My new series: Even more lessons learned from New York City

My two recent posts about lessons I’ve learned since moving to New York City have done really well in terms of traffic, so I’ve decided to create a bi-monthly series on the things I pick up on in this new place. I usually just blog about my personal updates, but think it would be beneficial for both me and my audience to read about something bigger than my daily complaints, so here are a few more lessons I have learned from spending time in NYC:

1. Upscale stores in the Meatpacking District are always empty

When it comes to work, I hit the jackpot. Our offices are located in the Meatpacking District, a beautiful but low-key part of the west village that attracts celebrities (Amanda and I saw Tyler Perry at lunch yesterday and Rihanna recently dined at Pastis), cute restaurants…and trophy wives. I could be totally off on that last one, but it’s my only explanation for all the deserted stores around Bleecker Street and the surrounding cobblestone roads. These ladies must be the only people who shop there during the day. I walk past all these cute shops multiple times a day — around 10 each morning, in the late afternoon for lunch, and in the early evening — and never see anybody in the stores. My boss Elizabeth says it’s a huge deal for businesses to acquire lot space on the universally adored Bleecker Street, so perhaps placement alone is enough of an honor.

Even so, I’m still constantly asking myself how these places can stay afloat and thrive in this economy. With the Recession, there’s no way people can live lavishly and shop during each lunch break, so it makes sense that these stores are pretty vacant. What I don’t get however, is why the Jimmy Choo’s store around Greenwich has a scowling male employee lingering by the front door everyday (side note: I don’t buy anything from Jimmy Choo’s, it’s just on the way to Dos Toros. You probably already knew that I’d die before throwing down $600 on a pair of uncomfortable heels). That’s just about the most uninviting sales tactic ever. Jimmy Choo’s folks, take a hint: If your Bleecker Street location has no one in it, you need to bring Mr. Grinch back inside.

2. Subways are the only place in the city to disconnect

On the subway home the other day, I told Elizabeth that the underground train’s lack of phone service disturbs and frustrates me. If the DC metro system can provide phone service, I said, ever-efficient NYC is absolutely capable of doing the same.

“What if our train were to get stuck in a tunnel for a half hour? We’d have no way of calling work to inform everyone of the situation,” I said.

“That’s just the mystique of the subway, Laura,” she said. “This is the only spot in New York City where people truly have an excuse to disconnect. If someone tried to reach you during your ride, you could always just call them afterward and say, ‘Sorry I missed your call, I was in the subway.’ With phone service down here, we’d be connected 24/7. New Yorkers are already Type A enough as it is. They don’t need more accessibility than they have.”

When quoting others, I usually only include a sentence or two, but Elizabeth explained everything better than I could have in my own paragraph, so there you have it. Regardless, I still think the subway system needs phone service for everybody’s safety. The underground system also always weakens my battery, and that has to stop.

3. Coffee trucks are faster, better, cheaper, and more pleasant than Starbucks

After you start going to coffee trucks, regular coffee shops become impractical places to get your morning cup of joe, at least if you’re in a hurry. Coffee car employees are friendly (even though they call you “sweetheart” to the point of discomfort), products inexpensive, and service fast. The worker usually gives me a free donut as well, so I’ll take coffee truck pet names over long lines, tense people, and skyrocketed prices at Starbucks.

4. Starbucks locations in NYC are slower than anywhere else in the world

This encapsulates my NYC Starbucks experiences.

Before I quit going to Starbucks before work, I spent an average of fifteen minutes in the coffee shop each morning. You’d think NYC Starbucks locations would be faster than all other stores in the country, but it’s quite the opposite. I’ve sworn off NYC Starbucks, so if you ever catch me in one — whether via Twitter or through a passing comment — tell me I need to get my priorities straight. Starbucks simply can’t keep up with me or NYC anymore.

5. There are too many restrooms with assistants who expect tips

Seriously, how is this OK? There were a few bathrooms in DC bars with assistants to hand you towels and all that, but I feel like they’re unavoidable here. I don’t know anyone rich enough to pay someone to squirt soap into their hands, so this is another trend that should disappear very soon. I’m sorry, but I cannot justify paying someone to turn on the faucet for me.

6. The G train isn’t as awful as people say

Coming from DC, where the metro system is about as reliable as a late-night hookup buddy, I consider NYC transportation to be a dream. Sure I have to wait ten minutes for the G train in the morning, but that’s all I know. In the district, all I ever did was wait for the metro. It seemed awful there, but isn’t such an unpleasant experience here. No G train hate from my end, but I do look forward to relocating to Manhattan early next year.

OK, this G train station is admittedly disgusting and was probably the site of a murder at some point.

7. Grocery stores go from being peaceful to stressful

Don’t laugh, but one of the best parts of my childhood was going to Safeway three times a week with my father. We used the grocery trips to catch up, poke fun at other customers, and talk about our family. When he passed away, grocery store trips became a nuisance and burdensome, mainly because I hated going by myself and having no one to joke around with. There was also the fact that urban food stores are stressful environments.

Take for instance Whole Foods in Union Square:

The products are wonderful, but location a madhouse. People constantly pour in and out of the front doors, the checkout lines are disorienting and long, and the aisles are narrow and crowded. I encounter the same issue on a regular basis in other Manhattan grocery shops such as Westside Market, Chelsea Market, and Bed Bath & Beyond (which sells organic food), and it kind of makes me sad that something that was once relaxing and a good escape has turned into another source of stress.

8. Things that were once easy are now extremely hard

In college, I never thought twice about going to Target, Safeway, or Bed Bath & Beyond.  After all, I had a car to transport all my shopping bags. Because so few people have vehicles in New York, they’re forced to take the subway or a taxi to do once easy necessities like grocery shopping and laundry. This requires planning and stuffing tiny train cars with giant grocery or laundry bags. In the past, I wouldn’t have worried at all about how much food to purchase or whether that large pillow will take up too much room on the subway, but both of these concerns cross my mind pretty much every time I buy things outside of Brooklyn now. This doesn’t upset me, it’s just interesting.

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