A fellow recent New York transplant commented that she found it so interesting that this city, while so cutting-edge and modern in many ways is also so…old-fashioned. Like how all prewar buildings don’t have central A/C and the only heat comes from radiators that cannot be adjusted and are ultimately controlled by each building’s supervisor (although there are city laws about when heat must be provided to residents).
In the past four months, I have learned how to go without a lot of things. Some of these things are by choice, and others? A little less so. But I’ve learned a lot. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned to do without, and how I feel about it:
1. A dishwasher. As in, those crazy newfangled contraption where you put the dirty dishes and glasses and cutlery in with some soap, and they come out sparkling clean. For the most part, I don’t mind not having one because the things that are most annoying to scrub clean (pots, pans, the cheese grater, wine glasses) would have to be hand-washed anyway, and plates, forks and the like take two seconds to suds up and rinse off. What I do not like is the drying part of the process. Although Sean and I have been pretty good about alternating washing vs. drying-and-putting-things-away duties, sometimes I just look at that mound of sopping wet items sitting on our drying pad on our ONLY built-in kitchen counter, and I just cannot bring myself to deal with it.
2. A microwave. I don’t miss it all, actually! I like having one at work for the occasional leftovers I bring with me, but it somehow always smells like curry and then makes my food smell like curry, too, which isn’t cool. Even though Indian food is one of my ultimate favorite cuisines. We’ve mastered the art of reheating food on the stove top or in the oven (a lot of foil has been used in the process), and the food always stays hot longer and retains more of its original texture. I have an old-fashioned tea kettle to make hot beverages — which is what I used in college — and it’s much more effective than zapping hot cocoa or water in the microwave. Gas stoves are incredibly efficient. I do long for microwave popcorn on occasion, though. But that’s about it.
3. An elevator. I mean, I have lived in a third-floor dorm room, a fourth-floor dorm room, and a third-floor apartment before, all without elevators, so this isn’t really a big deal. I think walking up the stairs in my building and in the subway is good for my health. I like living in an upper-story unit because it makes me feel safer, even though we already live in a very safe neighborhood of Manhattan. The only times I resent it are when I’ve carried a full load of groceries from my favorite supermarket a half-mile away and then have to lug them up the stairs, and when I am doing laundry and have to add another flight of stairs down to our basement laundry room (which I am so grateful for!!! no laundromat!). As long as I don’t have any drastic falls, we’re all good.
True story: I fell up the stairs one time in middle school. No one was around, so it wasn’t embarrassing, but my books went everywhere and I banged up my knees pretty badly. Mainly my self-confidence hurt because I did not know that anyone could possibly be that clumsy. I was clearly mistaken.
Another true story: One time in COLLEGE I fell down the stairs in an academic building after class. The friend I was engaged in conversation with at the time, God bless him, did not laugh or even comment when I bounced back to my feet like nothing happened and continued descending down the stairs. He also was a guest at our wedding, which I guess means he isn’t too embarrassed to be associated with me, even though there were other people around during that fall. People are so nice.
4. Central A/C. We have now adapted to the “New York version of air conditioning,” which is to say, a very weak version of hardcore Southern A/C. We learned not to turn on our unit unless it was stifling outside, and usually just as a fan to dehumidify the rooms. But those first few days when we moved in and didn’t have A/C? Brutal. I hate the heat because I feel like even if you take off all your clothes and sat around in your birthday suit, you’d still sweat through your clothes. Yeah. Figure that one out.
5. A doorman. Who is supposed to pick up my packages and food deliveries? Who is going to open the front door for me when it is windy and snowy, like tonight? Who?!? (Kidding. But truth be told, I aspire to have a doorman one day. It will probably never happen. But you know that’s when you’ve got it made. That, and when you no longer have to take the subway because you have a PERSONAL DRIVER.)
