Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Hassled & Harried

This past weekend marked 8years since I moved to New York. Two more years and I believe I can officially call myself a New Yorker. If I make it another two years that is. My anniversary always sets me off wondering how much longer I can afford to live in a city where apartments the size broom cupboards routinely seem to sell for half a million dollars and upwards. I think it’s more likely than not that I’ll still be here to celebrate my 10th anniversary, although I did have a few brief misgivings about my decision to live here on my first day back in the city after my recent jaunt to the genteel south. The sheer aggressiveness of New Yorkers came as a bit of a culture shock after 4days away among a more polite people. Everyone just seemed to be so damned rude and I spent much of my first day back in town feeling huffy and irritated, however once I’d been back for 24hours I was back to aggressively elbowing grannies out of the way with the best of them* and life returned to normal. Nevertheless the negative sentiment towards New York, however fleeting, took me by surprise as I usually find returning to the city to be one of the best things about leaving it in the first place and what was once unthinkable has begun to occur to me; that maybe in a few years time I might be tempted to give up the hustle and bustle of the city in favour of a more mellow way of life. Maybe!!

Much as I love my fellow New Yorkers, I have to say that I found the southerners I encountered in Charleston to be quite a delightful contrast, very warm and welcoming with lovely manners to boot. The famed southern hospitality does not appear to be a myth and when they inquire into your wellbeing – which they frequently do - they actually wait for a response. This is bizarre to me after so long in New York where the words “hi, how are you?” are more often than not used as a sort of drive by greeting, something people say as they pass you in the hallway, without really being interested in hearing the answer. I can’t tell you how many times during my first few months here I found myself left standing in the hallway responding “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” to the back of a co-worker’s head as they continued walking down the corridor. Down south however they actually seen to mean it, they're good actors if they don't given there’s none of that obviously fake “have a nice day” bollocks that you get in New York, and which tonally comes across as if they’re actually saying “I hope you rot in hell with your fricking grande skim latte.” Yes, employees at my local Starbucks, I'm talking about you!!!

The other weird thing about the south is that the men have a tendency towards politeness and downright gentlemanly behaviour; holding doors open for you and stuff. What's all that about? It’s very strange after all these years spent in big cities – well over a decade between London and New York - where it’s every man/woman for their self. On my second date with Catweazle, when he was visiting New York, I recall he stood aside so that I could get on the subway ahead of him - unlike native New Yorker Alan who practically used to trample over me to get on the train first. The first time it happened I looked at him suspiciously and asked him what he was doing. I was a bit taken aback when he said he was waiting for me to get on first and regrettably I think I impatiently told him to move his arse and get on the train or the subway doors would shut before he could get on and we’d be separated. That’s the thing about big cities, sometimes there’s just no time for niceties when faced with the practicalities of day to day living.

Workwise things are just as stupidly busy as they were the last time I moaned about my job and I’m having a bit of a love/hate thing going on with one of my clients at the moment. I like him for being such a huge advocate of the work we do and keeping me in a salary, but by God does he crack the whip at times. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly this week prepping for a big meeting we had with his boss this afternoon. He’d also asked me to coordinate bodies on the agency side for another meeting immediately after the one with his manager and get together everyone from the client team, and the agency, however yesterday he asked me what the agency’s agenda was for the second meeting. This being a meeting that HE called!! Honestly!! Fortunately both meetings went well, although I would have felt a lot better had I not thrown salad dressing all over myself about half an hour before we left the office. It’s my own fault for boasting to Debs about how chuffed to bits I was with my culinary challenged self for making a fab salad, replete with homemade dressing (2tbsps of balsamic, 1/2 heaped tsp dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 4tbsp canola oil vigorously shake it all together and hey presto delicious balsamic dressing). Yeah yeah okay, basically I washed and chopped vegetables and shook together ingredients for dressing, no big deal, but I've come a long way, I was raised on M&S ready meals. It was delish and I enjoyed every mouthful, that is until I looked down and….uh-oh…what’s that? Specks of balsamic dressing on my cardigan!!! BROWN specks of balsamic dressing on my PALE GREEN cardigan. Right on the boobs too. I had to go and dab at it in the ladies room, and while it did come off, I was left with attractive circular wet patches on my cardigan and…well…we don’t have hand dryers in our bathrooms, only paper towels, so I had to walk around with wet boobs until they air dried. It looked like I’d been lactating!! Perfect timing, a mere 20minutes from leaving for a client meeting. I won’t be so smug about my homemade salad dressing in future, although news travels fast about my culinary expertise and I hear on the grapevine that I’ve put the fear of God up Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson who are both seriously worried about their culinary crowns after hearing about my kitchen exploits ;-)

