Preying in the Morning

Upon waking, the lion peered from his den and saw that the large black beast on the West bank of the river had finally abandoned its prey. Leaping to his feet, the lion vowed to take advantage of this rare opportunity. He bounded out of his den, which was slightly downstream of the prized meal, and put all his energy into pounding against the current until he reached and fed upon what had become rightfully his. Once the dust had settled, he went back to his den and, from across the river, looked out over the carcass. His chest puffed up with pride, and he held his head high as he silently congratulated himself on another successful hunt.

And that's how I, in anticipation of Alternate Side Rules, reversed down our one-way street to snag the vacant parking spot in front of our apartment at 6 o'clock this morning.


Utterly Uttered

You know those people who walk into a room and immediately start looking around?  They assess the well-established situation into which they've entered; how many people are present, how do they know one another, how deep or meaningful is their conversation?  Is it okay to walk up and augment the discussion?  If they don't know them already, when is a good time to introduce themselves?  Wait for a pause.  Scan the room.  Assess.  You know those people?

Well, I'm not one of those people.  I am, in fact, the opposite of those people.  I am the person who walks into a room talking.  When I get uncomfortable, or enter a new situation (usually one and the same thing), whatever minimal social filter I have toiled to strengthen in my adulthood diminishes greatly.  I get loud.  I get intrusive.  I forget to use my "inside voice".  I am not proud of this character defect, but it is a part of who I am.  I'm working on it.  In fact, if I ever walk into a room you're already in, I'll probably be more than happy to tell you about how I'm working at it in detail.  At full volume.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  This is a list of things I say out loud every time I ride the subway.  Seriously.  Every.  Time.  And it is important that I publish this post on the World Wide Web because there is a chance that one day I'll fail to utter these phrases under my breath, and will accidentally say them full voice.  And at the wrong person.  Who will stab me.  For good reason.

That's not how we do things, here.  - One time I actually said this too loud to a couple who was strolling along on a sidewalk in Midtown.  I think my actual phrasing was, "Fucking tourists," but it's the same general idea.  The woman heard me and responded, rightfully, "We LIVE here!"  I wanted to fire back, "Than why on earth are you walking so SLOWLY?" but it was Valentine's Day, and my girlfriend and I were having a nice homemade "Taste of New York" tour date together, and I didn't want to ruin the romance by cutting someone.  So I remained silent and avoided further eye contact like a good New Yorker.

Since then, the phrase has morphed into "That's not how we do things, here."  It is usually reserved for those offenses a New Yorker is unlikely to commit, but a tourist or a newcomer would.  Pausing in front of the turnstyle to look for your Metrocard is a great example.  Seriously?  You didn't know where you were headed beforehand?  You forgot they tend to charge for these types of things?

Another time I'll use this phrase is when someone just stops on the sidewalk or subway platform.  No shifting to the side, no looking around, just... stops.  The vast majority of the time this happens, I am unclear as to why.  What I am certain of, is I walk a lot faster than the person committing said offense, and was usually right behind them at the time it was committed.

Don't babysit the doors if you ain't prepared to hustle. - That's right.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the fury of my commute, I drop in the word "ain't".  I'm gangster like that.

This phrase passes over my lips on a daily basis.  I will never fully comprehend this mentality.  People will guard the subway door with their life, refusing to give up even an inch of ground so they can be the first to exit when it comes time for their stop.  And this part I understand; I do it, too.

The problem lies when the exit comes, and they proceed to mosey along like they're on the streets of a small Midwestern town window shopping on a Saturday morning.  Why did they guard the door, then?  There is no way this person doesn't know they walk slower than everyone else.  Why didn't they cede ground at the beginning and be one of the last people off the train?  I honestly don't get that part.  I am hoping someone will explain it to me before I get assaulted for saying it out loud.  I definitely think that would count as "starting the fight" and am equally sure I could end up doing time. Unless my judge is a fast walker.  But who am I kidding?  I doubt judges even take the subway, and the ones that do probably ain't prepared to hustle at all.  Word.

Turning signals! - Contrary to what you might think, I honestly do try to be a decent and polite person.  Really!  I hold the door for strangers, say "Bless you." when someone sneezes, and always try to promote hugging (especially when all that's expected or reasonably appropriate is a handshake.  Not on my watch!  C'mere, you!)

One of the things I do is try to walk even more quickly than normal on crosswalks, even if I have the right-of-way.  I am sympathetic to the driver (I am one on occasion), and I know how annoying it can be when someone takes their sweet-ass time crossing the street.  Don't they know the driver has someplace hella important to be?  Don't they know who the driver IS?

