Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hot in the city, hot in the city, that's right!

You know you are overheated and not thinking straight when you try to call your brother and instead dial your own number into your cell phone.  None of this registers until you hear a woman’s voice laying out options for your voicemail settings.  Even then it takes you a few seconds staring blankly at your phone to figure out what’s happening.  Yes, this is what a New York heat wave can do to you.
Outside the air is so thick with humidity, you feel as though you are choking on it.  Down in the subway it becomes a sauna.  You feel a burning sensation as the hot vapors enter your air passage ways.  Each breath carries less oxygen than the one before.  The heat circling your respiratory track leaves your esophagus inflamed.  The perspiration is pouring from you now.  In fact, calling it perspiration is a joke.  There’s no delicate beading of water forming on your forehead.  Sweat is literally dripping from your hairline as though someone poured a bottle of water on your head.  You look around to see women with Chinese fans and men with hand towels.  You are secretly praying that the blouse you are wearing is not stuck to your back in dampness.  The train arrives and you push in against sweaty limbs and shirts trying to position yourself near the air conditioned vent.
By the time you reach your office building and sit down at your desk, you are completely red-faced and drenched.  Your co-workers that have arrived a half hour before look refreshed and comfortable and always manage to stop by your desk as you are trying to compose yourself.  Giving up and going to the bathroom is your sole mission.  Wetting paper towels with cold water and placing them on the back of your neck helps a bit.  Meanwhile you are trying to wipe off the smeared mascara that was supposed to be water-proof.  You come out of the ladies room sans make-up, but feeling more at ease. You swing by the kitchen to grab a cold water bottle before heading back to your desk, cursing to yourself that you will have to wait until you cool down before having your first cup of coffee.
After work is no better, all the humidity has collected and it is now pouring with rain.  You come out from the subway getting poked in the head by people opening their umbrellas before they even exit.  A vendor has parked himself at the exit/entrance and is shouting, “umbrellas!”  You stop to ask how much only to realize you don’t have any cash on you.  You run carefully without slipping to the next awning and huddle with the masses.  You can only assume they didn’t have any cash either.  Five minutes go by…ten…a few have made a break for it to the next inlet, but you know better.  The massive downpour will let up any minute now.  In fact, it is only drizzling.  
Tentatively, you leave your dry haven in search of the bar where your friend will be playing bass with his band.  The spots on your glasses are a hindrance, but you still make your way dodging deep puddles that have accumulated at every curb.  You can’t believe that all this rain didn’t cut the humidity. 
You enter the establishment with wet hair and soggy shoes, but your friend is at the bar ordering drinks and you scurry over to partake.  The first Cosmo slides down too easily.  You are still hot, but now a feeling of calm has taken over.  In fact, you and your friend feel a bit giggly.  The jazz that is blaring from the stage has a relaxing effect on you.  You have timed the finishing of your drink with the end of the song perfectly.  You are having thoughts of ordering another when the lead saxophone player grabs the microphone and asks if there are any “Bix Beiderbecke fans” in the room.  You jump up enthusiastically shouting, “Yes!”  Of course you are a “big Spiderman fan.”  It isn’t until they start playing again that you question what this has to do with Spiderman.  Maybe a second Cosmo isn’t in the cards.  In fact, that first one has hit you harder than usual.  Your friend agrees that you are both a bit dehydrated and tipsy.  However, the thought of the long, stifling trip home has you both downing another.  Hey, this is New York.  You can always catch an air conditioned taxi!     
**Tip of the week:
When it is over 90 degrees outside, carry a bottle of water, handkerchief and an umbrella…er…at least have cash on hand to buy one.  Good news: you can consume half the amount of alcohol to achieve the same affect.  Bad news: you will feel as sticky as your drink.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taxicab Etiquette

First of all, let's set the scene.  Hot, muggy and late for a brunch with the girls... you know the drill:  flying off the front stoop of your building, hustling to the nearest main cross streets while frantically waving your arm at any large and yellow fast moving object, not bothering to check if the taxi number light is on before darting into traffic for a more aggressive approach...

That was me just a few days ago.  Only this time as I was getting into the cab that stopped for me, I heard the most incredulous statement.  A guy that was crossing the street from the opposite corner to mine was saying to someone on his phone, "it's not fair, I have been standing out here for 20 minutes!"

Let's forget for a moment that someone from New York had just said, "It’s not fair."  The part that grabbed my attention was the second half of his complaint.  Did I really just steal someone's cab?  Was it possible that I was so caught up in panicking about being late that I committed one of the most infamous taboos?  All I could think of in response to my own questions was "yes, finally!"

Before you find me harsh and unreasonable, you should know that my usual scenario when running late consists more along the following lines. 

1) Standing at the nearest intersection of a series of one-way streets;
2) scanning the oncoming traffic for the first available cab;
3) raising my arm to hail it from blocks away;
3) watching the driver of the vehicle noticing my summons and start to merge to my side of the curb;
4) recognizing the familiar smile on the cabbie's face as he eagerly pulls over to collect his next fare; and
5) blankly staring as the cab stops short by a few meters and has its door tugged open by some arm that doesn't belong to me.

Road rage has nothing on the feeling of getting a taxi swiped out from under you by a newcomer that is usually on a cell phone chatting and laughing away.  You tell yourself that the next one is yours and you feel pretty confident about it.  That is until you notice that the guy that turned up a few minutes ago and was waiting patiently behind you just crossed the street ahead of you and has his eye on the next beacon of light.  Before you can get your glare on, another woman has just entered the intersection from the other side and is angling herself a few meters ahead of the cross street.

While you are weighing the odds of getting a cab before the next stampede of people hit, you squint against the sun to see the worst bully of all.  The tourist with a suitcase!  No matter where they position themselves, any taxi within a 2 block radius will be crashing into each other to pick up this cash cow.  An airport run is branded as the ultimate tag.  With a heavy sigh and thoughts of bringing an empty suitcase with you next time, you tread off to the following intersection hoping the next roundup will include you.

Now, when we are idly standing on the escalator, we keep to the right so traffic can still flow unhindered to the left.  When we are waiting in line at a counter, no one tries to cut in.  And even when we hear someone approaching the elevator doors as they are closing, we press the button to keep them open.  Why is it we have no etiquette when it comes to hailing a cab?  And what would it involve to implement taxicab etiquette?

**Tip of the week:
During summer months, try to hail cabs with their windows rolled up.  They are more likely to have working air conditioning and/or drivers willing to utilize their a/c.  Although, keep in mind that they must turn on the a/c upon request.