Like many New Yorkers, my life depends on a series of routines. They’re essential in trying to bring order to chaos during the workweek and making sure I don’t think too much about stuff. There’s a lot to worry about in this City, and I won’t have time to obsess over things like random gas explosions, subway platform pushings, and employees who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom if I just keep my head down and plow through my daily routine. I used to have a pretty solid one. No, actually it was perfect. Every morning I’d get off the 6 train at Grand Central, weave my way toward 45th and 3rd and into a Dunkin’ Donuts for my coffee. Then it was to my office for a few hours until lunch, when I’d zip directly to one of the many perfectly good food options in the neighborhood. Whether it was Chop’t, Lenny’s, the corner deli or that take out Indian place with the name I couldn’t pronounce, it didn’t matter — I knew the quickest way to all of them. After a few more hours of work, I’d hop back on the 6 and take it straight home to East Harlem. Yeah, it was a pretty well-run operation I had going for myself…until I got a new job in the West Village, and now my life is over.
For starters, I’m taking a different subway line, the 1 train. Though it’s been an infinitely better experience, I actually miss the 6 train a bit, if only because I’m a creature of habit. It’s like missing your abusive ex-girlfriend. Sure she treated you like shit, but you didn’t know any better at the time. And to make matters worse, I haven’t yet figured out the best spot on the train to get on so that I’m closest to the exit I need to take once I get to my stop. I used to nail that shit every morning going to my old job. Train stops, bing. Doors open, bam. Staircase is right there, boom. But now, forget it. Every day I get off the train and start walking in the wrong direction. Then I have to do that awkward U-turn walk of shame in front of all the other exiting passengers like a dunce.
And that’s just getting to work. Once it’s time for lunch, I have no idea where I’m going either. I just wander aimlessly like a lost little boy at the fair, bouncing around from one unfamiliar, unvetted deli to the next. Last week I just gave up and went to Hale and Hearty because it was the only familiar thing I saw. It was eighty-five degrees outside that day, and I got soup. I suppose a lot of my troubles can be solved with just a simple Google search of the local restaurants and eateries before leaving the building, but that would require me to do extra work and fuck that. It’s lunchtime and I’m hungry. Plus, that would require me to actually admit that I don’t know where I’m going, and I really can’t do that.
Native New Yorkers wear their expert knowledge of how to get around the city like a badge of honor. It’s what separates us from the trendy transplants and clueless tourists. And even when we don’t exactly know where we’re going, it’s extremely important that we make it look like we know where we’re going. This is especially true of when tourists ask us for directions. We’re much more inclined to offer our best guess as if it were fact rather than bear the embarrassment of admitting we don’t know which way Fulton Street is. And who cares? It’s not like the person who asked us for directions will be able to call us out on it. By the time they figure out our error, they will be blocks and blocks away, nowhere even close to Fulton Street.
So, I’ll be walking aimlessly until I find my way around my new work neighborhood. If you happen to see a short, confused man with glasses wandering below Houston, please do me a favor and point me in the direction of a good sandwich.