City Guide

Composed on the 3rd of October in the year 2009, at 3:50 PM. It was Saturday.

I’ve seen a lot of scared, confused, and above all annoying tourists around the city lately. As a guest of our fine metropolitan, you should feel welcomed and well-treated, unless you’re getting in our way, at which point you should leave for your own safety. To prevent problems in the future, I’ve cobbled together a quick guide for moving around the city.

{Walking}

Don’t stop moving. Please, please don’t stop moving. People stopping in the street is the number one cause of stress among New York commuters. It is as likely to get you into a fight as spitting on someone. If you must stop moving, move off the main path before you do it, preferably in front of a newsstand or something else that’s already impeding traffic. At all times, there are hundreds of people behind you moving in the same direction, and hundreds of people in front of you trying to weave through you and the hundreds of people behind you. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to stop moving, because now all the people behind you have to adjust to a new traffic obstacle, and it’s one they know might start moving again, in any direction, and they’re pissed, which means they’re about to piss off the hundreds of people in front of you who are already pissed because they saw you stop moving and they know what’s about to happen.

So if you don’t want hundreds of angry people on all sides pissed off at you, don’t stop moving. The only two exceptions to this are at “Don’t Walk” signs, where the evolutionary advantage leans slightly toward stopping, and in front of other people who have stopped moving, so you can punch them.

{Crossing the street}

There are three approaches to waiting for a walk signal. Locals and tourists alike often opt for the least advisable option: watching the people. People like to follow people. We all know it, we all do it, and it never becomes a better idea. Midtown streets answer the question, “If all your friends walked off a cliff, would you?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes”. People who want to be liked generally watch the people, as do people to preoccupied to take the next most common option: watching the lights. Rule-oriented people start with watching the lights, and these are generally the most offended or the most surprised people when they’re hurled into the air by the cars driven by people not watching anything. People not watching anything are often driving cars in the city, so if someone lives through their first year of commuting, it’s because they took the survival-oriented option: watching the cars. People have a death wish, traffic lights are merely strong suggestions, but if there are no cars moving toward you, you can almost guarantee you won’t get hit by one.

The very best strategy is to use all three options, in order of importance. First, check the cars. Once they stop moving, check the light. Not because it matters that much what the light says, but because it gives you an idea of what’s expected of you. Then, finally, watch the people, because once the cars are gone, they are your primary adversaries. Remember that when taking cues from others, note the cautious, because if they know something you don’t, they might save you life, and ignore the eager, because if they don’t know something you should, they could get you killed.

{Driving}

Don’t do it. If you can’t manage your travels via walking and trains, take a cab or move somewhere else.

{Taking a Cab}

When hailing cabs, do not expect sympathy. Try to get in front of everybody else hailing a cab. If possible, avoid being black. When in the cab, it’s best to know where you’re going and how to get there, so you can tell if you’re getting screwed. If you do get screwed, you probably won’t know about it, but if it costs you twenty-five dollars to get to a place that usually costs you fifteen, it’s safe to assume you’ve been screwed, and it’s acceptable not to tip. Otherwise, just accept the price of being too lazy to walk to the subway.

{Taking the Subway}

Okay, imagine being pressed against five strangers. Two of them are drunk, one has a cold, the other two are twice your size, and if you’re a girl, another one may be discreetly rubbing their genitals against you. If you don’t think you can handle this scenario, take a cab, because it will happen. If you can handle this radically inhumane form of transportation, all the same rules as walking apply, plus two key pointers that could save your life: first, don’t stand in front of the doors when you’re about to board a train. It is acceptable to body-check people standing in front of the doors when exiting. Second, hold on to something. Nobody cares if you can maintain you balance, and that one time you fuck it up and fall onto an eighty year-old woman carrying dinner to her husband’s deathbed, all the witnesses will hate you for the rest of their lives, and rightfully so.

{Times Square}

Don’t go. The picture is better than the experience, and if you don’t absolutely have to be there, you’re just getting in the way of the poor bastards like me who have to commute through it.

{Taking the Bus}

If you can decipher the bus system, power to you. I avoid them, because it’s usually faster to walk.

{Buying Cigarettes}

It’s best to go to three or four places and get quotes before committing to buying a pack of cigarettes. At the time of this writing, there’s a small newsstand on 40th and Broadway that sells Camel Lights for twelve dollars a pack. Across the street, there’s another newsstand that sells them for nine.

And that should do it. I hope this will make your next trip to the city more enjoyable for you and less obnoxious to us.

Cue nostalgia.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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