Big Apple Blues


Jack Houvouras

Jack Houvouras

My love affair with New York City may be over. I recently traveled to the Big Apple to research a magazine article, and found it to be drastically different from my last visit just two years ago. The city that for years captivated me with its excitement and electricity now felt overwhelming and vexatious.

The first thing that struck me was the sidewalks and streets seemed more congested than ever. Trying to hail a cab proved nearly impossible. Undaunted, I put the power of technology to use and tried Uber. Things weren’t much better on that front either. Even though Uber’s entire business model is based on finding you via GPS, they never could pinpoint the street corner where I was standing. As such, they ended up canceling 75 percent of my trips. When I was able to secure a ride with Uber drivers, most couldn’t find common tourist destinations like St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Was it just me, or is the city louder than ever? Everywhere I went my senses were assaulted with high-pitched sirens, blaring horns, thunderous jackhammers and screeching brakes. I tried making a phone call on the sidewalk once, which was a waste of time. All the noise rendered a coherent conversation impossible.

I never expect the people of New York to be overly friendly, but on this trip they seemed particularly distant. If I asked for directions, I was either ignored or encountered someone who didn’t speak English. In fact, I would estimate that 75 percent of the people I heard talking on the streets were speaking a foreign language. Even the NYPD officer I approached didn’t seem to understand a word I said.

The highlight of the trip was the morning I actually succeeded in grabbing a cab. I asked the driver to take me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to which he replied, “I need an address.” When I told him, “1000 Fifth Avenue,” he spent the next couple of minutes trying to find it on a map. This was becoming comical now. When I finally told him I would just walk, he pointed to his meter, which read $3. Really? So, I reluctantly handed him a $5 bill and waited for my change. This guy certainly wasn’t getting a tip. After fumbling around in his wallet, he held the bill up indicating he had no change. I then snatched my money from his hand and walked away under a barrage of profane insults.

Returning to Huntington and reflecting on the trip, I came to the realization that it wasn’t New York that had changed, but me. Things that would have rolled off my back in my 20s and 30s were aggravating now. Had I known that about myself, I would have done three things differently:

First, I would not have stayed at a hotel in Times Square. Everyone needs to see Times Square once, but after that avoid it like the plague. It’s a zoo. The next time I go to New York I’ll pay a little more and stay near Central Park or off the beaten path in SoHo. Second, I will map out all my destinations in advance and either walk or ride the subway. That way I won’t be beholden to cabs, Uber or traffic. And last but not least, instead of waiting until Happy Hour to drink, I will start in the morning. After all, everything runs more smoothly with a little lubrication.

return to articles menu