Pedestrians and Bicycles

I’m oblivious. Will I get hit?

With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.

A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.

I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.

I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.

Not Wearing a Mask Outside!

I live on the Upper West Side in New York City, near Riverside Park, one of the city’s most beautiful parks. There’s no question that my daily walks through Riverside Park during the pandemic’s lockdown were how I managed to enjoy a regular exercise routine. Those walks also helped keep me from feeling isolated.

However, last spring and summer, like most New Yorkers, I wore two masks outdoors all the time. I’d walk past blooming trees and bushes in the spring and couldn’t smell their fragrance. I remember once taking a walk after a drenching spring rainstorm and, with no one around, briefly removed both masks to inhale the smell of the wet earth and trees. It was truly a memorable moment.

Now, however, since I’m vaccinated, I’m not wearing any mask outside, and the smell of the park’s trees, flowers and earth are everywhere on my walks.

It’s extraordinary how the many deprivations caused by the pandemic cause us to appreciate what we have in ways we may never have before.

The Mask! A New Normal.

Mask*

I’m very grateful for all the Etsy shops selling masks now.  I’ve bought a few with filter pockets and am inserting cut-up vacuum cleaner bags or Scott Shop towels.  They seem to work just fine, fit snugly and let me continue to breathe through them.

My building requires everyone to mask-up in all public spaces: elevators, hallways, lobby, laundry room, mail room.  So putting on a mask is as much a part of my apartment-leaving routine as taking my keys.

When I venture out for short walks on Riverside Drive, about 90% of the people during this week #8 are wearing masks.  That percentage has certainly increased in the past few weeks, although there are a few people wearing them around their chins.  It’s not clear what they’re thinking since there aren’t that many places in NYC where you’re not 6′ away from another human being.  So having them constantly over your nose and mouth is certainly the way to go.

A stubborn group of non-mask-wearers are the runners who (mostly) don’t have them on.  It’s also hard to stay out of their way when they run in the middle of the walkway.  Maybe they haven’t heard the news that there’s a pandemic, or, as Governor Cuomo said, maybe they’re just selfish.

I’m hoping I’ll get used to the feeling of wearing a mask before those 90 degree high humidity days begin here in the city.  Then wearing a mask on a cool spring day will seem pretty pleasant. No question that, as with most things and this pandemic, it can always be worse.

 

Loud Talkers on the Bus!

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I got on the M72 bus last week on Broadway, heading east to York Avenue, pulled out my Kindle, and resumed reading a book I’m really enjoying.  I was looking forward to the long ride and a good read.  I found one of the coveted single seats on the right side of the bus and settled in.  As luck would have it, 2 women sitting a few feet away in the handicapped seats behind the driver, resumed their conversation at a fairly high decibel level as soon as we pulled away from the curb.

I tried to read but it was difficult and I put my Kindle down in my lap.  Mercifully, one of them got off at West 72nd Street and Central Park West.  I was delighted as I swiped the bottom of the reader and resumed reading.  But no sooner did one of the loud talkers get off, then I heard a women get on and immediately begin a conversation with the driver.  “Uh oh,” I thought.  This bodes ill.

She proceeds to swipe her card, sits down and then within seconds she begins a conversation in a very loud voice with a woman in the first single seat right ahead of me.  I’m cooked.  I grab my Kindle, abandon my seat and move further back in the bus.

This second women manages to keep up a loud steady stream of words as it heads all the way to York Avenue,  although in doing so, she forgets to pull the cord to get off the bus at the stop before on First Avenue.  She starts yelling at the driver to stop the bus so she can get off.  The driver can’t and won’t do that.  I chuckle to myself in the back of the bus.

Here’s the moral of this story:  Don’t talk so loudly on the bus so other passengers get annoyed and wish you miss your stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rainy Mother’s Day in NYC

RainyMother'sDay

It’s been raining so much in New York City lately that pretty soon we’ll need an ark.  It rained with a particular vengence yesterday, which happened to be Mother’s Day.  My family celebrated the occasion with a very nice lunch at a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Afterwards, I decided I would slosh my way uptown, or at least as far as the downpours and gusty winds would permit.

I actually made it to 34th Street, but during those 30-or-so blocks,  I kept noticing how many people were walking around holding flowers –presumably for Mother’s Day–along with umbrellas.

So despite the gloom and sogginess of New York City yesterday (and today), the sidewalks and the subways were alive with color.  Flowers don’t seem to have much of a scent anymore so their abundance didn’t help make the streets or subways more aromatic.  But, that aside,  it was extremely nice to have them to help cheer everyone up from the gloom and rain, including,  I’m sure, all the mothers who ultimately received them.

