Jessica Gross

Archive for the ‘people watching’ Category

The Boogie Pole

In people watching on February 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

You’ve touched a boogie pole.

Last night, my roommate told me a horror story. As she waited for the subway, she saw a guy pick a huge booger out of his nose and wipe it on his pants. She prayed silently that she could squeeze into a part of the car far away from the boogie monster.

Of course, she was shoved right next to him. The only pole within reach was the one he grasped. She determined she’d go hands-free.

He moved his hand and gestured to her, offering her a place on the pole.

Where there’s one metal rod covered in snot, there are thousands. Use this stuff.

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Awkward Communications

In musings, people watching on February 2, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Saturday night, I went to a great bar (King’s Head Tavern, near Union Square — it has shelves full of books and a working fireplace!). It was a birthday party where I knew a small percentage of people, so I was in intro mode.

“Hi, have we met before?” I extended my hand toward a woman who’d just joined my circle.

My friends gaped at me. “That’s the waitress,” one whispered.

The rest of the night, everyone mocked me: “Jess introduced herself to the waitress!” they chortled. But really, what’s so weird about that?

Admittedly, I didn’t realize she was the waitress. But still, doesn’t this say something about social boundaries? If the same woman had attended the party, no one would have commented on my introduction. But because she was serving us, the conversation had to account for some distance between us. It’s a muted, modern-day version of a caste system — only the castes are often more fluid, based on the roles we’re playing in the moment.

Going Stroller-Walking

In people watching on February 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm

On a run in Central Park yesterday afternoon, I spied a woman pushing a stroller. I slowed down to get a good look at her cherubic child.

But there was no child. She was pushing a stroller full of mittens.

Was she practicing for an impending birth? Using the stroller as a walker? Doing a social experiment?

Or did she actually think the mittens were a baby?

Post your ideas in comments.

Giving Up Your Seat

In musings, people watching on January 28, 2009 at 11:23 pm

On the subway, the woman sitting next to me was kinder than I. A lady with wispy, light blonde hair and a lined face came on board and stood in front of us.

“Do you want to sit down?” my seatmate asked, as I spread my newspaper over my lap.

The standing lady laughed. “That’s okay — I’m not as old as I look!”

There isn’t a better place to observe American social norms than subway-seat offerings. A girl offering a guy a seat is akin to slapping him in the face. A guy can offer a girl his age a seat, but a girl offering another girl her age a seat would get funny looks.

The real judgment call comes with the almost-elderly. Is it an insult to offer someone on the cusp a seat? — Is it like asking a round woman when the baby is due? Or should the seat-offering be a default question for anyone in the vicinity of old?

The Long Line

In people watching on January 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Yesterday, a friend and I spotted a long line of people, starting at 34th Street and stretching up Seventh Avenue.

“It’s a Miley Cyrus concert,” my friend quipped.

We approached the line to investigate. The people in line were middle-aged. “Not Miley Cyrus,” I said. “Too old.”

“Harry Connick, Jr.?”

We followed the line up Seventh and around the corner. It extended halfway down 35th Street toward Eighth and ended at a sign. My friend spotted it first:

Class Action Claims
Macy’s

Welcome Back

In musings, people watching on January 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I just returned to New York from a five-day trip to D.C., where I was one of the two million crazies who stood in the cold to watch President Barack H. Obama take the oath of office (it was so freezing, and so worth it). I took the bus home, and I’d only walked an avenue when a man stopped me.

“Excuse me, Miss?” he asked, with a faint accent I couldn’t place.

Directions! Of course I could help — back, as I was, in my home city. I stopped and paused.

“Have you ever heard of the Mother of God in the Bible?”

New York. Oh, New York. I guess this was my official “welcome back.”

The Big Apple Circus

In musings, people watching on December 15, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Yesterday, my dad took my brother, 20, and me, 23, to the Big Apple Circus. It was his birthday present to himself.

On a Sunday afternoon, the place was teeming with children. I’d seen August: Osage County the weekend before and the culture difference was stark. It wasn’t just the kids’ presence (they gasped and oohed at every circus trick), but also the adults’ behavior. Having children all around made it okay to use normal speaking voices, and to stand up, in the middle of the performances.

I wondered if this bothered the circus performers, especially the musicians. The horse trainer, I imagined, had looked forward to running the horses around the rink since she started training. But was this the trumpeter’s end goal, or did he aim to join a Broadway show’s pit orchestra? I spent the entire first act thinking about how I wanted to ask the band members how they got involved in the Big Apple.
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The Brownie of Doom

In musings, people watching on December 10, 2008 at 4:21 pm

At 8:16 this morning, a girl, about 10 years old, munched a six-inch-by-six-inch brownie on her way to school with her mother.

There are so many problems with this scenario. It is not normal to eat 17 grams of fat (and that’s for a 100-gram brownie, smaller than this girl’s) for breakfast. How about some tasty cereal or yogurt — foods that are less likely to give kids spare tires? Childhood obesity isn’t just a buzzword — it’s threatening to plague the one in three American children who are overweight with diabetes, joint problems, gallstones, and worse.

Plus, I pity the teacher who inherited that sugar-high girl from her mother.

Free(ish) Fun!

In musings, people watching on December 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

What costs one MetroCard swipe and flies over the East River?

Presenting: the Roosevelt Island Tram! This is my new favorite transport mechanism. It’s a gondola that takes you from Midtown East (60th and 2nd), over the river, to Roosevelt Island. It soars alongside the Queensboro Bridge like a fun little airplane. Once you’re on Roosevelt Island, you can take the Tramway, a tiny bus, all around the island — for only 25 cents! I felt like I was in the olden days.
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Coffee: The New Alcohol

In musings, people watching on December 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I wasn’t into coffee when I moved to New York. I was the anti-addict.

Now, I’m the addict. And I don’t know one person in New York who isn’t.

Drinking alcohol has long been a bragging right for New Yorkers, as for college students. It’s cool to drink, and it’s cool to drink expensively.

Recently, coffee has gained that type of status. It was always an obsession for the sleep-deprived, but now it’s a thing to do. It’s social (though meeting for coffee is often, as a friend pointed out, a way to avoid an awkward dinner). It’s an art form: not just caffeine, but something that should be done right. It’s art. And, like alcohol, if you don’t drink it, people bug you. (“You don’t drink coffee? I mean — why?”)