Tag Archives: traffic

I saw a bunch of tourists having trouble crossing the street

I was in Midtown Manhattan the other day on a lunch break and I wanted some food from a place a few blocks away. I was crossing East 54rd Street, and there was this family of out-of-towners waiting at the corner, stuck. It looked they wanted to cross the street, but they couldn’t get their feet off of the sidewalk. While they hesitated, cars and cabs kept making the right turn from 3rd Avenue onto 54th.


As I got closer to the family, the mom looked toward me, clearly frustrated, and said, “You’d think these cars would let us cross!” And I was walking pretty fast. I’m tall, so I have a naturally long stride, but it’s also New York, so everybody walks kind of fast. I didn’t even break my pace, but I turned to look at the lady as I stepped into the intersection, telling her, “You just have to walk. You just have to go for it. The cars will stop.”

I kept going, I made it across the street all while the lady stood there holding hands with her family, that distressed look on her face, me on one of the street and her on the other, both of us now separated by a whole line of cabs already continuing their endless stream of right turns. This whole interaction took maybe ten seconds, and once I was safely across the street, I turned forward and marched on.

But I couldn’t help but thinking about this lady and her family, were they on vacation? How long were they planning their trip to the city? Now that they were here, were they having fun? Sure, it’s a lot of filling in the blanks based on the fraction of a moment that we were in each other’s lives, but there was something there, there was us, there was a street, there were pained facial expressions.

I spent the rest of my walk imagining that family making it back to their hotel room later in the evening, they’d be exhausted, all of that walking around, nobody behaving in traffic like they do back home. How many times had she stopped random pedestrians to complain about cars? Was she giving that same confused/pissed off look to every single driver that didn’t stop and wave her along with a smile?

In my head she went back home to wherever she was from, her friends and extended family members would ask stuff like, “So how was your vacation? How was New York?” and not wanting to give the impression that they had a bad time, she’d lie, “It was OK, but everyone is in such a hurry. Everyone is so rude!”

And yeah, I’m in my head here, but this isn’t that uncommon of a thing to imagine, right? New Yorkers have a reputation of being rude. On season five of True Blood, this guy’s about to get killed, so he starts crying, hysterical, he’s like, “I never got to go to New York, to see the Big Apple,” and Eric the vampire says, “New York smells like pee and everyone is rude.”

Are New Yorkers rude? I don’t think so. I’m going to fault the tourists in this situation, that lady and her family. I’m presuming that they took this vacation and found themselves on the streets unfamiliar with the pace of everyday life. Unable to cross the street on account of traffic not coming to a halt simply because they were waiting on the corner, they reached out for a little sympathy from a fellow pedestrian.

But I didn’t give any. Imagine if every single driver stopped at every corner where a group of people happened to be waiting for a light. Cars wouldn’t be able to move an inch. Traffic would remain at a permanent standstill. There are more people than cars, and with heavy foot traffic, the lights are necessary to keep people in line as much as they’re there to regulate the cars.

I try to reverse the situation in my head. I picture me going on vacation to some small town somewhere. I’m driving along and as I’m about to round a corner, I see a family waiting to cross the street. If I just kept going, like if I aggressively made that turn without their consideration, they could look at me, they could give me that, “What the hell?” face, and I’d clearly be in the wrong. But I wouldn’t do that, because I’m not rude, I’m not an asshole.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t travel to other places and walk around acting like the whole world is New York. People from out of town should come to New York and be prepared for things to be different than the way they are back home. It’s not rude. In fact, I think if anybody is rude, it’s the person that travels around and acts as if every social code and rule is somehow universally based on how people get along from where they’re from.

I’m being way too judgmental here myself. I hate it when New Yorkers talk down to everyone else, like we’re so enlightened. As a waiter, I can safely say that a good chunk of New Yorkers are indeed rude. In fact, a lot of them are assholes. At least when they’re hungry. Does this just contradict everything that I just wrote down? Whatever, I’m probably being a huge asshole myself. Yeah, I just reread this whole thing, definitely, big-time asshole. Still, I’m right about the street crossing thing.

So you know what I did?

