I wrote this guide for someone I think I've outgrown (truly my ex, part deux who if I'd married instead would be the target of my anger and feelings of betrayal right now). He recently moved here & I figured I'd tell him what I'd have wanted to know when I moved here 7.5 years ago since that's the sort of thing I do for friends who've been there in my dark times.
Some of it was general, some was specific to what I knew about him.
As I wrote it, I figured it would be a great thing to post for my readers (especially those of you not from NYC, who've wanted to visit or would just be way out of their league coming to NYC). Here you go & make sure to thank me if you have averted even one local kicking your ass or flipping you off:
1. Rule #1: The MTA sucks. This is a fact of life irrelevant to which borough you live in. The subway platforms are cold in the winter & hot in the summer while the trains are the opposite. You will get squashed in rush hour or if the train has been delayed so there's also the body heat factor to consider.
2. Ask when apartments you are looking at were built. Chances are, you're not going to have the money for the newly renovated, fancy new places & if that building is pre-1980s, you don't want to use large appliances b/c you will experience power overloads.
3. Central air is non-existent in NYC. I suggest you get some nice window A/C units with a decent, but not huge, BTU. Plenty of places are sweltering in the summer, including subway stations. You will barely feel it in some places, especially on the hottest days (think heat index of 95+). Southerners, including me, fly into murderous rage in those conditions. See “Do The Right Thing” for an example.
4. Infestations, including bedbugs, roaches & rats: ASK about these in apartment hunting. If the place doesn't allow you to get a cat (they are masters at killing mice & some kill other creatures; I say this from firsthand knowledge), inform them that it'd better be fucking spotless.
Bedbugs are a serious threat in this city & owners are required to take care of that mess ASAP. It's a city law & you can call 311 about it.
Pet friendly buildings exist but can be hard to find. If they don't allow pets, they'd best be VERY diligent in dealing with rats, roaches and other creepy crawlies. Think of it this way: a girl does NOT want to get busy in a place with any of that mess. It would be a huge turnoff for me & probably 99% of womankind. Don't let anybody tell you roaches or rats are inevitable; my place was roach free & Stormy (the gray cat) took care of the very few little mice that showed up.
5. Some apps you need to get if you're going to be in NYC:
A) Embark (it's got the NYC subway map & tells you about delays & diversions on the trains)
B) HopStop (it's the best way to get directions to anywhere in NYC from where you are; it will tell you about diversions based on the time you're going, show you maps & so forth)
C) Yelp (If you're looking for a food place nearby or trying to remember where one is, this app will give you that info instantly. It's been a huge help to me if I wanted to find a Chinese restaurant or see how a place's reviews are. Also useful to get the number or see if a place is open at the time)
D) Groupon (you can get local deals on here & there's tons of stuff in NYC)
E) ABCEats (this is for the restaurant sanitation grades; maybe you don't have those where you are or never noticed them in your experience but it's a HUGE factor to me since they were in places I lived; you might be going out w/some girl who's also used to those & doesn't want to go to a grade C place)
F) NYC Condoms/find condoms (an app that tells you where you can get free condoms in NYC)
G) NYC 311 (this app lets you make complaints to the city without having to sit through 311's ridiculous automated system, which is a pain in the ass)
Apps that are useful if you are driving or in a car with someone:
A) Google Maps (it helped me a lot in CT but it's a power drain)
B) Waze (this one tells you about traffic on the road, has cute animations & you can warn people about road and driving conditions; if you go down a road that's not on the map, you can also get points in their system; also a power drain but you can also use it to get directions in the suburbs)
6. How to avoid beggars, subway performers and screaming kids on the subway: Get a pair of ear buds & an iPod or MP3 player with lots of songs you like on it. This comes in handy when some guy brings you a sob story or some woman straps a baby to herself & begs for money or someone prances their physical deformity around. Skullcandy has a lifetime warranty on their ear buds so when they inevitably die, you can get free replacements if you kept receipts or someone gave you some as a gift.
Books work if you can get a seat but if you can't, it can be very difficult to read & avoid all that mess while you're standing. With a music player, you can just let it play and if you leave it alone it won't matter if you're sitting or standing.
