My tired back and knees really appreciate the new metal benches that have appeared in my neighborhood over the past three years. Through CityBench, over 20 of these have been installed on the Upper West Side alone. Instead of plopping down on cold and dirty stoops, or crossing over to a seat in the median, I can now sometimes find a handy bench and take a needed break. But note that word “sometimes.” New York isn’t a sitting-friendly place. A lot of buildings have pointed fences around them, and one would get impaled by trying to sit there. I hope more of the CityBenches appear, in more places.
I laud the stores that have packaged foods for one person, available seating, and water and bathrooms. Whole Foods, for all of its recent publicity, and Trader Joe’s, has all of these. And speaking of bathrooms, all of us seniors (and I’m sure we’re not the only ones), know that New York is a terrible city if you have to go. I remember being in London many years ago and marveling at the huge signs saying “Toilet” right in the streets, with big arrows pointing to underground loos or outdoor kiosks for doing your business. I made my friend take a photo of me under one of those signs. Over the years, I have come to know where one can make a quick pit stop. As noted, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s; most Starbucks; the basement men’s shoe department in the 79th Street DSW shoe store; Europan bakeries; all Barnes & Nobles; and the 75th Street Fairway, upstairs to the left of the Café. If you’re lucky enough to be in Central Park or Riverside Park, there are bathrooms in many locations, but I’m sticking to the streets of our fair city.
Now for pet peeves. Some of my friends have had close calls with kids on scooters on the sidewalks. Mothers and nannies are too busy with their cell phones to rein in their little princes and princesses. Ditto for food deliverymen, who illegally ride their bikes on sidewalks and don’t seem to care who they might run over. Then there is the matter of the front seats on buses, which are supposed to be for the handicapped and elderly. Tell that to those mothers and nannies, who will glare malevolently if you ask to use the seat. Gone are the days when small children sat on their mother’s lap, as my children did. You have to be brave and confident to insist on that seat; some people seem to be able pull it off with impunity.
There’s also the issue of the huge pack backs young people (especially young men?) tote around without care for anyone else. I personally have been bonked by more than one back pack trying to board a bus or subway. Please, do they really have to carry their whole lives on their backs? And do people really have to barrel down subway stairs without regard for us slower folk? There will be another train, I promise.
Many friends asked me to include noisy restaurants in my pet peeves section, and I totally agree. A lot of us have lost at least some hearing, and trying to have a conversation can be trying at best. That, plus having to remember to bring a sweater for the over-air conditioning in most places can make restaurant going more a trial than a pleasure.
Many of us seniors can feel invisible in our own city. Please, young people, try to walk a bit more slowly, watch where you’re going, and get your noses out of your electronic equipment. We can’t always dodge you in time to save ourselves from a fall.
I’m sure I haven’t hit all the negatives and positives of senior life in New York. For example, though many subway stations have elevators, many others don’t. And we need to have curb cuts on all street corners, and they need to be maintained and repaired. This is not the case now.
This is my list, and it includes suggestions from friends and acquaintances, who were more than happy to contribute.
Seniors, enjoy your city. Just keep your head up and stay alert. And try to stay off the buses when school gets out. It’s downright scary.