The Alternative

The other day, I was walking along Hicks St. to my apartment, a street that runs above the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. I began thinking about the constant noise streaming from this high traffic road and how accustomed to it I’ve become. When I turn from Hicks St. on to my own street the sound dulls a bit, but it’s still there. A steady rush I can hear from my apartment. It’s become a part of the way things work in this neighborhood. The way things are.

But as I walked that day, the noise became overwhelming to me. How is it that I function in a city with so much noise? Why is it that when I collapse on my couch at the end of a long day, I revel in the supposed comfort and silence of my home, but the noise is technically still there?

And then, these thoughts began to spiral. Why do I accept the fact that every restaurant I go to requires a reservation six weeks in advance? Why do I have to strategically plan the time of day I leave for any event in order to account for overcrowding? Why do I stand in art museums waiting behind 6 people deep to see a pencil sketch?

And most importantly, why have we all abandoned the things we love to do because there is simply no convenient way to do them in this strange city? Tyler, whose been golfing since he was 3 years old has a bag of golf clubs sitting in a corner collecting dust. My tennis racket has not seen the light of day in 6 years- the same amount of time I’ve lived in New York City. What a strange coincidence! I’ve had similar conversations with others in the concrete jungle, Oh yeah, I freaken love to ski, but the skis don’t fit in my studio apartment so I keep them in storage and I don’t have a car here because parking is such a b%tch so it’s not easy to get to a ski resort…so I haven’t skied in like 8 years…

When I travelled to Ithaca, NY two summers ago, I remember planning to eat lunch at a state park. I immediately calculated what time we would have to arrive at the park to make sure we got a picnic table. “We should go early,” I cautioned, “EVERYONE will be eating lunch at noon.” Of course, I arrived at ‘peak lunch time’ to an empty park and had my choice of at least 100 free picnic tables. Well Toto, we are not in Central Park anymore, are we?

The first time you attend a movie in New York City– after waiting in line having tried to attend a film at 8pm on a Saturday night, then settled for a G-rated children’s film at 11pm instead of the other 6 movies you gradually watched sell out– you file away the experience, and you ask yourself, “How can I do it better next time?” You think…if I get tickets on moviefone in advance, and I leave right before everyone gets out of work, maybe I’ll get to see the movie I actually want to see this rainy Friday night. No, no, no! Better yet, we’ll go during THE DAY! And no one will be there. Mwah ha ha! I’ve cracked the code, I’ve done it! We’ll go to an 11am showing on a beautiful sunny day. That’ll show em!

Life in New York is a constant adjustment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a subway and been told, “Service is suspended” And suddenly, I am leaving the subway platform and heading upstairs to a neighborhood I’ve never stepped foot in and, thought, Well, OK. Now what? And some how, some way, I figure out. I get where I’m going. Even if it means walking 20 minutes until I can hail a cab. Walking in 3 wrong directions until I get to the right direction of the other closest subway. (OK, really, I will call my human GPS, Tyler, and ask him which way to go.)

I may sound like I’m over-dramatizing but this is truly the way this city feels on a daily basis. Saturday night dinners become a battle, waiting 2 hours to be seated in a cramped restaurant only to find out they’ve run out of the dish that everyone is talking about. Sometimes you’ll turn a corner and find a construction site blocking the building you need to go into, a police officer shrugging his shoulders, “Well, I’m sorry, there’s just no alternative.”

And yet, we’re all constantly searching for the alternative. The restaurant that hasn’t been discovered yet. The other entrance the police officer failed to tell you about. The best way to get a picnic spot if you can’t find one on the Great Lawn. You can deny it if you want, but I know all you New Yorkers have waited, shivering with your umbrella, in the pouring rain for free Shakespeare in the Park tickets because “it’ll be less crowded during a Nor’easter, honey…”

But I’ll tell you, I get a rush when it’s pouring rain and I catch the bus by sheer seconds in order to avoid a 15 minute walk to the subway. “Haha! I did it!” I shout too soon, manically dipping my card in the automated machine, as it beeps: Expired. “But, sir,” I plead with the busdriver, “I don’t have $2.25 in quarters.” And there’s that shrug, and suddenly, I’m standing back on the street, defeated, getting ready to walk 15 min. in the rain to get a new card.

It’s true. No matter how far away you get from the highway, the noise is always there. But, secretly, we all love it. Our ability to survive. To adjust. To challenge everything we see, everything we experience. To, always, always find a better way. They say that New York is a city that never sleeps. But, I think it’s a city that never settles. For anything. If there is an alternative, we’ll find it. We have to.

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