13 Dilemmas Only New Yorkers Understand

New York City
by Henry Miller Aug 27, 2015

1. As a packed train goes by with one car completely empty: wondering if you can stomach what just happened in there for an empty seat, or just cramming into one of the other cars.

Did someone projectile vomit down the whole aisle? Was there a dance troupe that got out of hand? Is there a dead guy in there? Oh god this better be worth it…

 2. Deciding to follow the career of your dreams and feel overwhelmed by the cost of the city, or work in the finance sector and give 90+ hours a week of your life to Morgan Stanley.

In NYC, the life of an artist is a struggle. So is the life of a writer, the bartender, the actor, the nurse, the teacher, the real estate agent, the public servant and pretty much anything that doesn’t involve coming from money and pretending to do something of any real value on Wall Street.

 3. Take the room with the “amazing view” (of fire escapes and a brick wall) or pay $100 less a month than your roommates for a windowless hole.

True to its reputation, one of New York’s most common games to play on residents is giving them the chance to save money on rent by forgoing basic things like a private bathroom, high ceilings, a closet or natural light. But hey, when it comes to the Big Apple, every penny counts, right?

 4. Choosing where to get groceries: hoof it to your nearest Trader Joes (3 neighborhoods over), or go to the bodega down the block.

One means riding the train with your grocery bags during rush hour (read: pretty much the worst thing ever), while the other means you live off of eggs, PB&J and cereal for the rest of the week (thrifty and perfect if you want to feel like you’re in undergrad for the rest of your adult life).

5. While riding the subway: choosing whether to ignore Jimmy Fallon hanging out the right side of the car, or choosing to ignore Fred Armisen on the left.

 Because freaking out over former SNL cast members is the first thing you do to prove you’re a transplant. Here, have an “I Heart NY” hoodie to go with your fangirling.

6. Go out to support one of the countless parades, important protests or significant events that happen in the city *every* week, or spend your day off aggressively binging on Netflix.

One of the great things about New York is that it is an epicenter of political activism and internationally renowned performances. Unfortunately, most of these events happen on the weekends — when you are trying to recover from a hard week at work and a hard night of drinking to cope with the workweek.

7. Choosing between ridiculing the traffic in LA, or the techies in San Francisco, to explain why you refuse to move to the West Coast.

No matter how you cut it, New York just isn’t the kind of city where you can just “live a simple, easy life in peace,” so to stay here you must constantly be coming up with excuses as to why everywhere else in the country sucks even more. Chicago? Too cold. DC? Too many politicians. Houston? Very funny.

8. Choosing between stepping off the sidewalk into a (hopefully) shallow puddle of garbage water, or punching through a block of tourists capturing “New York culture” by taking pictures of a Dunkin Donuts.

Also known as the “ruin these shoes forever, or ruin the sparkly-yet-fragile image of New York in a tourist’s heart forever” dilemma. This is a tough decision made by thousands of New Yorkers every day, *especially* if we decide to venture into Midtown. And frankly, a few years and a couple dozen pairs of shoes later, it’s getting easier and easier to make.

9. Re-swiping your metrocard and look like an idiot for a second in front of all the people waiting for you, or hop the turnstile and risk the $500 fine.

While most people are afraid of normal things like “public speaking,” “getting mugged,” or “the dark,” most New Yorkers are afraid of looking like an incompetent no-nothing on the subway.

10. Insisting on getting half-melted ice cream sandwiches from a guy with a cooler in the park, or admit that you actually kind of like froyo and go to the Pinkberry (that used to be your favorite ma and pop diner).

It seems that every New Yorker is in constant mourning over the loss of “the way things were” (conveniently overlooking all the murders and the crack the city was super into a few decades ago). Still, it does hurt to see the one American city that never wanted to be a strip mall get overtaken by vague corporate entities that sling even vaguer interpretations of classic NYC cultural dishes, like pizza and bagels with lox. So it feels good to risk illness and just go for that $1 slice at some unbranded spot every once in a while.

11. Drop $200 to see the hit Broadway musical you have wanted to see since you were a child, or spend $20 to get into an underground orgy, the theme of which is said musical.

Hey man, being a deviant of greater America’s sexual puritanism is practically a civic duty in New York. Think of it as a story to terrify your grandkids with someday.

12. Explaining to people how you spent $300 on Saturday when you were in bed before 8pm.

New Yorkers treat weekend brunch as an all day activity (that starts after 11 AM, of course), even though last night’s leftovers are twice as delicious and eight times less expensive. Chalk it up to the insane number of hours in a New York work-week, combined with a fierce desire to show off the fruits of ones’ labors by spending $6 on a boiled egg with hollandaise.

13. Let yourself be skinned alive by the rent increase your landlord demands, or push forward your relationship with that person you’ve been dating for two months so you can split the rent with them.

In New York, the difference between spending $1500 on your own room and splitting a $3000 room with someone else is basically the difference between being able to rent a studio in BedStuy and landing a dream apartment in the West Village — so we’ll find just about any excuse to move out of our shoebox of an apartment and into a better quality of life. Plus, even if it doesn’t work out… it’s not like sharing a room with a “friend of a friend of a college roommate that you hooked up with a few times” is all that different. Or so I tell myself, anyway.

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