The other day I was driving in my car when this guy totally cut me off in an exit ramp on the Grand Central Parkway. Traffic wasn’t even that bad. I was maybe ten, eleven cars back, waiting for my turn to get off. And yes, of course I considered coasting along the left side of all of the other waiting cars, cutting in front right at the last second. There was plenty of room, and cops never pull drivers over on the Grand Central Parkway. But I waited my turn. And right when I was on deck, this guy comes out of nowhere and noses in front of me, very aggressively, looking back at me to make eye contact, like saying, “What are you going to do about it, huh?”

grand central parkway

So you know what I did? I gave him a big smile and waved him through, as if to say, “Go for it, friend. Please, help yourself to my spot.” Because, who am I to get angry? Maybe this guy just got fired from his job. Maybe he was a professional driver, but his boss called him in to the office today, he was like, “Listen, you’re a nice guy and everything, but this isn’t working out. You’re too soft on the road. We need someone a little more assertive. Sorry, but you’re fired.” And this guy’s driving home, he’s thinking, I’m not soft behind the wheel, I’m very assertive, aggressive even. And then he cuts me off and he looks at me and, what? What is he expecting?

So that’s me, giving him a thumbs up, I’m telling him through my body language, “Yeah man. You tell ‘em. I can’t believe your boss incorrectly pegged you as the passive type. You. You, my friend, are most certainly one of the stronger drivers I’ve encountered on the road. And that’s saying something, because I’m driving a lot. Let me tell you something, the way you saw that six inch gap open up in front of me, the attitude expressed as you inched your front bumper into a position that I was in no way capable of arguing with, that my amigo, that was some ballsy driving. In a good way.”

And then later in the evening I went to the grocery store to get something for dinner. I had a craving for Mexican food, and I always make this great sauce, you need smoked jalapenos canned in adobo, whatever that means, I found this recipe a while ago that called for smoked jalapenos in adobo. Anyway, this grocery store had just one can left. What luck, right? So I threw it in my cart and headed down the dairy aisle to pick up some eggs and milk and stuff.

chiles adobo

But I was looking at expiration dates, making sure everything was fresh, when I noticed this lady kind of shadowing behind me. It was weird enough that I was definitely picking up some strange vibes, but not entirely noticeable that I’d necessarily call her out. Besides, I had no idea of her intentions, if anything, it was my fault that I’d automatically assume something negative going on. But unfortunately, my instincts proved correct, because while I was opening up a carton of eggs to test the strength of each shell, I caught this lady in the corner of my eye reach into my basket and snatch my can of peppers.

By the time my mind registered what was actually happening, she had already shuffled half an aisle down, her head turned back just enough so I could make eye contact with her left eye, and without saying anything, I could read her, she was telling me, “Go ahead and say something. You want to make a scene? Let’s make a scene. I’m crazy enough to steal groceries out of your cart. You think I won’t scream? Or throw stuff? Try me.”

You know what I did? I flashed her a big smile, almost like I was in the middle of a good natured, sincere laugh. I opened my hands and raised them in the air while I shrugged my shoulders, almost like saying, “You got me! Yep, you certainly got me, you devil you,” and then I made a mock-squinty face, wagging my finger at her, like, “Oh you, I see you, but you got me!” because, why am I going to get so upset? Over peppers? She obviously needed those peppers, or at least wanted them more enough than I did, because I’d never steal groceries out of someone else’s basket, not unless I had a really good reason. Maybe she had a really good reason. Maybe her dad grew those peppers. Maybe those peppers were his most prized peppers, out of all of the other peppers he’d ever grown. And maybe when he wasn’t looking, the farm owners came over and harvested everything and put them in cans with adobo sauce, and he came running home to his daughter and was like, “Honey, you saved the big ones, right? My prized peppers? When they came for the harvest, tell me you saved my favorite peppers!” and she didn’t know what to say, she knew how much her dad loved those peppers, and seeing the pain it caused him, watching this once proud man fall to his knees, weeping like a child, she had no other choice than to follow the chain of production, to buy back every single can of peppers that she could get her hand on. Surely if she could present her father with all of those cans, he’d see how sorry she was, that maybe one of those peppers was in one of those cans, somewhere, somehow.

