City Stories

There goes the afternoon

As the one year mark of my living in Manhattan approaches (!), I’ve had a couple interesting conversations about what exactly that means, what it takes to make it on the island.

If you’re reading this from somewhere other than New York, you may think I’m exaggerating – that living here wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) take any special skills you don’t need to get by anywhere else.

You’d be wrong.

Allow me to illustrate by recounting today’s trip to Target. There aren’t any Targets in Manhattan, so I opt to zip over to the one in Brooklyn as opposed to the one in Harlem, mainly because it’s easier to get to on the train.

Although, that’s relative.

It starts when I walk the extra block from my parent to get to the Q train, which not only stops right outside Target, but also offers a pretty great view of the Brooklyn Bridge and downtown as it speeds over the water to the borough. Thing is, the 7th Ave stop where I pick up the Q is it’s northern-most stop. If you’re lucky, the train’s waiting in the station when you get there; if you’re less lucky, the train is there waiting…and waiting…and waiting. I sat on a stalled train for 10 minutes just waiting for it to decide it was ready for its journey back to Brooklyn.

One thing you learn about living in NYC is the time it takes. This is not the world of jump-in-your-car-and-run-a-few-errands. (Of course, when a few stops later a guy with an accordion gets on your train car and starts in on “La Vie en Rose,” you quickly forget the 10 minutes you sat waiting. That’s still charming.)

Shopping for the basics in New York is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’d rather not spend $6 on toilet paper at the bodega, so the trip to Target is worth it. Of course, that’s assuming Target’s shelves aren’t already picked dry by everyone else in the city with the same idea on a Saturday afternoon. Today, I managed to get toilet paper. I did not manage to get my prescription, however. Even after waiting in a line that snaked into the band-aid aisle (but I suppose that was the insurance company’s fault).

I grabbed a handful of other simple items – coffee filters, contact solution, cat food. As I wandered the two-story store finding what I needed, I was careful to avoid being tempted by the handbags, the nail polishes, the kinds of extras I wouldn’t have thought twice about before moving to New York. For one, I can’t afford them anymore. But more, I am acutely cognizant every time I shop that whatever I pluck off the shelf I will also have to lug down to the subway, back up on the other end and over to my apartment from there. I can’t tell you the last time I bought laundry detergent and kitty litter in the same trip.

I left for Target at about 1:45 this afternoon. After the train ride there, the wait on the pharmacy, the long lines to check out and the train ride back, I was home again at 5pm. Three-plus hours for a trip to Target. Welcome to NYC.