One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say New York is magical. Granted, I would probably be lying if I said that I myself haven’t described the city this way at some point, in some Instagram caption. Also, I am generally annoyed by most things. But keeping that in mind, let’s get back to my point: New York is not a magical, fairy tale city. It is a lot of things, but magic is not one of them.
Sure, New York is special. This much we can all agree on. I can order Vietnamese food and Pepto Bismol and a mini Christmas tree (this is a true story) from the very same place and have it all delivered to my door before I have time to regret even one of those unnecessary purchases. If I wake up at 3 a.m. and decide I want to walk down the street stark naked and buy a soft pretzel, I can do so with little to no judgment from neighbors. OK, so yes, when I describe it that way, it does sound magical. But it’s just not. Because, you see, for every convenience New York offers, there are 14 more inconveniences waiting to slap you in the face like a dead, lukewarm fish pulled from the murky blackness of the East River. If the East River even has fish at this point. Listen, if I sound dramatic it is because first of all, this is who I am. And second of all, it’s summer right now. And no person who lives in New York gets through a New York summer without being as dramatic as humanly possible. This is me coping. Let’s go on this journey together, shall we?
If you’ve lived in the city during summer at some point, you can just stop reading now. You get it. We are suffering together. If you don’t, let me tell you what that means. Central air conditioning is not something that most New Yorkers have. And I grew up in Florida, where having central AC at every setting I ever entered, however brief, was about as standard for me as having a face. So when I moved to New York and realized that I had to buy a window unit, somehow install it without crushing someone on the sidewalk below, and then use it in a way that doesn’t cost me $900 a month, I was unhappy. And I was hot. Summer in New York means you walk to one location to the next, praying that wherever you’re going will be cold enough. You live for the sweet, steamy breeze that comes when your train arrives. You know that breeze is full of every single poisonous thing you can think of, probably, but you welcome the hot, hot Satan breath anyway.
And then there is the acute pain of waiting for a train underground. And, in case you’re wondering, there is not AC in subway stations. You are quite literally in a tunnel of humidity, rats, and your own agony. Sometimes when I’m down there I close my eyes and I imagine I am trapped in a mine somewhere and I think, “Well, it feels the same, but at least I’m not actually stuck in a mine.” Sometimes that helps. Other times it reminds me I am a few stories underground with millions upon millions of people just sitting on top of me, and I want to curl up in a ball and die. I’m working on better relaxation strategies.
But back to the waiting-for-subway-underground-facing-my-own-mortality thing. So there are dozens of people around me and all I am focused on is making sure that no one touches me, or looks at me, or wears anything hot-looking while walking past me. Because, let me tell you, the only thing worse than being hot waiting for a train is being hot waiting for a train and then watching someone walk by wearing a pair of UGGs and a velour sweatsuit in 95 degree weather. I don’t know where these people are going, or who they are, but they exist. Maybe they all live in some secret ice village in Manhattan, where they all sit around eating snow cones and laughing as I’m blinded by the stinging of my own sweat and accidentally walk into a pole. I DON’T KNOW. BUT I HATE THEM AND I NEED ANSWERS.
Yes, New York is a city full of larger-than-life people, things to do, and endless delivery options. Most of us who live here get how lucky we are, I think. But we also get that two or more times a day during the summer we’re going to be standing in a small tunnel under the earth with no air conditioning while mascara drips down our face slowly. And, yes, at the same time, there will be someone in a full-body parka acting like they’re off to build a snowman. None of this will faze anyone, because it is New York, and we all know to expect weirdness at basically any turn.
For every bit of magic, there is something entirely unmagical to remind you that the city is not glitz and glamour as much as it is boob sweat and avoiding stepping in puddles of urine. New York takes a lot out of someone. It is loud and giant and is always screaming at you for more. More work, more money (always more money), more time. More energy to go to museums and restaurants because it’s New York you can’t just lay on the couch and watch 90 Day Fiance marathons for 40 hours straight on the weekends, Olivia!! It does not give a single one of us a break most of the time, so it feels fitting to push back. To make fun of the absurdity of it all — the utterly unglamorous nature of most of it — and to laugh.
Having said that, if you see me waiting for a train one day and want to commiserate with me, feel free to say hi so we can laugh until we’re in tears about it all. But who knows, that might just be sweat.