And that’s why I stood there in the aisle, still fake laughing at that lady, like I was telling her, “No need to be so sneaky, I’m not mad at all. Please, help yourself to anything you need. Can I help you with anything else? Maybe I have some old cans tucked away in the back of my pantry. Might those be of any help? Can I help you carry your bags to the car? Do you need me to find other cans of peppers in different groceries? I could ask the manager if they have any stocked away in the back.”

But she still looked really suspicious, still shuffling toward the register, still with that one left eye trained on my general vicinity. I couldn’t possibly know what she was going through, no more than she could know about me, about how while I was doing my best to let her know that I was OK, I lost the grip in my left hand, that carton of eggs, it slipped just a little bit, and I caught it, but the carton jolted slightly, and one egg fell out, it was open after all, I was checking all of the eggs, I don’t know why, it’s something my mother taught me as a little kid that you’re supposed to do when you buy eggs, and so this one egg fell right at my feet, egg everywhere, on both shoes, on my left pant leg, and I was just standing there shrugging and grinning and throwing my other hand in the air, like, “Whoops! What a klutz! Right? I can’t believe I dropped that egg on my shoe. Clean up on aisle six! Please, I’m fine, I can handle this. Give me the mop. I’d like to be the one to take care of this mess. No it’s fine, I insist. If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, then I’ll be A-OK, I’ll be in great shape, just terrific!”

Push button for green light

The other day I was driving my car and I saw this lady at the corner. She didn’t have the light so she put down her grocery bags and walked to the pole at the intersection. And then she started pushing that button, the one that I forgot was even there, it says, “Push here and wait for green light.” Not just once, she kept pushing it, over and over again, I imagined her saying in her head, green light, every time she pushed, green light, green light, green light …

green light button

I don’t know why, I couldn’t stand watching her do it, I know I should have just minded my own business but something about that push, push, push, I rolled down my window, “Hey lady! What the hell are you doing? You really think that button’s connected to anything? You really think the light’s going to change faster because you’re standing there pushing it again and again?”

And she looked at me, she was definitely pissed off. I shouldn’t have said anything, it was totally pointless. And I wanted to say so much more, I wanted her to respond, to tell me that it does work, that I should mind my own business, and then I would have kept going, I would have been like, oh yeah? Well why do you keep pushing it then? Shouldn’t you just have to push it the one time? What do you think, it’s a button designed to speed up the changing from red to green based on how many times it’s pressed?

She was just staring at me, still pressing the button at the same frequency, but not paying attention to the light, it changed to green, she ignored it, she was locked on me. I felt kind of bad, but I didn’t want to let her know, I was hoping that she’d maintain eye contact long enough for the light to change again from green to red, and then I could really point out to her the futility of pressing the button.

So I engaged her a little more, this time in a more contrite tone of voice, again, I was feeling bad, she reminded me of my grandmother. Not my grandmother exactly, but somebody’s grandmother. She was old. And I thought back to how I started the conversation, well, it wasn’t a conversation, not yet, she hadn’t said anything back yet, although I could tell she was trying to communicate something with her eyes, but man, finally I was like, “What the hell lady?” I didn’t really need to say hell, that was a little harsh, I wouldn’t have said hell to my grandmother.

So I started again, “Excuse me, ma’am, but you can’t really think that that button is actually connected to anything, can you? I mean, it doesn’t do anything. All of the lights in this city are timed out, like a grid, it’s all measured out in even intervals, to help traffic maintain as good of a flow as possible. And again, I’m sorry I said hell before, but I just hate to see you standing there, pushing it over and over again, and why push it so many times? When you’re at home watching TV, how many times do you push the on button? That’s not really the same, I get it, like with the TV you’re getting an instant result, whereas here … well just imagine if that remote didn’t have any batteries, and you stood there pointing it at the TV, click, click, click, nothing, how long would you keep that up?”

All the while, the light hadn’t changed back to red, I couldn’t believe it, it was actually taking forever, and the lady was still just staring at me, totally giving me the stink eye, so, whatever, I told her, “You know what? I’m sorry lady, just, be careful with your groceries on the floor, someone might knock them over.” And I rolled up my window.