In other news my mother and sister have been driving me crazy on IM these last few days due to my sister and family – husband and son – having decided at short notice to move back to England from Australia on Monday after just over 6months in Melbourne – there goes my relatively cheap trip to Australia for Christmas this year, thank God I didn’t book anything. They arrive back on Tuesday 24th June and are hoping to stay at my parents place until they can get themselves sorted. Our mother is not best pleased for a couple of reasons firstly because she thinks they’re taking her hospitality for granted - I think they assumed rather than asked if they could stay. Who knows!! I'm trying to stay out of it. Secondly she thinks they’ve given up too easily on Australia yet again – this is the second time they’ve moved to Australia only to return after 6months. “Don’t you agree?” she’ll say to me when we have our weekly chat on Sunday, then my sister gets on the phone or IM all huffy with our mum, complaining to me that Mum just doesn’t appreciate how hard it is to move to another country. “You know what it’s like” she’ll say, “tell her it’s not so easy” and muggins here is piggy in the middle of both of them. It’s an argument I really don’t want to get involved in, but I know for sure that I’m going to get an earful when my parents come to visit in a few weeks.

Families eh!! Between them and work stress it’s no wonder I drink!!

*So before you start thinking about reporting me to the granny bashing police these are not mild mannered, scone making, sock knitting, country grannies I'm referring to here, but big city grannies, a ferocious strain of the species who spend their evenings sharpening their elbows so as to more effectively barge onto the subway as soon as the doors have opened. These particular grannies are like heat seeking missiles when it comes to nabbing the last available seat on the subway during rush hour. Approach with caution!!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 'almost' New Yorker status! :)

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks BT :-)

Blur Ting said...

haha, a very entertaining read! I so can relate to the men opening doors thing... it is the same here in our city (Singapore is one big city). I rush around alot here too and sometimes when I am at the restaurant, the waiter pulls out a chair for me to sit and I don't even notice him and plonk myself on the chair nearest to me.

Kitty said...

lol. Those grannies are monsters in disguise. They play dumb sometimes, too, all innocent-like. Especially at the supermarket.

I know what you mean about the living factor here. Yet another friend/acquaintance has expressed the desire to move to the West Coast, citing 'lifestyle issues'.

Most of the time it's about money. One coworker did the math for the ratio of her salary here compared to her rent, both here are in Texas. Her ratio in New York put her in McDonald's employee range. And they don't work crazy hours as McD's.

It's a constant struggle for most of us. People with kids have less of a choice. Anyhoo, I'm glad your recent southern experience was a good one. Who knows what's next?

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Blur Ting, that's funny, I would be the same. Sometimes I don't have time for gallant behaviour, time is money ;-)

Hi Kitty, it's definitely about money in my case. Knowing I won't be able to afford to buy a place of my own puts me off this city sometimes. It's the same old gentrification complaint, that NYC seems like there will only be room for the rich in NYC in years to come. Who knows :-)

Sister Sassy said...

lol- I'm glad you found Charleston pleasant and full of nice people. I would run far away from Alabama however (ack, no one hit me) lived in Birmingham for 3 months and had only bad experiences.

So... hmmm... maybe you'll think of relocating to the souther U.S. and become a Southerner instead of a New Yorker?

Watch out for those knitting needles, they can be deadly!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Sassy, um...not sure about moving south quite yet, I'll see how things go with Catweazle first :-)

Amel said...

HE HE HE HE...I understand what you mean about big city life versus "village" life and about family feuds and being smack-dab in the middle (and being forced to hear both sides grumbling about the other).

I was amazed when I moved to Finland since drivers almost always (99% of the time) let people cross the street. Plus twice two people (on different occasions) let us go first on the line in the supermarket since we had only bought a few things.

Surprise, surprise!!!

And you know what I felt when I read this post? It's like reading a chapter of a GREAT Chicklit book. You SHOULD really start writing your own Chicklit novel (at least, if not any other genre) someday!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Amel, 99% of the time when I cross the street in New York I have to watch that I don't get run down by a cab or a delivery guy riding his bike against traffic :-)

You are so nice to be so complimentary about my writing. I have thought about writing some sort of book, but I lack certain a plot ;-)

Amel said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I'd also love to write, but I don't know what to write about except small posts HI HI HI HI...Plus it's hard to create good, developing characters.

But seriously, you've got the gift of entertaining your readers. ;-D

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Amel :-)