7. Don't be one of those people afraid of the subway or who always takes cabs: I will make fun of people for it, would call someone like that an elitist to their face & tell them they have no financial management skills. The only exceptions are severe physical injury or recent surgery, having a ton of luggage to take with you, a strict time deadline like catching a plane or train, not paying for it yourself or maybe being some mega-celebrity who'll get mobbed if they get on the subway. However, I hear there are celebrities who take the subway so that's not the greatest justification for it. Being rich also isn't an excuse to waste money.
If my mother, sister & oldest nephew (who was 3 at the time) took the subway and survived, there's no reason anyone else can't. They aren't city folk & if they weren't scared little babies about taking public transit, no one else gets to be in my presence. Quite a few LI folk my ex knew (including my MIL) were scared little crybabies about it.
You are NOT a real New Yorker if you can't handle the subway.
8. Giving to beggars/panhandlers: You are under NO obligation at all to give to them. In fact, it's illegal for them to solicit you. I have had people try to personally solicit me on the subway & walking around the city. I told the one on the subway about that law & he pretended not to hear me but backed off. There's also means to outcrazy the crazy if you need to.
Oh, and there are no panhandling hotties, male or female. Most of these people are scammers so don't follow altruistic instincts. If you seen someone falling & bleeding, just call the cops. Don't approach that person. Sane women will not hold it against you if you refuse to cater to panhandlers.
Physical deformities and children don't move me in light of people I know personally in those categories who have never resorted to harassing commuters for money.
9. Giving to performers & candy sellers: If you're moved to give to a good performer, why not? If they're bringing their A game & I feel like it, I might do it. My standards are high, though. Breakdancers, good actors, good singers, things that make me laugh or sheer honesty will make me consider it.
The people selling candy (usually young black men) can be awesome if their selection is good. On the further parts of the L in Brooklyn, they only seem to have peanut M&Ms and Welch's Fruit Snacks. But if someone's selling 100 Grand Bars or World's Finest Chocolate, I'll buy since they're harder to find & I like those. Candy bars are typically $1 each. These are different from beggars in my book since they're providing a useful good; I think the MTA ought to hire them to sell candy to commuters but that's just me.
You can also find churro sellers & cotton candy in some subway stations. I've only had the churros; if you don't care about messing up your clothes & need something really unhealthy, they're a good sugary snack. Their bags are also $1 & I believe you get 2-3 sticks of them.
10. Strangers approaching you: This is a frequent occurrence on the NYC streets and subway stations. 9 times out of 10, it will be a waste of your time. People will try handing you flyers, bothering you about petitions (they usually wear shirts advertising some cause), convert you to their faith, sell you things, etc. Avoid & ignore unless you dropped something & a stranger is giving it to you. That happens a lot in NYC (and they call us “rude”). If you didn't actually drop something or it's a religious proselytizer, just ignore that person.
Do NOT fall for the “Free Stress Test.” That's the Scientologists & they are a scary bunch. You are living under a rock if you don't know about that.
The religious nuts usually hang out in Union Square, Times Square & Broadway Junction. They also like to get on subways & preach at you, sometimes for multiple stops. Beggars usually move along quickly but some religious nuts will preach endlessly. Had a horrific experience on the J after getting back from Long Island one Thanksgiving. That is a moment you'll want that music player & ear buds.
11. NYC Attitude: It's survival of the fittest. Most of us walk fast. Subway delays drive us crazy since we have things to do, places to go & people to see. It's perfectly okay to take the empty seat in the subway (and if you give it up for a pretty girl, you'll get points for your chivalry), tell slow people & those blocking your path “excuse me” in a sharp tone, not fall for the extorted politeness some people try to pull (I told one guy that it wasn't how chivalry works since if you're just being polite for the praise, it defeats the purpose), even shove people out of the way to get on or off the subway. An MTA employee actually told us to do this to get on the subway when I was checking out the place I later moved into.
Don't worry about what people think of you. If you're going to be a NYC resident, you have no time to worry about offending people for not being the most polite person in America. You have to be tough & nasty sometimes.
Always look like you know where you're going, even if you don't. Those apps I mentioned will help you know what you're doing but if you need directions, ask an MTA employee or a cop. You could also ask random people if the train is going to a particular place & they'll usually tell you. Also, don't smile, pull out cash or maps; you will look like a tourist. I've seen people do this & been tempted to take advantage myself.
