Whenever possible, avoid rush hours on the subways in New York City if you’re a senior citizen!
One of the luxuries of retirement is that your schedule is much more flexible. At the end of your day, you no longer need to stream out of a work place with hordes of other humans. You no longer need to feel the press of humanity pouring into the bowels of the NYC subway system. You can avoid the frenzy of the turnstiles and the packed platforms. Most significantly, you can pass on the experience of being squeezed together like a sardine with sometimes smelly and occasionally rude people on a train that lurches or stalls. Except when you can’t.
As luck would have it, I’m taking a terrific class in midtown this spring that regrettably meets from 2 until 5 pm. So, once a week, I’m living all of the above subway experiences in the Times Square subway station and on the #2 Express or #1 Local trains uptown.
If there is ever a reason to stay as physically fit as possible after retirement, it’s for when you can’t avoid using the NYC subway system during rush hour.
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.
So it’s February now in NYC. And the thermometer recently was in the teens with a wind chill in the minus single digits. You go into a restaurant for a cup of coffee to warm up and visit the bathroom first. You’re still pretty frozen when you get to the sink to wash your hands. You turn on both the hot and cold water faucets but only ice cold water comes out.
The restaurant isn’t a dive but like many owners of commercial properties in the city, I guess economies in operating their space comes with cutbacks to hot water in the taps. I don’t mind it in the summer months, but in the dead of winter, that cold water to wash your ice cold hands is pretty nasty.
I encountered the very same situation this morning in a ladies room on the third floor of Bloomingdales on 59th and Lex. Today, the temperatures are in the 20’s and my hands had already warmed up from taking 2 escalators up from the entrance, so the situation was a bit more tolerable, albeit still mighty unpleasant.
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!
I was never one of those parents who hocked their kids about having children. Quite the opposite, in fact. I just assumed my very talented daughter and daughter-in-law would continue to pursue full-time careers and not try to balance them with motherhood. In fact, at my 45th college reunion, one classmate asked, “So, Amy, any grandchildren yet?” My response, “No, but I’ve got 2 adorable grand dogs!”
So, in the fullness of time, and a mere 7 years later, I now have 5 very wonderful, adorable, bright, and (mostly) kind and considerate grandchildren, I truly do count my blessings and am enormously grateful to have them, and my wonderful children and children-in-law, in New York City.
I’m heartbroken that my husband of 41 years, who died 9 years ago, can’t be here to enjoy spending time with them, too, and I hope they each come to know about him even more as they get older.
I recently read an article aimed at the “wrinkles” demographic, about the importance of having “meaning” in life, for its health, social, psychological and emotional benefits. Having a close family certainly helps provide that meaning and grandchildren, well, they’re right up there.
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.