And so, I will frequently pick up the pace for a car trying to turn onto (or out from) the street I'm currently crossing.  But without the use of a turning signal, I often have no way of knowing the driver's intentions.  And since they've refused to use one, I almost always assume their car is simply not equipped with that feature.  Like they traded in leather seats and a bitchin' stereo (stuck on a station that is usually trying to convince me of how much I adore Latin music) in lieu of that pesky lever that will let someone know they intend to turn.

"Turning signals!" is just a lowbrow way of saying, "Good day, Sir (or Madam, as it were).  If you would be so kind as to, in the future, should this situation arise again, notify me of your intent to redirect your vehicle, nothing would please me more than to clear the roadway for you in a swift and expeditious manner, thereby increasing the painlessness of your trek."  But it comes out the other way.  Because by that point, I'm usually annoyed at them for not using the thing to begin with.

 What happens at either end of the escalator should come as a surprise to no one. - I posted this on Facebook once, and was surprised at the sheer lack of response.  That may, of course, have something to do with it not being as funny as I think it is.  Welcome to my world.

But the fact is, what happens at either end of the escalator should come as a surprise to no one.  Escalators have been around for over a hundred years.  Despite our childhood fear of one day getting sucked under one of them (this will never, and has never actually happened [UPDATE: Okay.  Rarely.]), offenders continue to behave as if the behavior of the moving staircase is totally unpredictable.

Here in New York, we have a walk-on-the-left-stand-on-the-right policy of escalator etiquette.  It greatly reduces the number of stabbings per year.  Unsurprisingly, I am always on the left side.  For 80% of the escalator trip, I feel a sense of community with my Left-Side brethren.  We're in this together; a working, living, thriving chain of people moving in tandem to a common goal.  A strong sense of support and - WAIT JUST A GODDAMN SECOND.  WHY DID YOU STOP?  DIDN'T YOU KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?  IT'S THE SAME EVERY DAY!  IT DIDN'T CHANGE!

...and that's the end of the escalator ride.  It accounts for 10% of the time I'm annoyed.  The other 10% is the beginning.  People seem unprepared for what is about to happen.  "Oh, look!  An escalator!" they seem to say, before walking in that direction, "I should approach it slowly in case it randomly changes speed at strange intervals or suddenly becomes stairs."  And so I'm in a position of being among Slow Walkers at the beginning, and Stoppers at the end.  That 80% in the middle, though?  Gold.  Serene gold.

Don't worry, Sweetheart, I've got game. - Remember when I said before that I am often the guy babysitting the subway doors so I'm the first one to exit?  Well, this phrase is the one that someone is most likely to hear, simply because of my proximity to the offender.

When I'm standing at a subway door, waiting to leave the train, it is because I have direction.  I have a purpose.  And, most of the time, I'm prepared to hustle.  But sometimes people think they know better than me.  Sometimes, people stand right at my back, a little too close, as if to be saying to me, "Don't babysit the doors if you ain't prepared to hustle."  Being the person who said that to them earlier in the day, week, or same train ride, I can understand their plight.

But I've got game.  I'm prepared to hustle.  I walk faster than you.  So don't worry, Sweetheart.  Rest assured, you will get where you're going and will not be impeded by me in the slightest.  So back off a little bit.  You're breathing on my neck.

Get it done, Pokey. - I realize that many of these phrases are mere shorthand for the rules I've stated before.  Actually the reason I started this blog to begin with.  But I'm finishing this post with this particular phrase because it happens to be the one I'll actually repeat under my breath, regardless of if I'm on foot, on a bus, a subway or in a car.  Like a mantra.  Which then makes me like a crazy person.  Which then makes me fit right in to New York.

"Get it done, Pokey." is not dissimilar from Adam Sandler's "T-t-t-toDAY, Junior!" from that timeless classic, Billy Madison.  It is directed at conductors, drivers, bike riders, cashiers and (mostly) fellow pedestrians.  They don't seem to understand that there are people behind them, or otherwise stalled because of them.  I enjoy smelling the roses from time to time.  Hell, on rare occasions, you'll even catch me loping (though not often.  My gait does not lend itself to moseying, strolling, sauntering or other euphemisms.   My friend Andrew calls it my "Wilderness Stomp" and that he knows where I am at all times in Astoria because of how I walk.  I'm comforted by that).

But if I'm behind you, and you're walking abreast on the sidewalk, and you're texting, and eating, than I have a list of things I need you to read before you ever leave the house again.  It's a set of suggestions to help you avoid getting stabbed, too!  And to prevent you from stabbing me!  This mutually beneficial win/win guidebook can be found at www.iwalkfasterthanyou.blogspot.com.  Just don't read it on your phone while walking in front of me.  That's not how we do things, here.


