I will admit, I am feeling overwhelmed by all there is to say about the past three weeks. I've decided to work backwards starting with my day - well a portion of my day - today.
Before leaving town we did our best to clean out the refrigerator. I have been gearing up for a grocery run for a few days now (trust me, it is necessary to do so) fully anticipating my desire to avoid the neighborhood grocery store in the new year as long as possible. Something I've learned about myself since living here is that I'm willing to travel great lengths and endure great frustrations to shop at a good grocery store. Lucky for us, one exists in Manhattan. I know, I know, there are probably tons in Manhattan and probably tons within the Bronx that I'm not giving a chance, but I have one store where I know I can find what I want, feel good about the quality, and enjoy the customer service. Think customer service doesn't make a difference with all the high-tech self-checkouts these days? I bet if you come shop at our local store you'll change your mind.
I pulled out my GNAUSA cart, grabbed a veggie slice, and caught the train about a half a mile from my house at 12:35 p.m. For whatever reason, however, I forgot to turn on my brain or pay attention to what was happening and I ended up in Brooklyn. For those of you not familiar with the city, this is a very long trip from the Bronx. Long. And yet, just before we crossed the river (after there was anything I could do to remedy the situation) I realized I had gone straight through and out the base of the island. What a delay. At the first stop I got out and headed right back where I had come. I had always looked forward to visiting Brooklyn, but today I was on a mission and couldn't be distracted from the groceries... or so I thought.
I asked a kind gentleman next to me where the next stop was. This is critical for me as I have been known to get on a train thinking I'm heading uptown when it's going the opposite direction. Somehow we struck up conversation and he told me that his name was Arsen and he was in America studying English. Arsen is an Armenian name so I asked him about it. He told me that he is a mechanical engineer but his family owns a florist shop in Istanbul. He's looking for American roommates so he can practice his English. Amazingly, I think he would have moved in with Dom and I today if I would have offered. He was eager to practice English and very chatty, but got off to go shopping with his friend. That's the thing about NY, I think if you're willing to ask people are willing to help. You can't isolate yourself.
I got to 14th and stopped by the farmer's market to see if anything looked good. It is a rough time a year for the market, and even harder for those who have to stand outside in 30 degree weather, so I bought a couple apples and pears. They looked pitiful, but since they're harvested naturally I'm sure they'll taste fine.
I was so close to the store when I got stopped by another guy my age trying to get me to try out a new salon. At first I listened because I thought I could get a free haircut (which I desperately need) but then I realized he wanted me to buy a salon package. I don't know what was wrong with me today - perhaps I was trying to support the poor souls who have to work outdoors in the winter- but after he discounted the haircut to a deal I couldn't pass up I bought the darn package. Shampoo, deep conditioning, cut, blow dry, style, skin analysis, mini European facial, eyebrow wax, lip wax (which I do not want), 20 minute neck and shoulder Shiatsu massage, all for $50. I think the UN should hire me for my negotiation skills. I asked the guy about his work, his lifestyle in midtown, and how he stays warm outside all day. I also found out that he grew up in Cincinnati. When I asked him if he was ripping me off he said "I'm too cute for jail." I should have walked away then, but then I had to think that Ohioans take care of each other. We'll see how the salon is...
The store was packed. It's always packed. When you picture busy you have to shrink the size of whatever establishment you're imagining and double the people inside. I've shopped here a lot since we arrived and every single time the checkout line wraps around the perimeter of the store. My salon marketer friend gave me a good tip to shop the interior first and then just pick up what you want from the exterior as you wait in line. It would have worked today if there were not two lines side-by-side wrapped around the store. No cutting in for eggs when there could be line confusion.
I was trying to shop for more than a month's worth of groceries so I filled my cart completely. I brought four reusable grocery bags and all were filled to the brim.
As 3:30 approached I boarded the train back to the Bronx. This was easier said than done. I took the elevator downstairs and knew I wouldn't be able to fit my full cart through the entrance turnstiles. I waved to the attendant in his booth and asked him to kindly unlock the door from me. He yelled for me to swipe my metro card then push the turnstile. I was flustered (it was crowded) and I started to walk through. Realizing I was getting stuck on the other side - apart from my beloved cart - I panicked and only let one leg through. There I was, holding up traffic and straddling the stupid gate. The man was screaming: "I told you to push, not walk through!" Annoyed and embarrassed I jumped over the darn thing, got my cart and went through the now open emergency exit doorway. I looked at him in his glass office and said, "You don't have to be mean." What a sight I must have been.
Now although there is an elevator from street level into the subway there isn't an elevator to all of the tracks. Once I got through the door I was stranded at the top of the mezzanine trying to figure out how to get my groceries downstairs. Thank goodness a kind man offered to help me carry the cart in its entirety. Lucky me! It was so heavy another guy helped us make it all the way down.
Accessibility is a greater issue, perhaps deserving of an entire post itself, but if this massive grocery run is difficult for me (and I brought it on myself) what do people with strollers do? Who helps people in wheelchairs? What year is it anyway? New Yorkers are nice, but doesn't ADA have a code for public transportation?
Fortunately I had plenty of time on the ride home to make a plan for getting off this train I had so cleverly gotten onto. I knew there were four flights of stairs I would have to make it back down to get to the street to walk to my apartment. There's a different generosity in the Bronx, so realizing I probably wouldn't be able to get someone to carry my burdensome transportation system I decided to unload in a rotation.
Sure enough, the track cleared by the time I made it to the first stairway. I unloaded three of the four bags to the first landing, went back up for the cart, carried the cart to the second landing, reloaded the cart, charged the emergency exit, unloaded three bags to the third landing, carried the card and then reloaded all the bags for the walk home. It was exhausting, but I was proud of my independence.
If it weren't for a sidewalk crack that crashed my cart four blocks from home it would have been a successful trip. I lost a jar of peanut satay sauce and a jar of marinara sauce to that crooked corner. One could blame all that lifting and carrying, or the fact that I bought glass jars, but again I ask you, ADA...
I walked in the door at 4:52 p.m. Here's what I learned from my day:
- Stay positive. New Yorkers always have somewhere else they need to be that they're in a hurry to get to no matter where you are. It's better to just stay calm and not worry about how fast people are moving around you.
- Use a buddy system. A.) I would not have spent so extravagantly and B.) Cart carrying is a two-person project.
- Living takes a little more effort here. Get used to it.
Dom got a scale for Christmas. To add credibility to my story, my bags weighed: 24, 10, 18 and 31 pounds for a total of 83 pounds. Guess I won't need to hit the gym tonight.
*Apparently snow affects an already delicate trash-pickup process. Not for the better as this pile is taller than me.