But I couldn’t go anywhere because the light in front of me was stuck on red. One minute, two minutes went by, this thing wasn’t changing. And then I realized why. It was the lady. She was still clicking that button, click, click, click. It must have actually been connected, and her constant pressing was keeping the light green, for her. For me it was red. I was stuck.

I rolled down the window, “Hello? Hi, hello,” she was still just staring at me, unwavering, “Yeah, look, I feel really bad, and I’m actually thinking that maybe that button does work, and listen, I feel really terrible, coming at you like that, berating you, you’re clearly in the right here, I think the button does work, obviously it works, that light hasn’t changed in a while now. Anyway, you’ve proved your point, and I’d just like to … I’m sorry again, I’d really like to … yeah, so.”

But she didn’t stop. Now I was getting pissed again. But what was I going to do, knock her groceries over? Force her to stop pushing the button? I looked left and right, making sure no other cars were coming, and I inched into the intersection. Immediately I saw the red and blue lights behind me, a cop car perfectly hidden from view, watching me run the light.

“Officer, I’m really sorry, but that lady, she kept pushing the button, the light wouldn’t change. And I was going really slow, come on, I’m sorry.”

And the officer was like, “What are you stupid? Those buttons aren’t connected to anything. Nice try pal, now hand over your license and registration.”

But that lady, I turned around, she was gone, no lady, no bag of groceries, nothing. What was she, a ghost? Was this like some sort of a haunted intersection? Am I really going to have to go down to City Hall to fight this ticket? Because there’s no way that the judge is going to believe any of this. I guess I could just hope that the officer never shows up, and I could just make up some other story. Or maybe a reduced fine, something. I’m telling you, I know it sounds crazy, but she had to have been a ghost, because how else can you explain any of this stuff?

The “I Hate New York” Blog Post

Wow. New York City. I hate it. Just kidding, I love it. But seriously, it’s terrible. Haha, that’s my way of telling the Internet how much I love it. Do you get it? Did you read that Onion article? No, you don’t get it. Unless you do get it, in which case, congratulations, you live in New York. If you don’t get it well, you’ll still read this, you’ll think, man people from New York really don’t like living in New York. Ha. You don’t get it.

i hate ny

One of the best things about living in New York is getting to complain about New York. You get to say things like, “Only in New York!” but only to non-New Yorkers. If you ever said, “Only in New York!” to a New Yorker, they would immediately call you out as a tourist, as a non-New Yorker.

Like if I’m visiting my friend in some other city, I don’t know, somewhere else, Baltimore, or, yuck, Cleveland, and it’s three in the morning and we’re in the suburbs somewhere and it’s dark outside and there’s no noise anywhere, I might say something like, “Hey, lets go run to the corner store and get some more beer,” and they’d be like, “What are you talking about, it’s three in the morning, nothing’s open, and everything’s too far away to walk,” and then you’d say, “Oh yeah, right, it’s just that, where I live, you can get anything, any time, and it’s all right down the block. Only in New York!” and your friend would be like, “Listen, I want you out of my house before breakfast tomorrow.”

But if you’re all the way downtown waiting for the one train going up, and the train rounds that corner, and it should be empty because it’s the first stop, but it’s not empty, there’s a homeless guy sitting there, and he’s got his pants all the way down, and he’s masturbating, if you look to the person waiting next to you and you say, “Only in New York!” that person – haha – is going to know right away that you’re not from New York, that you’re not a real New Yorker.

No, real New Yorkers embrace that man. They sit next to him like it’s no big deal. They drop trou and join in on the fun. Because don’t you tell me what the real New York is. You’re not entitled to tell me or anybody else anything about New York. Once you start talking about New York, it’s gone, it’s out of your grasp, and just like that, you’re not a real New Yorker anymore. Maybe someday years from now when you’re visiting those same friends out of town you can look back fondly upon the incident, watching their disgusted reactions as you matter-of-factly explain what went down that one time on the one train. Maybe. Probably not. We’ll see.

But let me break my own cardinal rule for a second here and say that the current real New York thing to do is to write blog posts about how much you hate New York. Do you really hate it? Not really. But you can’t write about how much you love it, because what are you, from Long Island? Everybody knows that doesn’t count. Sorry pal, get back on that 5:37 Long Island Railroad train to Hicksville, I’ll see you next week at the Nassau Coliseum. “I hate New York” is the new cool way of saying, “I love New York.” But whereas the old love slogan was too universal, too easily shared by everybody in the world willing to pay ten bucks for ten “I heart NY” t-shirts, “I hate New York” brings just the right amount of New York exclusivity.

