Saturday, October 27, 2007

New York City Suggestion Box

I posted before about the incredible tram-ride over to Roosevelt Island, a quirky little petri dish of an urbanized Mayberry lying 2 minutes off of Manhattan in the middle of the East River. So I guess maybe I shouldn't be surprised that, when we were waiting for the tram back over to Mid-Town, I noticed this "Suggestion Box" at the station.

This leads me to a greater point: If you haven't been to New York City in the past decade or more, you might be shocked by what you find there now. Not only is it clean and safe- and I mean we walked and walked and walked for days and still never felt uncomfortable, even among the tenement district in the Lower East Side and in the Bowery (former skid row) area- but the people are even nice.

Whereas the NYC of the 70s and 80s a) didn't give a rip about your or anyone else's opionion, and b) would tell you to take your suggestions and shove them . . . and c) would probably have covered the Suggestion Box with graffiti and shoved God-knows-what in there, today's NYC is downright civilized.

OK, so the subway station manager can be a little off-putting as he glares at you through bulletproof plexiglass, but my favorite thing to do is to approach a guy just like that, give him a huge smile, and ask one of my moronic questions, "Excuse me, sir, but would you please help me figure out how to buy my sorry-tourist-self a subway card? Oh, and I'm such an idiot that now that I have the card, I can't figure out which way to slide it in so that the turn style will open for me, Duh-uh!" But once I bust out my Midwestern charm, the veneer is off and these people are sometimes even nice, particularly to dumb, well-intentioned tourists like me. My favorite thing is to stop a busy local on the street and ask for directions- they are so taken aback sometimes, and it's fun to watch their steely exterior fall away with the human interaction.

As we were leaving the city last time, we were laden with luggage and trying to find a corner worthy of hailing a cab. The problem was apparently that we were on the backside of the Waldorf=Astoria- where President Bush and friends were staying during the UN Summit in September- and traffic was all screwed up. Anyway, there were about a BILLION cops around so I approached one of them and asked if it was OK to hail a cab while standing next to him, that is, if a cab was even going to stop for us, with all this funky traffic.

So New York's finest doesn't say but a couple of words to me and the next thing I know there is a shiny yellow clean cab at my feet. The NYPD had hailed my cab for me! Now if that isn't customer service, I don't know what is.

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