What didn’t happen to us in New York
Actually, before I start ranting on about what didn’t happen to me in New York, I’ll tell you something that did.
During our first night in our Staten Island hotel, at about 3.30 in the morning, the fire alarm went off. We tried unsuccessfully to ignore it (heads under pillows and that sort of thing), but eventually realised that it was going on way too long to be a drill. We dragged on our jeans and headed out into the hall, which was filled with smoke. As we couldn't use the elevators during a fire we walked down five flights of stairs to reception. (Actually I didn’t so much walk as shuffle. At three in the morning, I look like this.) Anyhoo, we got downstairs and asked the receptionist guy what was going on. He was totally and completely indifferent to the whole affair.
“It’s probably just somebody smoking a cigarette that set off the alarm,” he said.
“Um, no,” we reply, appalled by his apathy. “Our floor is filled with smoke.”
Mr. Blasé finally gets the message and calls the fire brigade.
This makes me wonder: First we get stuck in a lift in Seville, and now this. Is Karma finally catching up with me? I don’t remember my previous lives, but I bet I did something really, really bad in at least one of them... possibly in all of them. I’m sure I’ve got some serious retribution coming my way!
As I was hanging around the lobby wondering when, exactly, the Universe was gonna kick me in the butt, the fire brigade arrived. A quick investigation turned up a faulty electrical socket in a closet near our room. Mr. Blasé behind the desk soon loses his nonchalance, ‘cos the Fire Chief proceeds to read him the riot act for violation of some law or another. Each hotel is supposed to have a fire officer on duty 24/7; our hotel had to drag their fire officer out of bed!
And that brings me back to my subject heading: ways in which TV has lied. Anybody who has watched London’s Burning or that awful American series with Denis Leary would probably get the impression that fire fighting is a tremendously exciting job. It isn’t. At least, it wasn’t for the poor blokes who were called to our hotel. They walked in carrying axes and hoses and impressive stuff like that, then mainly stood around looking bored. Eventually the Chief said, “Show’s over,” and they all went back to the station. Seriously, the most exciting part of the night was listening to the desk clerk getting an ear bashing.
Colour me disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I wanted a rerun of The Towering Inferno or anything like that, but it would have been nice if the fellas had got to soak something, or give someone a fireman’s lift.
I know, I know, I watch way too much TV. But this did get me thinking...
Many movies are set in NYC, and a lot of them have thrilling and dangerous plotlines. If TV shows or films were in any way realistic, here’s a list of things I might reasonably expect to experience in New York:
- We could be attacked by supernatural entities (Ghostbusters), or monsters will rampage through the city (Cloverfield)
- We could find ourselves in the middle of a mob shootout (The Sopranos)
- There could be an alien invasion (Independence Day)
- A good cop might chase a bad guy through the subway system (Nighthawks)
- Global warming might finally catch up with us and a new ice age will arrive (The Day After Tomorrow)
- Or, scariest of all, we might be subjected to yuppies who sit around in coffee shops all day and whine (Friends).
But it doesn’t stop there. Granted most of the above scenarios are pretty far-fetched, but Hollywood tells little white lies, too. Here’s a list of more reasonable stuff that also failed to occur:
Myth: Buses will stop when you wave at them, whether you are at a bus stop or not.
Reality: If you try flagging down a bus anywhere except at a bus stop, you will get an extremely filthy look from the driver. If you are really lucky, they won’t try and run you over as they fly past.
Myth: You can take as long as you like saying goodbye to someone at the Greyhound station. The bus will happily wait.
Reality: Greyhound bus drivers are, in our experience, people with dominant personalities and a schedule to keep. Those buses will leave on time, whether or not you happen to be on ‘em.
Myth: NYC taxi drivers honk their horns all the time and rant at you for the duration of your journey.
Reality: Our drivers were very reserved and hardly spoke at all. Also there was very little horn-honking. In our entire time there we only saw one altercation, and that was between a taxi driver and a bloke in a sports car. (They stopped in the middle of the road for a good old slanging match!)
Myth: New Yorkers are neurotic and unfriendly (and this from a Cambridge University study!)
Reality: The people in New York were as polite and friendly as people we have encountered in other parts of America. Before I arrived, I actually believed that walking down the street in NYC was going to be a major chore. I anticipated being crushed in crowds of rushed people and yelled at by irate drivers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, the streets do get crowded, but nobody was rude or jostled us, and drivers were considerate and patient. Sorry, Cambridge braniacs, but our experiences just don’t correlate to your findings!
Alright, enough silliness. I suppose I really ought to tell you what we did instead of just banging on about the telly. We:
Rode the Staten Island ferry
Due to the extortionate price of hotel rooms on the mainland, we chose to stay on Staten Island. We got to take the ferry a lot, which meant that we got to see the Statue of Liberty a lot, too. Actually, the ferry is a fabulous service. It runs 24 hours a day and is free! Our hotel also provided a complimentary shuttle service to and from the ferry terminal, so although it required one car, one boat and a subway ride to get into central Manhattan, it only took about an hour.
Lady Liberty - A gift to the United States from France to represent the friendship between the two countries. I guess nothing lasts forever, though, eh? Anti-French sentiment here has meant that in some places 'French Fries' have been renamed 'Freedom Fries'! I say they're both wrong; everybody knows they're called 'chips' :-)
Walked through famous streets
A large part of our time in NYC was spent just walking and enjoying the fact that we were finally there. Must-sees included Times Square (including an obligatory beer at the Hard Rock Café), Rockefeller Plaza and 42nd Street.
Strolled through Central Park
To be honest we didn’t see the entire park ‘cos it was much bigger than we expected it to be. Well, that and the fact that the main reason I wanted to go there in the first place was for a horse and carriage ride.
Saw Grand Central Station
And had prohibitively expensive drinks at one of the bars there.
Visited the Guggenheim
They had a Kandinsky exhibition on, which was interesting if a little bizarre, but actually we thought the museum building itself was worth seeing. It’s got a spiral viewing gallery, and a central skylight – one of the more unusual galleries we’ve visited, for sure!
Went to the observation deck of the Empire State Building
Our timing was perfect that day. We had anticipated huge lines of people and ridiculous waiting times, but we went straight in and were on the observation deck in no time at all. The place was obviously set up for hundreds of visitors ‘cos they had those huge thick velvet ropes everywhere to direct the queues, but apparently going during the off-season has its advantages!
I really wish that we had spent more time in New York as there was so much more to see, but it is very expensive and we didn’t want to give the budget more of a battering than necessary. We both agree that if we get the chance to go there again we will definitely take it – although next time we might just say “Hang the expense” and pay for a room in the city so we can take advantage of the night life without worrying about getting home again.
Fabulous city, fabulous people (and fab delicatessens, too, though I promised not to talk about food in this entry, didn’t I? Ah well, you’ll just have to take my word for it!)
Julie and Pete