Being Kind Can Make YOU Happy

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There are many recommendations for how to improve your level of happiness.  I think one easy one is simply to be kind to someone else.  Sometimes it takes just the smallest gesture, like holding open a door, giving up your seat on the subway or bus, letting someone with a few items at the checkout get ahead of you if you have a cart full, picking up something that’s fallen for someone whose arms are full.  These are really just a few.

I’d like to think that I’m helping to raise the level of civility in society today, which is sorely in need of it.

The next time you do something, just spend an extra second thinking about how the ‘thank you’ of the person you helped made you feel.  Nice, huh?

The Problem with Noisy NYC Restaurants!

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Have you noticed how difficult it is to have a normal conversation in many NYC restaurants these days?  It seems that many restauranteurs are placing tables closer together, presumably, to maximize income.  Many also favor hard surfaces on walls, ceilings and floors so sound doesn’t get as readily absorbed.  Some even play background music.  I’ve heard that higher ambient noise levels are markers of hipness and trendiness.  The consequence of all this is that people have to talk even louder to hear each other across the table and have a normal conversation at the estimated 60 decibels. Just by way of reference, decibel levels above 85 are considered harmful and warrant earmuffs, or earplugs, to protect your hearing.

Of course, there are very posh Manhattan restaurants that favor quieter surroundings, with tables spaced further apart and softer surfaces to absorb sound.  But they come with much higher price tags for a lunch or dinner.  It seems we pay much more for quiet.

My friends have favored frequenting popular Manhattan restaurants at off-hours to try to avoid both crowds and high noise levels, with lunches planned for 2:00 pm or dinners at 5:00 pm.  Of course, with that schedule, you really couldn’t work up much of an appetite if you did both in one day.

I have even known people who sat across from each other at a NYC restaurant and communicated in text messages, because verbal communication was extremely difficult.

If you’re really curious about restaurant decibel levels, you can buy a low-cost meter on Amazon for less that $20.   However, it’s not entirely clear what you’d do with the high reading at any favorite restaurant, except avoid going or seeing what their Early Bird Special looks like.  We could also look into bringing back the old-fashioned ear horn.

I Love Letter Grades on NYC Restaurants!

LetterGradeMed*

I recently spent a long weekend in Philadelphia, which hasn’t implemented letter grades on restaurants to show whether they meet the city’s sanitary code.  I have to say, I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable to food poisoning going into some places that looked like that might have had some undesirable kitchen visitors.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt but tried to order the most basic food I could.  Not quite bread and water but no oysters or sushi, that’s for sure.

I’ve come to rely on the presumed cleanliness of those restaurants in the New York City that receive an “A” grade.   I also try to avoid neighborhood restaurants that have a “Grade Pending”, especially if they’ve earned an “A” in the past.   I’m not positive about this but I assume that means they’ve fallen from grace after an inspection.  New York City life is unpredictable enough without having to wrestle with Salmonella or some other problem caused by eating in an icky restaurant.  I’ll take the “A” grades all the time.

Like Walking Among Zombies

Zombies

It’s pretty remarkable these days how many people are tuned in and zoned out and listening to, or looking at, their phones.  I was on the subway recently and counted 6 out of the 8 people on the seats opposite who were looking at, or listening to, their phones.  Of the remaining two, one was asleep. The other was reading the print edition of The New York Times.  Quaint.

It’s especially interesting on the city’s streets to see how many people are plugged into their phones, seemingly oblivious to the city around them.  I’m actually amazed when they seem to magically get out of the way just in the nick of time to avoid walking into someone or something.  It’s an instinct that smart phone users seem to share with the city’s pigeons.  Fortunately, nobody I know has ever stepped on a pigeon yet.

The Coffee Cup as a Fashion Accessory!

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Look around the sidewalks of the city sometime and it seems as if everyone is carrying a coffee cup.  They almost seem like fashion statements.  In one hand you hold a go-cup and in the other hand your smartphone.

Actually, I need to revise that ubiquity statement because I think most bearers of the coffee go-cup aren’t yet having their doctor’s visits paid by Medicare. In other words, they’re younger.

I’m not quite sure why that is but maybe it’s because at a certain age all that caffeine keeps you up at night.  Or perhaps it’s because we didn’t grow up with Starbucks on every corner and we didn’t form a habit of drinking coffee and walking.   Or maybe we just need to juggle handling too much other stuff — bags, a cane, a walker.  I certainly haven’t seen anyone pushing a walker holding a go-cup but I’ve seen plenty of people pushing a stroller and handling a cup of hot coffee.

Honestly, the other oddity is the fact that the people who are drinking coffee on-the-go are the same people packing big water bottles to maintain their daily hydration numbers.

But here’s where we have a problem.  New York City simply doesn’t have that many readily accessible public toilets. Starbucks is helpful in that respect but then you just go in, use their bathroom and buy another cup of coffee.