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.
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.
What’s there to say about the oaf who takes up 2 seats on the city’s subways and spreads wide his legs, forcing people seated on either side of him to squeeze themselves together to avoid any contact. Not much.
As a matter of self-preservation, it’s never wise to pick a fight with any of these characters by, say, asking if he could please sit in the one seat to which his single-swipe-Metro card fare would entitle him. I actually think there should be a variant of congestion pricing for the NYC subways, wherein people who do take up 2 seats pay twice the fare. Think about that, Andy Byford, to help put the MTA’s budget in the black.
I’ve also observed that the typical manspreader has an outward demeanor that looks as though he’d plunge a knife into you, for no particular reason. So for that reason I’d recommend taking the low road and be prepared to see how thin you can make yourself if you’re determined to sit or, at worst, just stand. I’ve often stood squarely in front of the 2-seat-occupying-clod, who’s often decades younger than me. Any personal satisfaction comes from just giving the offender dirty looks. I grant you it’s not a great solution, but it’s something to allow me to vent my spleen in an otherwise win-less situation on a New York City subway train.
Like most of us, I fall into routines. I get up at roughly the same time every day. My breakfasts of fruit, cereal and coffee don’t differ that dramatically from one day to the next. But I’m trying a new strategy to try different routes to get to places I might routinely need to get to in Manhattan–especially on foot.
What this new approach does is to provide opportunities for constantly changing sights, sounds and experiences. It’s especially nice when these new routes have older buildings that evidence the city’s history. They’re certainly shorter. Most of them are going to be brick or stone, to have survived fires. Some of them might even have an old sign embedded in the masonry.
My new walking plan not only makes it much more fascinating to walk around but gives me a chance to reflect on New York City’s incredibly interesting history. Plus I’ve found some great new places to stop to have a coffee and a muffin on the way.
My next goal: Changing breakfasts!
Sometimes I feel like Katniss in Hunger Games when I’m trying to get around NYC. One particular challenge is negotiating the city’s streets–especially at night and when they are the city’s major avenues.
Let’s take Broadway, for instance. It’s idiosyncratically off-the-grid and slices through many of the city’s streets, and even an avenue or two, in ways that certainly perplexes tourists and often the occasional New Yorker. It’s quite wide in some sections of the Upper West Side, in particular, but the countdown pedestrian signals were obviously calibrated by an Olympic sprinter working in the Department of Transportation. And I’m not even slowed down by a cane or a walker.
Apart from my concern about whether I’ll reach the safety of the opposite sidewalk before getting mowed down by an 18-wheeler truck careening down the avenue at speeds well above the mandated 25 mph, is my fear whether I’m visible as a pedestrian if I get stuck somewhere in the middle.
So I’m trying to wear as much white as possible, which makes me look as though I’ve joined a cult. Maybe I should start carrying a bow and arrow like Katniss to look more formidable. If nothing else they’d slow down for a good laugh.
Folks, this isn’t a challenge of aging in society today. It’s bigger than that. It’s the mysteries we all encounter in bathrooms in restaurants, airports, theaters, stores or wherever there are sinks, faucets, soap and paper towel dispensers. There’s no uniform standard for how all of these work so we’re left on our own to figure it out, especially if there’s no one at an adjacent sink who’s figured it out and can give us advisories.
Otherwise, we stand in front of the sink waving our hands in all directions until we know exactly how everything works. There are also the occasions when we think we’ll activate the faucet by hand waving only to find that it’s the old fashioned kind that actually needs to be turned on. “Duh,” I usually say to myself.
Somebody will someday calculate the lost productivity hours caused by this bathroom confusion, unless some legislative body legislates uniform standards for faucets and soap and towel dispensers. No doubt that will cause a revolt by all those who are the bathroom free spirits who like plumbing design diversity and don’t mind the challenges it poses.
I happen to shop for most of my drugstore items at Duane Reade in New York City. To show their appreciation for my loyalty, Duane Reade issues a little plastic card with a bar code. The bar code tracks my purchases and I accrue points. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, most of us are familiar with this sales technique.
Every so often, I’m asked by the cashier whether I want to “use my points” and have them applied to the dollar amount on my bill. That usually amounts to a dollar or 2 being subtracted from the final amount.
I always say, “Sure!” What I’m always left wondering about are those people who wouldn’t want to use their points right then and there and risk them disappearing if, say, they got hit by a bus right afterwards. What a waste that would be.
They say it’s important to be mindful and ‘in the moment’. What more can I say to prove I am.
This is an interesting time of year when everyone is suppose to be really happy–even if the sidewalks and subways are unbelievably crowded and its been raining practically every day and everyone seems a little grouchy for one reason or another.
Well, I have a solution to this theoretical seasonal joy. Give some money to a worthy charity, even if it’s a small amount. If you can afford to give to a few, even better. It will make you feel so good.
This year, one of my favorite non-profits is called OATS, or Older Adults Technology Services. Their storefront locations, called Senior Planet, offer free classes to senior citizens to teach them everything from how to use computers to how to navigate social media. You can check out where they have locations and what classes they offer at https://seniorplanet.org.
If you’re reading this blog on a computer or smartphone, and you’re a senior citizen, you obviously are digitally savvy but there’s always new stuff to learn. Also, consider the many senior citizens who can’t afford to own their computers and are left out of this way to interact with the world. They can use the free computers at Senior Planet.
So check out their website and think about signing up for their email. Even better, consider a donation: oats.org.
For Thanksgiving, we all try to focus on things for which we’re grateful. For me, they include having a wonderful family and being able to see them regularly. It also includes being able to live a reasonably full life doing the things I enjoy.
I read recently that taking note of your gratitude is something of a life preserver. The article recommended that we all keep ‘gratitude journals’ and record daily entries of things for which we’re grateful. I decided I would at least make mental note of them, since I didn’t think I would actually keep up a notebook.
Like the rest of the planet, I thought I’d get into the spirit of Black Friday by starting my holiday shopping. It was a pretty chilly but sunny afternoon in New York City and walking down Broadway definitely put me in the holiday spirit with lots of sale signs and people. It was enough to inspire my first mental note of gratitude.
However, the formulation of my gratitude list was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a big, gray rat racing across my path a few feet ahead of me. I yelled, “YIKES”, but it wasn’t enough to wake the man sleeping on a bench right where the rat was headed. I thought of waking him but then thought better of it and didn’t. In NYC, you don’t wake up people sleeping on benches.
So that was my first daily gratitude experience. But apart from the trauma of the rat getting so close, I’m at least grateful that he didn’t run over my feet.