Friday, June 3, 2011

A New York Minute

Seriously, people need to just do things faster.

Johnny Carson defined a New York minute as, "the time it takes from when the lights turn green, till the guy behind you starts honking his horn." Which is sometimes faster than a trained Olympian can jump off the starting blocks.

I don't want you to get the wrong impression of me. I'm a really patient person. I think I got that way from perpetually picking the slowest line at the grocery store/McDonald's/toll booths/any possible line I can get in. I've also been pretty good at entertaining myself, or just becoming completely oblivious to the world around me, so minutes and hours can go by and I'm just off in my own little surreality the whole time, so waiting doesn't really bother me.

Except sometimes it does: when my New Yorker core comes out and glares and scowls and doesn't understand how people can possibly be that slow. And for a split second, I'm completely, inexplicably, terribly impatient and seriously consider running them over.

Here are a few things that people need to do faster, or at least wait until nobody is around to do them.
  • Learn how to swipe your MetroCard. Memorize this picture.
    Not so coincidentally, the faster you swipe it, the more likely it is to work. And also, if you don't have your MetroCard in your hand, positioned correctly, ready to go through the turnstile, get out of the way of those who do. Move to the side until you're ready, then go through in one fluid motion. Do not stop in front of the turnstile. Ever.
  • Walk faster. Even if you don't know where you're going, pick a direction and commit. If you're going to walk slow/take pictures/look at buildings/read a map, move to the side and stop moving. In one of my favorite articles about New Yorkers, a writer from Atlanta observed, "the rushing crowd around me seemed better able to handle an immobile object than a slow-moving one." This is absolutely true.
See? Fast moving people can easily navigate stationary objects.
  • Know what you want from the ATM before you get to the ATM. Most ATM's have shortcuts. Use them. For example, I insert my card, punch in my pin, and hit $20 from checking/no receipt. I get my money and walk away. Start to finish, I'm there about 30 seconds. I don't mind standing in line at the bank unless I see people staring blankly at the screen, or taking a minute to make a choice? Blargh!
Side Story: Yesterday, the middle-aged guy in front of me at the ATM seemed absolutely baffled by the machine. He kept hitting buttons and at one point, everything turned Chinese. I thought, 'Well I didn't expect that from a white guy.' He stared at the screen for a minute and then looked at the person at the ATM next to him and said, "What the f***? I can't read f***ing Chinese!"
  • Ordering food. More particularly, when there's only one or two choices on the menu. For example, at 2 Bros Pizza, you don't even need to say anything. Just hold up two fingers. This will get you 2 slices of cheese. You give them $2 and be on your way. It's really not hard. It boggles my mind that people get up to the front and don't know what they want. Really? Cheese or pepperoni?
So yeah. Certain things need to be done in a New York minute. Which, by the way, is not a phrase that New Yorkers use. It actually sounds weird to me. But you get the idea.  Do simple tasks quickly. Is that too much to ask?

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