Feel free to yell out comments, give the finger or rage against assholery. I have serious pedestrian rage & road rage. Perhaps I do it in a way that makes people laugh (it lets me blow off steam) but if some jerk in a truck or a bus blocks my crosswalk, I will give them a dirty look or the finger. Same for people violating the traffic lights or who might dare to think to hit me while I'm crossing the street. Bike riders are especially notorious for violating crosswalks & zooming out when you've got the right of way. Just remember it's YOUR turf if you're a pedestrian.
You will know you are a true NYC resident when random people constantly ask you for directions & the bus tour guys don't approach you.
If you don't want to get stuck behind groups of tourists in places like Penn Station or Times Square, walk past the sidewalk on the road. You'll see the fast walkers over there, the people traveling with a purpose. You'll get where you're going a lot quicker doing that & it makes you look like you live here.
12. Subway Platforms/Temperature: Bundle up for the outside subway platforms. They get cold & windy. So does anyplace in NYC next to high buildings, near the water or where there's lots of traffic zooming by.
13. Suspiciously Empty Subway Cars: Don't go in these!!! They are empty for a reason, usually a very rank homeless person or odor, no A/C or heat or some other very good reason for it. This only applies to rush hour or where you see one empty car while the other ones are jam packed.
14. Public Transit to Avoid: Some routes are inevitable but if you can help it avoid the G and the J trains. Queens is a full on bus borough with some areas you can't get to on the NYC subway (Glendale & Maspeth to name 2 examples). I generally avoid the bus as much as I can since they are crowded, not as reliable and are more uncomfortable if they are crowded. This also goes for shuttle buses to replace subway routes. If you can avoid dealing with a shuttle bus, do it.
You'll thank me. I went through the hell of relying on the bus system in Atlanta so I know what I'm talking about.
15. Playing the Lawyer Card (if you are actually a lawyer; faking it is a felony in NY state): I encourage it & say it do it when necessary. I did it once when I was on a bus during a 90+ degree day where the driver had non-existent A/C on. I loudly talk about how some elderly person & children will collapse in the heat and own the MTA after the lawsuit. That driver cranked up the A/C real quick & I think I even referenced being an attorney as I did this so I could go represent that injured person.
16. NYC Residents Aren't Rude: We aren't. Generally if you leave people alone, they will leave you alone. If anyone gives you shit, see #11 & follow that. The motto here is “You leave me alone & I'll leave you alone.” Violation of that motto is bad business for all involved.
17. Find out about the Local Post Office, Police Precinct, FedEx & UPS: USPS tends to leave much to be desired in many parts of NYC. The one I had to deal with was horrid & known for being royally terrible, even on the Consumer Affairs Hotline. Yelp will come in handy for looking at reviews but if you can talk to people who live there about it, even better.
Same goes for the police precinct & the local UPS and FedEx locations. My police precinct was known for getting there too late to be effective & generally horrible. UPS also never left our packages or even rang our bell half the time. You had to go to a non-subway accessible location to get packages. I even had a UPS delivery guy bitch about carrying a heavy object we ordered up to my second floor apartment. FedEx was okay since you could sign an authorization allowing them to leave your delivery at the doorstep the next day & they followed that. As a rule, most package services won't do that unless you have a doorman or something.
Speaking of USPS, get the name of your local congress person. I once had to call up our local congresswoman when my post office “lost” a package of ours. After they investigated, it mysteriously turned up.
18. Grocery Stores: Grocery stores in NYC fall into 2 categories: expensive & shitty. You will get a better selection at stores in Long Island (having a car or a Zipcar membership will help).
The Food Emporium (an expensive grocery store) is owned by the same company that owns Waldbaums so if you have a Waldbaums discount card, you can use that at The Food Emporium.
19. Access to Bathrooms: Finding a bathroom in NYC without buying something in a business is a challenge. I'm going to make it easier for you & tell you where you can go for ones that have decent ladies rooms. The Grand Hyatt near Grand Central is a great restroom location. Hotel bathrooms in general are very nice, especially the one at The Plaza Hotel. I've never had problems getting into them & if you aren't a person of color or dress like a thug, you should be okay as well.
