So: I’ve been there and don’t feel the need to ever return. However, as a married man, I’m not actually ‘Mistress of my own fortune’ in this matter…
It was… interesting. To see for myself some of those places I’ve only ever seen depicted through the distorting lens of the Mass Media. The distortion was surprisingly minor!
And the people… They appear happy, friendly and helpful: On the surface. However, underneath roils a devil’s brew of aggression and paranoia. On the two occasions when I expressed some minor criticism…
The first occasion was at a well-known City venue where queues are long and out-of-work wannabe Broadway actors pretend to be waiters and entertainers. The queue was, indeed, long – I wouldn’t have bothered except that several others in the group I was with had their hearts set on it. Eventually they deigned to allow us to enter and eat. The meal was outstandingly average, and the singing didn’t reach that standard, in most cases… Not that this was an issue. What was was that one of our party had flown 3000 miles from the UK and her daughter had flown slightly less from Vancouver (in the land of the most polite people in the western hemisphere…). Daughter arrived off a flight and hurried to join us. She was not allowed in! I see the venue’s point in this: anyone can claim to ‘know someone’ inside to skip the line. But they even refused adamantly to let the mother know that the daughter was waiting downstairs: had we known we could have left… Still: being British the mother didn’t want to make a fuss but, on the way out, I tapped one of the security guys and made a comment. He was as nice as pie and apologised, but some other harridan butted in and said the ‘it wasn’t policy to act as messengers’. I replied that that was fine, but that I didn’t feel the need to ever return (I wouldn’t have anyway) to which she replied “Well, we don’t need **** customers like you anyway…” Super PR, I thought.
OK, and at least she didn’t pull a gun and blow me away, and the security guy was again most apologetic… I can only assume that the harridan was the owner. If not, any good owner would have sacked her on the spot!
The second occasion was when we crossed over the Great Divide (otherwise known as the East River) to Brooklyn. On a bus tour on our first day, the tour guide had referred to a certain coffee establishment as ‘Saint Arbucks’. I’d thought it just a joke until we called into one such establishment not far from the east end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We were both desperate for a pee and so bought a coffee and headed for the ‘rest-room’. It was locked. The tag showed ‘Vacant’ but the door wouldn’t open. It had a large keypad lock on it. I asked the woman on the counter if the ‘facility’ was available and she shrugged and said “Must be engaged”. Great. I sat, crossed my legs and waited.
After what seemed like hours (but was probably about five minutes) a woman appeared, tapped in a number on the lock and disappeared inside. Wonderful! I commented to the man on the counter that I’d been told that it was engaged, whereas it obviously hadn’t been. His helpful reply was along the lines of “Just enter the ****ing code: it couldn’t be more plainly displayed on the door”. I checked: it was on the door, on a small self-adhesive sticker with characters about 5mm high (that’s about 1/4″ to our transatlantic cousins).
The woman had now vacated, so I entered the code and… relief. I let Mo follow me in and sat at the table, sipping my (rather sour) coffee and contemplating. It seems a bit weird to put a code lock on a toilet door than display the code on a sticker: why not just have a normal door handle? Also, even if I’d realised that I needed to enter a code to get in, how was I to know that the code was not for ’emergencies’ and, had I used it, would have opened the door on some poor bastard having a difficult sh*t?
Hence: my analysis. New Yorkers are generally surprisingly helpful, but those in ‘service industries’ are only ‘financially’ nice. As soon as you voice any form of criticism, they turn on you like wildcats and scratch your eyes out (metaphorically, you understand) – or maybe that should be ‘like rabid dogs…’
Hello and goodbye to the financial centre of the world’s greatest democracy (sic): I’ll try to avoid going back there any time soon…