Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is Why I Love New Yorkers, Part II

You know how sometimes you wake up at 8:15, take a shower, get ready for work (including applying the new Sleek'n'Shine leave-in conditioner system you just bought, brushing both your teeth and your anti-grinding night guard, and deciding which podcast to listen to on your commute), and then finally make it to the subway platform, where a little old lady curses you with the Evil Eye?

It seemed so innocent at the time. All I said was, “Excuse me, could you move your bag?”

Does that seem threatening?

When I arrived at the subway platform this morning, ready to go to work on my next-to-penultimate day before the long weekend, there were plenty of people and the lone bench appeared full. As I walked by, I realized that one seat was actually taken by the small tote bag of the white-haired lady sitting next to it. All New Yorkers know that this is a faux pas – you don’t put bags on the seat if the train is full. This rule applies to subway platforms, too.

So I said, “Excuse me.” She ignored me at first, and I figured she didn’t hear me, so I said it again, and then asked the ill-fated question.

What happened next was unexpected.

First, she moved her bag. Then, she started mumbling in Hungarian (or some such), gave me the stink eye, got up, and walked about 10 feet down the platform.

I was confused. I clearly didn’t ask her to leave. And she was pissed – she stood there staring right at me, mumbling in Hungarian, until the subway came five minutes later.

The woman next to me, who had been witnessing this spectacle, looked over at me and shared a sympathetic eyebrow-raise, then started laughing. I joined her, but started to wonder if the “Evil Eye” (were it real) could be effective from 10 feet away.

However, I have yet to sprout a tail, grow horns, lose my hair, gain some warts or turn into a forest animal.

So I’m probably safe. (For now.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bananas & Nectarine

Dear Barnes & Noble:

I get it -- times are hard. People are losing jobs and don't have the paper to spend on your paper, so I understand wanting to branch out, see what other revenue streams might be available.

Maybe you're afraid that you're going the route of The Shop Around the Corner in "You've Got Mail." I mention that movie because: a) everyone knew the fictional Fox Books was a B&N stand-in; b) Fox Books was on the Upper West Side, where there's a real B&N (the one where I used to shop, when I lived there); and c) my brother had small recurring role on a Meg Ryan project when he was an infant.

Maybe you're concerned that Amazon's cheaper prices, access to used books and Kindle are hastening you toward an inevitable, vestigial, Blockbuster-like existence.

Or maybe you see the writing on the wall -- books are out, fruit is in!

Really, that's the only explanation I can come up with for this:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend at Bernie’s

While updating my podcasts in iTunes the other night, I saw an ad for the recently released Sims 3. I’ve always been curious about this franchise, but after my experience with Sim City a decade earlier (I got bored after building two houses, a playground and a bar), I wasn’t willing to spend the cash. Which made this iPhone game perfect: inexpensive, pared down and easy to play on the subway. Ca-ching!

It started auspiciously, with me crafting a smoking hot avatar out of the two choices they give you. So my game cyber-gal was probably a little generic, but she was itching to step out of the wardrobe and into her new, awesome life as…a town clerk.

I started to learn about what Nancy Sim (“NS”) wanted out of life by the goals that were set for her. They included NS becoming a Chef de Cuisine; a Landscape Architect; a Master Repairman; and a Competition Fisher. Not my first choices, but I was open. Mini-goals you can ignore also pop up periodically, and range from “grow a head of corn” to “stay rested for three days.”

I chose “rise to top of career ladder,” so NS met her boss, Ruth, on the street and asked her for a promotion. After chatting Ruth up, NS was offered a position on the town counsel. I was excited by this fast-track to success, so NS knocked on her door the next evening, and proceeded to coo over Ruth’s home and personality. When asked for another raise, NS was declined. So she made Ruth laugh and chatted with her at length, then asked again. Bingo. MAYOR of Simsville!

I was feeling heady with all of this success. On Saturday, I had NS bump into Ruth at the park. After similar efforts, she was promoted once again: Vice President Nancy Sim!

I was now officially drunk on power. On Sunday morning, around 5 a.m., NS visited Ruth’s home and asked for another promotion. No go.

I had NS coo, joke, compliment, and then flirt. No promotion, but they became best friends. NS then flirted, hugged, and tried to kiss Ruth. She did the same the next day…and the next. Ruth became the only Sim in the game for me, while I had NS attempt to sleep her way to the top. I eventually had to choose the option: “apologize for creepiness.” Even though we were still officially best friends, I put a TRO in place to give Ruth some space. In the meantime, I was developing relationships with other Sims.

(Keep in mind, this was months in “Sim Time,” but in real time I had been playing for an hour.)

NS became friends with Marcel, Jack and Jill, Theresa, Walter and Kia (her future spouse). She invited people over, chatted, and periodically accepted requests from them; she brought Walter five eggs and gave Marcel a salmon. But it got interesting when one Sim asked her to be mean to another. After working, staying rested and trying to make friends, a little naughtiness was welcome.

Bernie was the last Sim that NS met. They bumped into each other at the park right after she received a request to “insult a Sim.” He was convenient, so I clicked “Be Mean” and watched another task be crossed off the list. The next time I was asked to “kick over a garbage can,” NS made her way to Bernie’s house (after all, he already didn’t like her), and accomplished the next task.

I quickly developed a strategy: persecute Bernie.

Every time a similar mean-spirited goal was set, I proceeded to find Bernie so NS could carry it out. This included:

1. Stopping by at 2 a.m. and inviting myself in to eat a snack from his kitchen.
2. Chatting, making him start to like me, and then using his shower.
3. Apologizing for my previous rudeness and then taking a nap in his bed.
4. Instigating an argument and then proposing marriage.