You can also use the bathroom in Starbucks if the Starbucks is big enough to have one; you don't have to buy anything first. There's also a bathroom at Brooks Brothers; I believe the one I went to was in the East 40s or 50s. You can also go to the Burlington Coat Factory near Union Square but the ladies room leaves much to be desired.
Apparently, you can also use bar bathrooms without buying things but some of those are TINY or really gross.
20. Libraries: NY Public all the way, at least in Manhattan. It's much cleaner, their policies strictly forbid nasty odors (basically, no homeless allowed) & they strike me as less likely to put up with thug shit. The branches I've been to are less sketchy. The Bronx & Staten Island are part of the NY Public library system.
I have no experience with Brooklyn but my experience with Queens is well documented. My ex still works at Queens Public.
21. Insurance: Car insurance here isn't that cheap. If you take a driving course, you can lower your car insurance rate.
22. Apartment Seasonal Norms: Landlords typically cover heat. If you have A/C units or some pump system, you're going to be paying $300+ a month in the summer for electric bills. However, you NEED A/C in the summer (at least this NC native does) if you want summer loving. It can get too hot for sex & I say that from experience. Plus, you might not want to go naked all the time if you don't have A/C. Most people can be horrendous to deal with if they are sweating their behinds off from no A/C; I know I can be a super bitch about it.
23. Quiet? Ha! You're not getting it here. Move to the suburbs if you want that. This is the city that never sleeps, unless you're in a more “family” oriented neighborhood & even then you've still got the subway and traffic.
24. Laundry: If you can get a washer & dryer in your place, you'll be a very happy person. I've met people who had smaller ones. Places with hookups can be hard to find. Most people have to go to laundromats, sometimes located a distance from where they are.
I used to get a laundry service to pick up & return our clothes since I hated the local laundromat (for good reason) & figured the cost evened out after we factored in gas, labor and washing materials to go to my MIL's house (the service provided detergent & rinse if you didn't have your own stuff you wanted to use).
Let's also not forget that laundromats have loud children running wild, annoying people & TVs blaring shows you have no interest in.
If you find yourself having to hang out in a laundromat, I suggest bringing a book or someone to make out with while you wait or it will be torture. Drying costs could also kill you; the standard is 25 cents for 8-9 minutes of drying.
25. Cell Reception: It's far from universal on the MTA.
Usually if the platform is outside, you'll get cell reception (though you'll freeze your butt off, at least I do).
The west side has more Wi-Fi than the east side in Manhattan. You won't get reception at Union Square, West 4th Street or the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center stops. You also won't get it on the L past 6th Avenue until you get to Wilson Avenue (but only if you're traveling to Brooklyn since that platform is outside but the one going to Manhattan isn't), again at Broadway Junction & any outside platforms past there.
You'll figure some of this out on your own or by reading Yelp reviews.
26. Meeting Women: It's not really kosher to try picking them up on the subway unless you can do it in a non-creepy way (say knocking into someone “accidentally” on a crowded train at rush hour or asking the time like the guy I told you about). Giving a compliment is also a little creepy & startling. Guys have tried picking me up on the subway & 9 times out of 10, it's creepy.
My suggestion if you don't want to go through friends or family is online dating sites. OkCupid has you answer a bunch of questions that they use to determine your match percentage. It is free.
You could also try stepping in to rescue her from a creep if you can tell she's uncomfortable. I'd appreciate a guy doing that for me, as long as he wasn't trying to extort politeness or sex from me.
* While we're on the subject of women, foreplay is your friend. Do NOT be the guy who refuses to engage in it. A good 90% of womankind loves foreplay & in my book, a guy not doing that is either a lazy, selfish prick or a rapist. Rapists don't care about the woman's comfort or enjoyment, as we all know. Ask yourself if you really want to be thought of as akin to a rapist.
When a guy tells me he doesn't like it or thinks it's a waste of time, I hear "I don't give a damn about your happiness or pleasure & only care about myself." Worse, I or any other woman could easily believe that you don't respect the word "no" or care if you put us in pain. Don't believe me? Go ask the source directly. Seek honest answers. Not a single woman I have ever met where the subject came up said she didn't like foreplay. Any who would consider themselves sexual beings have said they like foreplay to some degree. *
Just needed to say that last part. Debate me on it if you want but bring your A game if you dare to do it.