Photo: Shaun Jeffers/Shutterstock

Betsy From Columbus: Run Down by a Bus

New York City Travel
by Tom Gates Oct 7, 2008
“Giuliani swept the dirt under the rug and somehow allowed in a bit too much sunshine.”

I THINK IT’S THE walking that is doing me in. Taking me beyond the normal New Yorker stress. Getting me close to going Pacino With A Gun.

It’s not just the tourists, eyes perpetually pointed skyward at the pretty buildings, aiming their bodies towards my blazing, efficient path. These folks are merely the impala of my urban animal kingdom; cheap eats for oncoming trucks, for eight-inch curbs.

It’s fun to watch Betsy from Columbus, proudly displaying her minus-ten body from a summer program at Curves, trouncing blindly into a Don’t Walk. Nobody yells “Betsy, look out! It’s a big one! The double-decker kind!”. We New Yorkers know to weave down another avenue, because soon it will be all crowds and sirens. And police reports.

This kind of foot traffic is du jour for me, easily elbowed and knocked aside. Lately though, it’s the Fucking Blackberry People who are making my blood boil. New York, a town of born walkers, is crazy with pedestrians looking at their hands, typing messages into one device or another.

Basic motor skills (look where you’re going) have been lost on a Darwinian scale, bred out in just one generation, now as important as a third nipple. Everywhere – and I mean everywhere –dipshits are headed straight for other bodies, fingers blistering urgent messages. “B rt there!” “WAS, did we jst brk up!?”

On top of this, there is now The Hawker Thing. The streets are filled with pay-by-the-hour workers, trying to sell ridiculous concepts like Cranberry Yogurt and votes for McCain. It’s not like in Southeast Asia, with blissfully blatant demands (“You Come Here Eat Now!”). Instead, ad company execs are hurling their sly ideas directly towards the streets, vying for a buzz that will never come for Hefty’s new panty liner.

Most lead with a forced-smile line, one that that screams for pity. “Do you have a minute for World Peace?” Four more blocks, “Do you like stand up comedy?” Two more, “Have you tried Domino’s new oven baked sandwiches?” The messages blend together and by the time I’ve reached home, I don’t know whether to adopt a child or eat a Pop Tart.

Take this image of our streets and now factor in cabbies from Grand Theft Auto School, delivery guys rushing orders for big tips and ditzy broads. Add daytime drunks, joggers and assholes like me. It’s getting ugly.

It’s shocking for me to discuss my growing loathe for the bustle of Manhattan, a place that I used to praise like a zealot on an eight-ball. But lately – and maybe finally – it’s just become too much. Guliani swept the dirt under the rug and somehow allowed in a bit too much sunshine.

Now all that I can see are the parts where the molding doesn’t meet the door frame. I find myself actually wondering if Paul Theroux might be right, if New York has become an example of what he dislikes about cities, places that are “vertiginous, threatening, monochromatic, isolating, exhausting, germ-laden, bristling with busy shadows and ambiguous odors.”

All of this business with the people walking into one another – it somehow makes the sirens seem louder, the garbage trucks come earlier and the homeless more zombie-like. It makes me want to put on my iPod and not interact. To shut my windows and make love to Tivo. The City That Never Sleeps is beginning to make me a shut-in and it’s scaring the living hell out of me.

If there was one thing I was certain of it was that New York City was my home, that I am of a breed that is impervious to all of this commotion. I think maybe that this city now belongs to a new model, a 2.0 that I don’t want to become, or simply can’t upload. New York City, quite possibly, does not compute.

Editor’s note: This was the winning blog in our Not For Tourists Guide to NYC blog contest.

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