Bernie eventually kicked me out of his house. Five times.

Nancy Sim may be a creepy, slutty avatar. But at least she’s a creepy, slutty chef de cuisine, landscape architect, master repairman and competition fisher avatar.

Vote Nancy Sim for President!

(Ruth, are you listening?)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blame it on the Rain

It was a dark and stormy night. (I’ve always wanted to write that!)

The roaring thunder and the eye-squintingly bright lightning tore through my apartment at 2:30 a.m. and lasted about 45 minutes.

I woke up this morning completely exhausted, took a shower while still half-asleep, and then managed to blow a fuse while drying my hair. I was only partway to an exquisite 'do but decided the lack of light was more urgent. So I peeked into my bedroom to confirm the power was off there too (it was) and made my way into the kitchen, where the fuse box is mounted about 7 feet off the ground. I used a spatula to open it and flip the bottom switch back to the “on” position. Voila! Power was restored. I'm like Bob Vila, but with kitchen utensils.

I returned to the bedroom so I could get dressed. I then reached for my glasses...which were no longer on my night stand, where I had placed them before going to sleep last night.

Forty-five long minutes passed, during which I did the following in order to locate my much-needed glasses:

1. Pushed night stand away from wall, looked in all drawers, then lifted it up and looked underneath.

2. Moved bed to center of room, tore off all linens, including pillowcases, put lost socks back into laundry basket, decided it was time to sweep behind my bed.

3. Ransacked my newly-folded (now unfolded) clothes.

4. Looked in my laundry basket. Left giant, heaping pile of linens and assorted clothing on floor.

5. Examined my closet, faux-armoire, hallway, living room, kitchen and front hallway.

6. Approached highest levels of desperation, began peeking in toilet, medicine cabinet, refrigerator, underneath my jewelry box and inside my air conditioner.

At this point, I was supposed to be at work in 5 minutes. I was half-dressed, completely confused, and entirely certain that a cockroach had wandered in during the night and decided my prescription would be perfect for his elderly cockroach father.

I also was starting to feel like my apartment was getting unbearably stuffy and humid. A bead of sweat proceeded to roll down my forehead and land...on a lens. On my face.

On the glasses which I had apparently been wearing THE ENTIRE TIME.

You know what? I still have no idea when I put them on, since I definitely wasn’t wearing them in the shower. On the way to work (clocking in a whopping 30 minutes late), I periodically touched my face, still unable to believe that I was in possession of my glasses.

Clearly, both my brain and the fuse shut off simultaneously. And I’m starting to think I will never know what truly happened during those lost minutes.

Hey, have you seen my watch?

Never mind.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What a Drip

Soon after getting my iPhone, one of the first apps I downloaded was a white noise program. Among the 30-odd sounds engineered to lull you into a calmer state of being (including, and I'm completely serious, "Cat Purring" and "Hair Dryer Blowing"), my top five are:

  1. Running Water
  2. Heavy Rain
  3. Beach Waves
  4. Stream Water Flowing
  5. Running Shower

Sense a trend?

So, the other night I was watching television when I heard “…drip…drip…drip,” which I first identified as a leaky faucet. Not an alarming situation. However, that mild drip turned into the sound of someone pouring a glass of water, and then into a quickly-filling bathtub. Ever on alert, I sprung into action.

I ran to check out what was going on and was startled to see my bathroom ceiling had turned into my own private Niagara Falls. Not so soothing. I started to gather my hand towels, robe and bath mat before realizing that they were already drenched and beyond salvation. (This was not the time for a “Leave No Towel Behind” policy.)

I was at the front door, about to run down to my super’s apartment, when I made a quick K-turn and headed back to my bedroom. It was almost 11 p.m. and I was in pajamas, foot loose and brassiere-free. But even in a plumbing emergency, I don’t take the girls out on the town without buckling them in – you know the saying, “Click it or ticket.” Well, let’s just say I’m a safe driver.

After that quick detour I hightailed it to the basement, where I found my super’s family gazing up at their ceiling. My super lives right below me, so the water had begun to make its way down. I quickly explained what was happening, and the super’s brother (who was filling in while the super was on vacation) followed me upstairs, along with his two sons. It didn’t take long for them to grasp the problem. The super’s brother ran to find the source of the water – a burst pipe, he thought – while the kids helped me assemble garbage cans to catch what water we could.

During the next few minutes, kids, teens and adults roamed in and out of my apartment. While the super’s brother was off exploring, his daughter kept me company. (She came up after the newly-installed basement ceiling hit her when it crumbled due to water damage.) We commiserated until her father returned.

Was it a burst pipe?

No, he said, it’s your upstairs neighbors. They wouldn’t let me in until I yelled that they had a burst pipe that I needed to fix. I opened the bathroom door and found five inches of water around the tub. They forgot they were running the bath.


Well, I was relieved that it wasn’t a burst pipe, but I was still vowing to give my upstairs neighbors the stink eye every time we passed in the hallway. (More difficult than it sounds – I’ve never seen them, and they don’t seem to open their front door.)

Thirty minutes later I was minus most of the water, after the super’s brother vacuumed it up, the paint was buckling on my plaster walls, and an ominous drip continued to torture me. I was also down two ceiling fixtures. They were filled to the rim with lovely brown water and had started slowly detaching due to the added weight. Here's the one in the hallway abutting my bathroom:

Isn’t that beautiful?

That night I eventually fell asleep to the dulcet sounds of “Frogs at Night.”