Jessica Gross

Archive for the ‘people watching’ Category

Subway Fail

In people watching on April 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

I never mastered the art of reading a newspaper on the train. I’ve mastered the fold — I can get the thing down to a sliver — but it’s the opening, the folding of the front page to access page two, that stumps me.

Today, as I tried to make that first fold, my arms got carried away, as if they were commanded by a different brain. I nearly punched the man seated next to me in the face. He flinched, withdrawing from my newsweapon.

“Sorry!” I squawked. He smiled; all was well.

But I was embarrassed. Real New Yorkers can read the newspaper on the subway. As I got off, I apologized again.

“No worries,” he said. “It was funny.”

“I have depth perception problems,” I said.

Depth perception problems?

Bottom line: I need to practice the first-page fold. Maybe even in front of a mirror. (And never say “depth perception problems” again.)

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The Case of the Gym Cookie

In people watching on March 25, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I’d just bonded with the elliptical for 40 minutes and was walking out of the gym when a man in a hat embroidered with “Caffe Noi” stopped me. He was guarding a table heaped with free food. In the middle was a giant plate of cookies.

Cookies? At the New York Sports Club? At 8:30 on a Wednesday morning?

“Why are you serving cookies at the gym? In the morning?” I asked. I meant to inquire with polite curiosity — I really was baffled — but it came out as an accusation.

“You’re going to eat something anyway, aren’t you?” he retorted.

Well, yes, I was going to eat something: cereal, not a pile of chocolate rugaluch. Why the obsession with early-morning sugar highs?

Luckily, our cookie-table friend understood my will was not ill and gave me a present: a free coffee coupon. Plug for Caffe Noi!

Brucepack

In musings, people watching on March 17, 2009 at 5:59 pm

A couple of Trader Joe’s trips ago, I spied a man with a backpack. That’s cool; I, too, carry my groceries in a backback. (I also try to wear boots and sweatpants so I can feel outdoorsy and hardcore.)

But his was no normal backpack: it was a Brucepack. That is, the word “Bruce” — presumably his name — was etched onto his bag.

Parents are warned not to give their children accessories that announce their identities, which would make them good prey for strangers. But shouldn’t the same go for adults? In fact, I bet adults would be especially susceptible to a kidnapping, because they’d never expect it! Even the word “kidnapping” assumes you’re a baby-faced Oshkosh-wearer.

Stranger: Hey, Bruce!

Bruce: Oh…uh, hey?

Stranger: What’s doing, my man? Great to see you and the wife at that cocktail party last month!

Bruce: Uh, yeah! The cocktail party! Great to see you too.

Stranger: Hey, you know, I’m heading home — want a lift with that huge bag of groceries? Sure must suck to take the bus with that thing. Give us some time to catch up, too…

Didn’t happen. But it could’ve.

Bus Blooper

In people watching on March 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

At 3:00a.m. on Friday night (technically, Saturday morning), I hopped on the uptown M15 to head home from a party — my friend’s roommate’s boyfriend’s party. (Whew.) My roommate, on hearing what I’d done, chastised me. “The bus? At three in the morning? You’re insane.”

But I wasn’t: there were a few friendly folks aboard my trusty vessel. One guy yelled to his friend as he boarded, in a thick New York accent: “Call me at home!” (“Cawl me at home!”)

The bus’s microphone picked up his voice. “CAWL ME AT HOME!” The guy looked out at the four of us passengers, smiling. “I guess everyone heard that.” And, as he sat behind me, “I’m on here til 83rd Street!”

So, my two points: (1) the bus is safer than you think, and (2) even on public transportation, you can make a new friend. You just might have to embarrass yourself first.

Stop Requested

In musings, people watching on March 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

If you’ve never ridden a New York City bus, let me induct you into our elite circle with some info about protocol. Unlike our underground friend, the subway, the bus does not pull over at every stop along its route. No siree! If there are people at the bus stop, yeah, it’ll let them on. But if no one is waiting, something special has to happen.

Are you on the edge of your seat? I present you with the magic formula: to ensure that the bus will let you off, you’ve got to press the tape.

Huh? What’s the tape? Oh, silly you. Along the walls of the bus, at two-seat intervals, are sensor-filled strips, colored yellow or black. When you push on these pieces of “tape,” the bus driver is alerted that you’d like to get off at the next stop. That way, if no one’s waiting and no one needs to get off, the bus can sail right by the stop without wasting time.

It’s a brilliant system. As I mused about it today on the M79, something odd struck me: people usually don’t wait until the last minute to press the tape, hoping that someone will do it before them. With regularity, passengers request each stop way before the bus has reached it.

Why did this surprise me? For one, I’m not one of the responsible passengers: I often do wait for someone else to push the tape. And, whenever I wait, someone else takes action.
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“You Must Have Been Hungry!”

In musings, people watching on February 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm

My friend from pre-school (oldest friendship!) and I went to dinner at the Bar at Etats-Unis on Saturday. (Side note: delightful, but pricey. I loved my duck salad.) The bartender took a liking to us and gave us a complimentary molten chocolate cake and dessert wine at the end of the meal.

Free chocolate cake? This couldn’t be real. We looked at the cake; we looked at each other. Cake; each other. Cake. We dug in.

This cake oozed molten chocolate. I wanted to jump inside and take a swim. We finished it, scraping the plate.

The bartender came to clear our dishes and gaped at us, the gluttonous mutants, shaking his head. “Remind me not to go up against you,” he said, in mock horror.

I get comments like this at least a third of the times that I go out to eat. (My favorite, at a restaurant in DC last month: “You did such a GOOD job!” It was a sandwich.) My friend is one of the skinnier people I know, and I’m a small girl. Are waiters just baffled that a little person can actually consume food? Or is it that, in looks-conscious cities like New York and DC, it’s unusual to find any female finishing her dish?

Excuse Me, You’re in My Picture

In people watching on February 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm

A friend and I stood outside the Cloisters, admiring the sparkly Hudson from our castle. Next to us stood a camera-wielding group of three, also peering over the wall.

Except they were staring at us, not the river. We half-smiled; turned back to the Hudson. They continued to stare. My friend wondered if they wanted us to take their picture.

We continued to look sidelong at each other for some minutes before they told us that we were in the way of their picture. Oh. We walked out of the way.

And, on discovering that the short path led to a dead end, we were forced to relive the awkwardness on our way back.

On a side note, though, if you haven’t been to the Cloisters, go. It’s an offshoot of the Met way up on the West side. The Medieval European art is good, but what’s memorable is the view — an expansive one, since the museum is on a big hill. Memorable, that is, if you can get a picture without two goofs idling in the background.

Only on the UES

In people watching on February 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

On the Blackberry of the woman sitting next to me on the M86 crosstown bus:

“Oh, I know — I’d (almost) rather do my own taxes than watch that.”

The Difference Between Dogs and People

In people watching on February 11, 2009 at 12:20 pm

You can pet a stranger’s dog. You can’t pet a stranger’s child.

Man in front of me on the bus, who said “Hey, Buddy!” to two frightened children while giving them noogies, I hope you’re reading this.

Spying at the Gym

In people watching on February 6, 2009 at 12:14 pm

On the gym mat at my New York Sports Club, I often end up next to the same guy. He exercises maniacally — I’d estimate three push-ups per second — and wears a black unitard.

In fact, it’s not a coincidence. As he works out, he mutters to himself, and I’m determined to hear what he says. Today, I strained my ears throughout my sit-up routine.

For the first time in months of auditory research, I deciphered part of his monologue:

“Wedgie!”