Justification to Rename This Blog "We Walk Faster Than You"

It's been awhile since I posted.  Please allow me to recap what's been going on in my absence:

I got married.

That's pretty much it.  One might say, "Holy shit, Dude!  Congratulations!" or, "How's married life?" or even, "Pffft.  Ain't no excuse to not keep bloggin'."  To which I would say, "Thanks!", "The same, except now I have in-laws", and "You're right", respectively.

The week of the wedding, we rented a Mustang.  Traditionally, I have been the driver in our relationship, regardless of transmission type, country or natural setting.  It's just one of those things upon which we seem to have agreed at an early stage in our relationship.  Up until this past September, there had been only one exception:  New York City.

Now, I've driven from the Northern tip of New Zealand to the far South, in a manual transmission, on the LEFT-hand side of the road, but there has always been something about driving in New York that terrified me, so we would always pull over onto the shoulder somewhere just shy of the Lincoln Tunnel or the GWB and my Bride would take over.  This all came to an end a few months ago.

I decided, if I was going to man up and put a ring on this lady's finger, I needed to man up and learn how to drive in NYC, as well.  So over the course of that month, as we shuttled around town in our Mustang, I learned two important things about driving in The Big Apple, that you may either take as your own, or ignore.  It's entirely up to you:

  1. "NYC Taxi Drivers" shall henceforth be allowed to join dogs, sharks and bees on a list of "Things That Can Smell Fear".
  2. Driving on the Goethals Bridge is just as (if not more) distasteful than pronouncing it's name.
Happy New Year, Everybody.  My New Year's Resolution this year will end up being one of two things; either relax on my commute more (and therefore blog less), or blog more (and therefore relax less).  Either way, you'll be kept posted.


Rule #6: Single File in This Town, People

I'm not proud of this, but I'm going to admit something, here:  I don't really understand football.  Look, there are rules in every sport that the casual observer doesn't understand, right?  I love baseball, but I can't comprehend the "infield fly rule" as hard as I try.  I enjoy hockey, but have trouble understanding "icing", and generally look for blood when the puck itself is too hard to see.  Soccer is exciting, but I don't know when to be excited, exactly, because the clock counts UP and I never have any idea when the game is due to end.

So, American football.  I used to watch with some guys back in college who were always talking about their "fantasy team" and "the draft" and how so-and-so did a nice "pick" and so on.  I would always nod and smile and generally try to drink quietly and quickly until their conversation became interesting. 

(When we lived in New Zealand, we were turned onto a different sport:  RUGBY.  It turns out rugby is just like American football, except there's no padding or helmets, the refs don't ever stop the clock, and the cheerleaders look like hobbits.  I miss New Zealand.)

There was one time in particular, after I was sufficiently inebriated enough to admit my total ignorance of the sport, that I asked a buddy of mine the following question:

"Why doesn't the guy with the ball just run where there aren't any guys?"

Love football all you want.  Talk about how the coaches are super brilliant and how such and such a quarterback can Hail Mary a tight end until all hell breaks loose.  But at the end of the day, I haven't ever really gotten a good answer to this question.  You have the ball, and your job is to run to the end of a field with it.  There are people all in a line trying to stop you.  Why not just run where those people AREN'T?  Too often I'll watch a football game and see some dumbass with the ball try to jump THROUGH a crowd of guys who are, frankly, a lot taller and bigger than he is, and all he had to do was run like 10 feet to the right where the huge gap was and he would have been home free.  One day someone will give me a good answer to that question in the hopes of getting me to like something about football BESIDES the food at SuperBowl parties.  At which point I will shush them because I'll be watching rugby.

Can you see where I'm going with this?  Can you see where talking about a line of large people blocking you from reaching your goal would have a DIRECT CORRELATION to NYC commuting?  Ever walked on the sidewalk?

Side-by-side is rarely, if ever, acceptable.  I  understand it, and sometimes (on the rare occasion I mosey) I am guilty of holding hands with FiancĂ© as we walk down the sidewalk.  But here's the kicker (ha!):  if someone is coming towards us, or I hear someone trying to pass us from behind, I will scoot behind FiancĂ©.  She thinks I'm being polite.  It is actually because there's a good view when I'm behind her.  Pffft.  Whatever, it's win/win.

I've seen some of these rubes dragging their wheeled suitcases that boast airline tickets from some podunk flyover state when they're walking abreast in front of me, and I think, "Walk faster," which is what I generally think when I'm walking behind anyone, but it's worse in this scenerio.  In this scenerio, the sentence ends with a semi-colon and is finished with, "Single file in this town, People."

