There’s a popular Instagram hashtag used by locals and tourists alike called #what_I_saw_in_nyc. For those who don’t use the socials (or who, like me, are off social media and don’t know if/when you’ll be back!), hashtags are a sort of image catalog system that allows users to search for specific visual content. As you can imagine, #what_i_saw_in_nyc usually features beautiful visions of Central Park at sunset, or the Statue of Liberty from a yacht, or even the latest Instagram-bait food trends like raw cookie dough and ramen burgers.
I myself have been prone to use the hashtag to document items like the rainbow bagel craze (this is so laughable to me now!) and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but I think most New Yorkers can agree that there should also be a hashtag called #what_i_saw_in_nyc_but_wished_I_hadn’t
That would be much more interesting.
In the scant week since I’ve been back in the city after taking two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, I have already seen my fair share of can’t-unsee-them antics. And since you, dear readers, follow this blog, I’m going to share my favorite (anti-favorite?) one with you because I NEED SOMEONE TO SHARE THE BURDEN OF THIS MEMORY WITH. You most definitely wouldn’t find this anecdote on my once-upon-a-time series “New York Niceties,” and it is one that will surely be seared into my memory for years to come. For my rural readers, I may recommend not eating while reading. If you’re a New Yorker though, you might find yourself yawning – just another typical day in NYC.
A Trip to Jacob’s Pickle(s)
As most New York City horror stories goes, this one took place on our ‘beloved’ subway system.
Last weekend, I took my brother and my best friend to one of my favorite restaurants in the city – Jacob’s Pickles, located on the Upper West Side. Jacobs’s Pickles has the BEST poutine (french fries covered in gravy and cheese and bacon) ever, my favorite cocktail (the jam jar, which is strawberries and lemon and gin and omg-is-it-five-o’clock-yet?!), and the most delicious biscuits with fried chicken and sausage gravy that I’ve ever had. It’s worth saving your appetite for, because the portions are ridiculous and the food…well, let’s just say you’re not going to be eating any salads here.
The restaurant is located on the same parallel as Astoria and is theoretically only 3 miles as the crow flies. With the way the subways are configured, however, it takes roughly 40 minutes and two train lines to get there.
Last year, I got into a reallyyyyy bad Uber habit. If my destination required taking more than one train, I’d cut them both out and take an Uber. In fact, if my destination in the city was anywhere other than a quick few minutes walk from the N/W line, I would take an Uber. If I was going to Brooklyn, it was a question of which rideshare, not if I would ride share.
Anyways, as anyone who has ever taken an Uber or Lyft in the city knows, cars are now CRAZY expensive, so I’ve been trying (trying!) to take the subway more recently. I figured that going with friends and family would be the perfect way to ease back into the anxiety-inducing MTA after two weeks off.
We made it from my apartment to the Times Square subway station with relative ease for a weekend, so I was feeling pretty good about the commute. Only a couple of stops up on the 1 train, and we’d soon be eating flaky biscuity goodness!
Then, I had an idea.
“Hey guys,” I said to my non-New York brother and friend, who were visiting from out of state. “Why don’t we take the Express 2 or 3 train and get off a stop early? We’ll have to walk a few extra blocks, but it’s nice out and it’s less time on the train.”
I could have stopped there, but in my foolishness (foolishness!) I continued: “Plus riding the train is like playing Russian Roulette, ” I added. “Each time the doors open, you never know who’s going to get on or off…”
The Universe clearly decided to test this theory that day.
As the 2 train pulled into the station, apparently somebody was indeed getting off…in the train…stripped naked down to his shoes.
Now, as someone who has lived in the city for 4 and a half years, you learn a thing or two. Sure, I’m not exactly a veteran (yet), but I’m certainly not a “new(ish) New Yorker” anymore. So when I saw the 2 train roll up into the station, with one car almost entirely empty, that was my first hint that something was wrong–dreadfully wrong. You never, ever, EVER want to enter an empty car during rush hour. Ever.
Think about it: In a city where space is a commodity and you pay through the nose to rent your “cozy” storage cube of an apartment, the only reason a New Yorker would avoid a spacious, open-seat-filled subway car is because somebody has died, something smells like death, or somebody is doing something that makes you wish you actually were dead.
When I saw the open car roll by I immediately turned and started heading for a different train car, but my poor, unwitting brother (bless his heart!) turned to look (he actually LOOKED!) inside the car as if to get on, then turned around and immediately aged about two years. Fortunately, I’m told, the man’s large, bulbous belly was covering up *most* of “the goods” and “services.” He was doing exactly what you think he was doing, and the few people who were on the train car with him (poor, sad tourists) immediately bum rushed the platform in their hurry to get out. Thank God we were only going one stop…
The entire 3-minute train ride from 42nd street to 72nd, I kept praying that the man would stay put and not venture next door to our car. When the doors opened and we got off the train at 72nd Street, we walked by the open car again on our way out. I knew better than to breathe in a sigh of relief, though, because we were immediately hit with the putrid smell of death escaping the car and filling the entire platform. An older lady who gave off the air of having lived in this city a long time stopped by the train conductor’s car, and leaned in. “There’s a man in one of the cars back there who is completely naked,” she told the conductor. “Okay,” he responded, then turned around, shut the train car doors, and drove off.
The MTA in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.
As we walked out of the station to breathe in the fresh (so fresh!) air, my friend whipped out her hand sanitizer, and we passed it around like liquid gold. “I though you were just being a stereotypical jaded New Yorker with your whole ‘subway Russian roulette’ spiel,” she said, squeezing out another dime-sized drop of sanitizer. “But that was…uh…certainly something to remember.”
As for my poor brother, whose eyes took the brunt of the beating and will likely never be the same? “I thought we were going to eat at Jacob’s Pickles, not see Jacob’s Pickle.”
He’ll be alright.