Oh my God my apartment is so small! Holy-moley, could this train be any more crowded? Jesus Louisus, these people in front of me are walking so slow! Seriously, do those cars really need to be honking their horns that loudly? Let me tell you something, you just have to go check out this new gastro-barber shop I found in YahBrah. What neighborhood is YahBrah? Don’t ask, just nod in agreement, tell your friend that you’ve already been there, that the Blendingtown Heights location is much truer to what they’re going for, what they were trying to speak when they jumped on the gastro-barber shop bandwagon.

Because really, New York’s such a terrible place to live, right? Haha. But seriously, I leave New York and I’m like, “Oh my God, New York is making me crazy!” but then you realize, wait a second, it’s a part of me now, I’m a part of it, and so I love it, and I love hating New York, and I love telling everybody that I hate New York, and when somebody says to me, “Well, if you really hate it that much, why don’t you just get out?” and then you can go, “Ha!” because you did it, you nailed it, them, whoever it is you’re talking to, talking about. They don’t get it. They’re not a real New Yorker. Ha.


Everyone’s always complaining about gridlock, about political gridlock, how we can’t get anything done because everything moves so slowly, so inefficiently. What’s the answer? I think the answer is more gridlock. Think about it, think about real gridlock, like traffic. Say it takes you two hours to get to work. That sucks, but you’ll still do it. What are you going to do, move? Quit your job? No, you’ll just complain about how it takes you too long to get to work everyday.

But let’s throw in even more gridlock. Let’s see what happens when it takes you three hours to get to work. Or four hours. Or let’s add so much gridlock that movement, all movement in all cars, it just ceases completely. Traffic stops. Eventually people put their cars into park, they get out, start walking around, they look to the other drivers and everybody’s just kind of looking at each other, you know, those faces like, “Huh? What’s going on? Can you believe this?”

Believe it. Three hours pass. Four, five, the sun starts to set. Nobody wants to leave their car right there, stuck in traffic on the expressway, but what are you going to do, starve? Are you going to go to the bathroom right there, right outside your car door? No, your car’s going to run out of gas eventually, your cell phone’s going to die. Just follow everybody else out of there, walking toward the nearest exit.

And then you make it to that exit and you look around, everybody’s looking around, the traffic is just as bad off the expressway, cars at a total standstill, not an inch for any vehicle to maneuver anywhere. The gridlock is absolute. So you start heading, which way? How long is it going to take to get somewhere, to get back?

Finally you get home, dirty, tired, you open the front door and your body just starts kind of breaking down on itself. You’re not even that big of a crier, but it’s like the weeping has started somewhere deep within, like your muscles are sobbing, and you just want to take a shower, get some rest.

And the gridlock never clears up. It’s like you open the door and all you can hear are police car sirens, fire trucks blaring their horns, like it’s going to do something, like the noise is going to cut through to the source of the traffic. Soon all of the delis are out of groceries and your neighbors start hoarding bottled water and batteries.

So everybody, not knowing what to do, they turn on their TVs, and it’s the mayor, it’s your governor, the President. The gridlock is everywhere, the traffic taking up literally every available inch of maneuverable space in the country. So taking some executive action, the President hires wrecking crews, strong men, anybody out there with a wrench, some tools. “Get out there,” he tells us, “just start taking apart cars, hauling everything to the side of the road. Let’s get this done.”

And that’s it I guess. Cars would start to be dismantled and people would make sure nothing like this happens ever again. Because things can’t start to get better unless they start to get unbearable first. Nobody’s going to stop buying gas at five, six, seven dollars a gallon. But five thousand dollars a gallon? Eight million dollars for a college education? Forty-eight hour lines to vote? Yeah, once it gets that bad, somebody will figure out something. We’ll all demand that somebody figures out something. But just keeping things the way they are, yeah, a two hour commute to work sucks, but we’ll all just complain, everybody gets used to complaining, everything slowly getting worse.