I like tourism.  I like that it brings money to the city.  I like that tourists riding the subway brings money to the MTA so they don't "have" to raise the fares for at LEAST another four months.  But if I were a tourist in, let's say FRANCE.  I'd at least ATTEMPT to order some food in French, right?  That's part of the fun of travelling!  Not just to SEE the Eiffel Tower, but also to live like the French... if even briefly.

Well, if that's the case, welcome to New York.  Feel free to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Times Square has a TON of space for you.  While you're here, however, we have a few rules for you to follow, if you don't mind.  First and foremost is this:  It's single file in this town, People.



Lauren of Astoria

My friend Lauren wrote an open letter to the MTA that I wish I had written.  Or at least signed.  But alas, I'm not nearly the writer she is.  Plus, we're all in this together, right?  This sweaty, smelly, humid subway car of life...


Dear MTA,

I am writing to tell you that you are in critical need of an ass kicking.

It has consistently been taking me about 30 minutes longer to get anywhere than it should. This is likely attributed to your colossal service cuts that eliminated scores of trains and the employees who operate them. This coincided with yet another rate hike. You charge me more, MTA, and you deliver me less.

You must not have been paying attention in Basic Business 101. You were flirting with the class burnout, weren’t you, MTA? Twirling your hair when you should’ve taken notes? You skipped school and raced out to the bleachers, just to find him with his hand up someone else’s shirt. It’s ok, MTA. It’s happened to us all.

But let me explain how it’s supposed to work. You promise to provide BETTER service and customers are incentivized to agree to a price increase. You get more money and give more service. Are we clear?

In the interest of better service, I’d like to make some suggestions.
I recommend that rather than scaling back on the people who drive the trains, perhaps you could curtail the people who ride them. For example, consider having a “bouncer” at each station, prohibiting the following groups from entering:
  • Old businessmen who tell me to smile
  • People over 6 feet tall
  • Tourists
  • Mariachi bands
  • Children
  • Passengers wearing any of the following:
    • Bedazzled shirts 
    • Backpacks
    • Cubic zirconia earrings 
    • Sunglasses 
    • SARS masks 
    • Clothes from the previous day 

This should prove to be a much more pleasant experience for Me, and surely some others. In fact, don’t limit yourself! You needn’t stop at people. There’s so much more to get rid of! A few candidates could be stairs, boomboxes blasting Sugarhill Gang, and instances in which I witness another human defecating inside a train car.
I hope you’ve found this useful, MTA. I’d tell you in person but it’d take me too long to get to your headquarters, 10 blocks away.
The WB


Missed Connection

My actual post on Craigslist this morning:

new york craigslist > queens > personals > missed connections

Brunette with blue bag on N train this morning - m4w - 32 (N train into Manhattan)

Date: 2011-05-27, 8:48AM EDT

You: The brunette on the N train this morning with a blue bag and jeans. You were reading "Getting the Love You Want" and you got on at Astoria Blvd. or 30th Ave. You sat next to me on the "loveseat"-style bench at the end of the car.

Me: The blond guy with sunglasses and a white button down shirt, doing a SuDoKu.

You know those guys who sit in the subway car and spread their knees as far apart as possible to air out their junk? Well, I'm not one of those guys. I was sitting against the rail with my feet on the floor. YOU, on the other hand, apparently ARE one of those guys, or the female equivalent. Why did you have to sit so close to me? There was SIX INCHES on your right, between you and the wall. Why didn't you move over? Why were you on top of me, breathing all heavy through your nose as if you'd just gotten back from an intense workout? I don't need that in the morning. I don't need that at ANY time.

At first, I thought maybe you were into me but didn't know how to "make your move". I figured since you were reading "Getting the Love You Want", you were trying to be more assertive. Then I realized, nope, you're just an idiot. A heavy breathing idiot with no regard for personal space. What made me change my mind was you reaching ACROSS me to grab the pole before the train stopped, and then KEEPING your bony-ass arm in my face after I tried to rise to exit the train.

After all this, however, I've decided to help you. I'm going to save you the trouble of finishing your book. I can tell you "how to get the love you want" right here on the Internet. I don't OWE you this, but it's Friday, and I'm feeling benevolent. You're welcome.

Getting the Love You Want:
Don't sit down too close to someone on the subway and breathe on them at 7 o'clock in the morning. Further, don't reach across them and stick your bony, hairy elbow in their face until you're actually ready to stand and exit the train. Men will notice this, and totally date you and ask you to have little babies with them. And then you can move to Long Island and you'll never have to ride the N train ever again.

  • Location: N train into Manhattan
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 2405430335