6. A car. Do not miss at all. I hate driving. I hate automobile traffic. I hate navigating in a car. I don’t care if I have to stand close enough to a stranger that I can study the pores on his face and hear every lyric coming out of his headphones, while another stranger stands close enough behind me that I can practically feel their heartbeat and every exhalation of breath, IT IS STILL BETTER THAN DRIVING. The only time I don’t like it is when I have to sneeze because that could be catastrophic in such close quarters. You just gotta follow the No. 1 Unspoken Rule of Public Transportation: Never make eye contact with anybody. Ever. (The other rule is to give up your seat for pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled. And sometimes children.)
7. Cable. This was a purely personal decision between Sean and I, to stop unnecessary expenses. We’re not TV people. We have Internet and a good Netflix account, so we don’t have to watch stupid commercials and we don’t ever waste free-time flipping through channels “just because.” I prefer to read the news online or in print, anyway, and I can see the weather forecast on my phone. I didn’t have cable my sophomore year of college, either. I sometimes miss the Food Network, and Sean wishes we could watch the A&M football games without having to trek out to a sports bar, but other than that? We don’t miss it a bit.
8. Space. Our apartment is 400-sq-ft, more or less. In our living room we’ve managed to fit a three-person couch, an armchair, a TV stand, two end-tables, a bookcase, a small two-person dining table and chairs, a desk and desk chair, an ironing board (weekdays), a guitar, a cat scratching post and cat bed, and still somehow not blocked off the doorway, the fireplace, or the three windows. One corner of our bedroom makes me laugh because there is a filing cabinet/endtable, litter box, laundry hamper, laundry basket, and several storage containers of extra toiletries and medications. There is enough room in that corner for a person to stand and sort through laundry, or clean the litter box, or retrieve some ibuprofen. But there is no way two people could fit into that space at the same time. And our kitchen looks like this:
You don’t get the full comic effect unless you see it in person, I promise.
I like that having a small space forces us to be tidy and organized — and that it takes very little time to clean because it is so small. I like that it prevents me from buying things I don’t need, especially random snack foods.
I don’t like that it means when the cat gets all nocturnal and chases her toys around at night, that she must literally run into every piece of furniture in the process. And as I learned after being stuck inside for most of four days during Hurricane Sandy, a person can go mad staying in this small of a space for too long.
I hate that on TV shows set in NYC, like How I Met Your Mother (which I love!, see left) have the most unrealistic apartments EVER. The apartment that our beloved narrator Ted lives in on the snazzy Upper West Side could never realistically be afforded by the characters. In the first season, Ted is around my age and has a fairly entry-level job as an architect at a smallish firm. He lives with a law student, and sometimes that law student’s public kindergarten teacher fiancee, and sometimes his late-night small-network TV reporter girlfriend.
There is just no way they could live in that apartment AND go to the bar downstairs every night for beers (which will cost you about $6+ a piece in Manhattan) and overpriced pub food.
And it just really bothers me because all these naive teenagers are sitting out there going, “Wow, I want to NY and have an apartment like that!” Yeah…try winning the lottery.
The apartment in HBO’s Girls is 1,000x more realistic (see left). Probably because the writer/creator of the show, Lena Dunham, has ACTUALLY LIVED IN NEW YORK. Crazy, huh? New York shows made by New York people. I think we’re onto something there.
I think I’m veering off on a tangent, but I love this blog post about famous TV NYC apartments, from Jerry Seinfeld’s to Carrie Bradshaw’s, and how likely it is the characters who live in them could afford to pay the rent in real life.
What do I miss about non-NYC life, aside from family and friends, like anybody who lives anywhere these people are not would? Tex-Mex. So bad. I miss it. My heart longs for it. My stomach needs it.
I would give up my foolish dreams of having a doorman for a decent Tex-Mex place in the UES.
P.S. Since I mentioned How I Met Your Mother, please click here for the biggest piece of Halloween adorableness you’ve ever seen. That is Neil Patrick Harris (Tin Man) and his too cute family! I can’t even handle it.