The 6 Superfluous Idiosyncrasies of New Yorkers

I have lived in the great city of New York, New York for some time now. While I had visited the city many, many times before I came and stayed there are certain things I know now living here that I hadn’t ever picked up while simply visiting.

One of these things is the New York accent, which up until now I thought was a myth. I had never heard it, or at least not paid attention to it previously. Their accent has to be one of the most annoying, awful accents in the world.

But accents are not what I want to talk about, I want to talk about the weird little habits New Yorkers have that I, as a transplant from the fabled Midwest, think are totally batty and absurd. You cannot escape these habits, and if you try to go against them you are instantly singled out and called to confirm that “No, I’m not from here

1. Straws
New Yorkers all drink from straws. Straws in soda cans, straws in milk boxes, Starbucks cups, 20 oz. bottles, fruit juice, lemonade….etc. This all reverts back to the dirty little secret that NY’ers are prissy little things. Oh, have your mouth touch the glass? Don’t even mention it. Heck, don’t even consider it. I’ve tried to drink my Coke out of a straw, and I down about 3 cans a-day when I’m in good form, so I’ve had a ton of practice. I just can’t do it. It makes it too fizzy, it gives me a tummy-ache, I feel like a prat four-year-old who doesn’t know how to drink from a Big Girl Cup.  The only thing straws are good for is chewing. Gnawing. I’m a straw chewer. It’s crippling.

2. Beverage Sweat and Napkins
I grew up in Indiana. If you aren’t aware, Indiana is humid. Beverages sometimes “sweat” when something scientific happens that involves the word “condensation” and water drips down the side of your can/glass/bottle. It’s a fact of life. It just happens. (Well, it didn’t in Idaho… which was really weird). New York is rather humid too and their beverages perspire as well; this is something that the locals cannot tolerate. To counteract the Wet Hand Syndrome they wrap their cool drinks in napkins. Every time I buy a drink it has been handed to me wrapped in a napkin. Apparently touching any part of your drink’s container is going to kill you (see: straws). Yes, the napkins absorb the moisture BUT it looks so hideous, you cannot effectively communicate to bystanders where you stand in the Pepsi/Coke debate, and the napkin half-dissolves and turns into a gooey blob that is hugging your drink. I’d rather have Wet Hand Syndrome. (Unless you’re holding hands, in that case AVOID WHS!)

3. Umbrellas
I hadn’t seen rain for 3.5 years before I moved here. I was in Idaho. When it “rains” in Idaho it actually snows little pellets of slush. Even in the middle of August. If you can wrap your head around that then you’re a genius. If not, here is a picture:

Anyway… point being, I never carried an umbrella. Even in the fabled Midwest I never used one. I’m a Romantic. I like to FEEL the rain, I like to have little splatters on my clothes. Sadly, this sentiment does not fly in the Big Apple. One must carry an umbrella at all times. Even on sunny days. Also, the umbrella must be a golf umbrella, be at height higher than the owner’s hip and come in a ostentatious, collapsable cover to combat water droplets from flying off and the umbrella from drying. Usually I just sit on the subway thinking “Damn, I’m cold and damp… wouldn’t a purse-sized umbrella be better for this city?”

4. Bags
Everyone in New York must have whatever they purchased double and triple bagged at all times. Failing to do so would result in a National crisis. Being ecofriendly a Minimalist I am disturbed by a New Yorkers obsession with baggage. Being a barista let me just illustrate this for you. Say a customer buys a pastry, the pastry is put into a little pastry bag. Usually, that is when I’ll hand it over to the customer with a smile and some BS’ed customer service. “I need a bag” they say. Wha-? It’s IN a bag. No, the customer needs it in another one, so that they can carry it. Fine, I put the pastry bag into a bakery bag (basically a paper lunch bag). “Oh… do you have a bag with handles?” This is usually where I look at them like they’re insane. “I have to carry it to my table.” TO. THEIR. TABLE. They want a bag, within a bag, within a bag.

WHAT THE HELL?

The only time I actually used a bag it was a disaster. It was 4:30 a.m. (Barista hours!) and I stopped at a deli to get some cornbread and butter. It was all wrapped up for me in tinfoil and placed into a paper bag. I figured I’d just roll with it because they’d also packed up my bananas and chocolate milk (I’m really 5 years old) as well. I went on my merry way and was caught in a torrential downpour (see: Umbrellas). Since paper and water hate each other (See: Napkins) my bag disintegrated and all of my breakfast goods spilled out into the street. All I was left clutching was the rolled up bit in my hands. (And yeah, I ate it anyway.)  Since then I’ve stuck to my tried and true system of shoving everything into my massive, empty purse. Leather doesn’t dissolve.

5. I See You, but I’m Pretending that I Don’t See You
New York is a highly un-private place. No matter where you are, what you’re doing, you’re being watched. But you are not really being watched. That is what the people who are watching you WANT you to think. This pasttime is largely put into practice on the subways where you are crammed in next to someone who you really would rather not smell. No matter where you look you are looking at SOMEONE and hoping that they, in turn, don’t find you looking at them. I read books over shoulders, get involved in love-triangle text messages and see a whole lot of skin in places that I really do not want to. In turn my fellow New Yorkers have allowed me to have a panic attack in peace (er, kind of) on a train, so I’m all for the selective privacy.

6. Folding Pizza in Half
I don’t get it. I don’t do it*. I eat pizza with a fork and knife. I asked someone in a pizza shop why the folded their pizza and he said “So the toppings won’t fall off.”

Pardon? I’ve never had toppings fall off of my pizza unless it’s super hot (which is usually isn’t since I like it cold) or if I drop the pizza.

I just looked at the man incredulously and said “Just buy a calzone.” He turned away and refused to make eye contact for the rest of our time spent in the pizza shop together.

