50s arguing with the purveyor that his honey is not authentic enough.

You schlep out of the market to the nearest Key Foods and buy ramen.

Sumbitted by hotchocolatemap

Camping

Situation:  You and some friends want to go camping about two hours away from where you live.

IF THIS WAS NEW YORK:  No one owns a car, so you all have to chip in to rent one, or invite along someone you don’t like as much so they can drive.  You book the campsite several months in advance.

After getting in the car and surviving the stress of just getting out of Manhattan, you drive for a couple hours and arrive at the campground.  It’s essentially a gigantic field, and it is filled with people that don’t really know what they are doing outside.  In the campsite next to you, there is a large man and his wife that you can only assume is his mail order bride.  

You finally get the tent(s) set up, and go about cooking.  There’s a bunch of kids a few spots down that have decided to turn their spot into a rave, and a ranger comes over repeatedly to tell them to shut up.  Most campgrounds turn a blind eye to alcohol, as long as people are respectful, but here a ranger is actively driving around through most of the night, mostly thanks to kids like this.

Eventually, you have had enough secret beer and decide to turn in for the night.  For the first hour or so that you are in your tent, you can hear the large man one spot over farting every few minutes, and every time he blames his wife.

Getting Delivery Food

Situation:  You have come home from a long day or work and don’t have the energy to focus on cooking, so you call for something to be delivered.

IF THIS WAS NEW YORK: You would have to take a deep breath and work up the courage to call.  The phone rings a couple times, and then your ear is blasted with the loud sounds of the restaurant.  Whoever is on the other end yells a couple words at you and you are put on hold for several minutes.  You may just hang up and call back.  Eventually, you start yelling your order at this person.  They tell you it will be twenty minutes.

Forty minutes and two phone calls later, the doorbell rings.  Your food has arrived.  You tip the delivery person a fair amount (10%, $2 minimum), and depending on their mode of transportation they will be grateful or not-  if they are on a bike, the 10% is fine.  If they are driving an SUV, they will scowl at you for anything less than 20%.  

You open your order and find that it is cold and not what you ordered.  You go to pick up the phone to call them, but realize it’s not worth the hassle and you kind of like what they sent anyway. You just make due with the wrong order instead.