(Chicago pizza > New York pizza!)

*EDIT: As of February 10, 2012 I fold my pizza. It happened.

"J’allume au feu du jour ma cigarette. Je ne veux pas travailler – je veux fumer."

I have marooned myself in the Library, that hub of student activity that I so rarely frequent. 

Why, you are most surely asking?
Three reasons:
1. I have an hour and a half “layover” between the class I just finished and the singing engagement I have next. As I didn’t want to walk home just to turn around and walk back, I found myself in the Library. 
2. The Library is currently showcasing books on the history and events of the American Civil War, if posting this blog proves to be either quick or boring, I will wander over to the showcase, snatch a couple books and do some blissful, indulgent reading.
3. I decided to do an “exposure*” and use a public Mac of which the white keyboard has been discolored by frequent use of students who don’t wash their hands. Hold on for the ride, I might break out into hives, but so far I’m doing OK. Also, people watching is classic fun…take for instance the VERY pregnant girl who just walked in with a bouquet of red roses and a bunch of 10 balloons that proclaim it’s her birthday. How incredibly awkward. I would hate to carry all that junk around and cart a baby about in my womb at the same time. Still, what’s she going to do? She chose her life.
a. I think red roses are so tacky. Please, future relationship partners, never buy them for me. They are ugly. 
b. Balloons are such a nuisance. They are only good for popping. 
c. She just let go of the balloons and now they have floated to the ceiling. Classy and mature, all at the same time. Not. 
d. Is it wise for someone in her condition to be drinking a 24oz. can of AMP energy drink? I’m under the impression that it is not.

Healthy and responsible, for you AND your fetus!

 


4. Ok, I lied about only having three reasons, don’t act surprised. The library also provides me with ample opportunities to listen in on people’s conversations. Right now balloon girl is shoving a brownie into her mouth and proclaiming “I don’t even like sweets” and then munches away on another bite. Hypocrite. Yeah, fellow students, you might think I am contentedly listening to selections from “Dostana” on the Desi-Love playlist on my iPod, but I am listening in on your lives. Covertly, of course. 

All that junk doesn’t even have anything to do with anything I had planned to discuss in this riveting installment of “the-most-fascinating-paper-that-only-the-TA-will-read” so I’ll just get on with it, shall I?

Today’s topic? 
Smoking.

For veritable other reasons than the ones I will talk about, I don’t smoke.
a. I am a singer, I have to stake my entire adult life on my ability to sing four hour operas. I need to maintain not only lung, but also mouth and throat health. So no thank you.
b. I currently live on top of a mountain. Being a sea-level native it’s hard enough for me to breathe, why complicate things by sucking on smoke?
c. I understand (haha, how could I not know?) that there are a plethora of health risks. Also, it makes your skin look funny, and your hair all wiry, and your teeth all nasty. To someone as incredibly vain as myself, it’s just not worth all the plastic surgery required for that kind of up keep. While I am opposed to aging, I would like to do it gracefully and without hacking up a lung every time I try to climb up porch steps, that’s just so common and trashy. 
d. It’s expensive. While I don’t disagree with spending money, I’d rather not spend it on something that’s going to make me ugly. 

On the opposite side of this, I have moments of longing to be a smoker every, single day. 

I blame the French for this.  They look so elegant, they look so wise, so cynical. They have a grace and skill for it. I can just imagine being euphoric as I sit at a cafe with a ham sandwich, a good book and a pack of cigarettes wiling away an afternoon reading, smoking and people watching.  It sounds on both turns incredibly boring and incredibly enticing all at the same time.

The French Know how to Live, that’s for sure. 
Ahh, I’m so jealous.

I also blame all the old Hollywood movies I watch. Not only do I wish my life was in black and white; but I also desire to wear an evening gown, drown myself in diamonds and promenade on the porch on an elegant evening party with the ultimate accessory: my long, sleek cigarette holder. Nothing says “sophistication” more than that.

Becuase nothing says glamour like emphysema. 

Smoking also looks completely relaxing. Like a satisfied sigh or a deep breath (that wouldn’t be that deep, since your lung would be tar).  My life is pretty stressful, and smokers always look so relaxed whilst smoking. Ah, the jealousy that swells in my breast for their contentment. 

Granted, I know I live in a fantasy world for the majority of the time that I am awake and walking around, so it’s no use to tell me that these are just glamorized situations. I know this. That knowledge, however, does not make smoking any less appealing.  Perhaps it is the preoccupation I have with my hands…they always must be doing something: doodling, texting, Twittering, rolling Tac-It, that smoking has always just been something else to keep my fingers busy. 

Also, if I’m looking for a way to relax, there are other methods to cope with fitfulness. I take a walk, I go for a drive, watch a Bollywood, read a book, listen to Chopin…etc. It goes on. I don’t need something toxic to take the edge off, when I can do it myself.

Whatever it is, I’m too much of a chicken to try it. Besides, I would turn into a leathery, stale smelling, bitter old hag. And that’s not worth the glamour. 

Extras:
-An interesting study on smoking was done in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” It is a great read (as all of his books are) and highly enlightening! And since you’re just a crap TA why not fill your time with something useful? 
-Title comes from a poem by French (ironic, non?) poet Guillaume Apollinaire [pseudonym]. The poem is entitled “Hotel” and was composed for “melodie” by (one of my favorites) Francis Poulenc.
-I am not clinically diagnosed with OCD, though my sister and mother are… I am however having to control my anxiety while touching this keyboard. It’s like I can feel the skin cells of everyone else who has touched it forming a film on my fingertips and it takes all of my concentration to sit here and type this without letting it overwhelm me or forcing me to go wash my hands.