After living in the city for a little over a year and a half, I feel like I have fewer crazy NYC stories-probably because it no longer seems so crazy. If I really stop to observe, though, I can probably still find some moments.
Take this week for example. We are in the process of recovering from "Winter Storm Jonas," which buried NYC in over 2 feet of snow. The days leading up to the storm, and those that have followed, have provided a concentrated dose of crazy.
I work at a very busy grocery store on the upper west side. We normally have a long line to check out, and occasionally have to shut the front doors for crowd control on our busiest days. Jonas hit us right around 11pm on Friday night, in the form of light flurries for the first few hours. As early as Wednesday we had insane crowds of people on our normally least busy days. I didn't really notice a difference in what people were buying...there just seemed to be many more of them. Thankfully for my sanity, I didn't work Thursday or Friday, though I heard the situation just escalated. I did not participate in the buying frenzy--The storm was only supposed to last for 24 hours, and even if we lost power, there was plenty of food in the apartment. We wouldn't starve.
Friday morning, I had waked to find that the water coming from our taps was dark yellow/brown and contained sediment. Filtering it through a Brita pitcher did little to clear it, nor did it alleviate the stench coming from the water. Discussions with my roommate and overheard conversations at the liquor store revealed that there was similar water in the University buildings and other apartments in the area. Apparently an issue at the Port Authority had messed up the water for all of Washington Heights and Inwood.
The city's response to this issue, in the face of an impending blizzard and below freezing temperatures?
Open a whole bunch of fire hydrants to flush the system.
Yup. Lets create rivers of water all over the (very sloped) streets just in time for it to freeze and hide under snow. Fun.
On the plus side, it did have the intended effect of clearing up the water.
Saturday morning-the day Jonas hit with full strength-we opened as usual, and I was scheduled to work from 3-11 pm. I left early, anticipating delays, but the trains were running smoothly and got me to work early. Even at 2:30, we had a long line of people waiting to check out. What struck me was that many of these people weren't there just to pick up a few forgotten essentials or emergency supplies. They literally were doing there normal stock the fridge kind of shopping. I guess they figured it'd be a nice quiet time to shop. In all honesty it was-compared to our normal days!
As the blizzard worsened, a travel ban went into effect and then above ground trains stopped running. Our already understaffed store suffered even more as many of the staff left in order to make it home while they could. I stayed, having multiple train options to get home. At 6, our manager declared we would be closing the doors at 7, with the goal to get everybody out by 8. We almost made it! At 7:45 we ushered the last customer out of the store and took the next half hour to wrap up whatever we were doing. At 8:15, the remaining staff met up for a final check-in. There were roughly 20 regular staff, and 4 or 5 assistant managers, as well as the manager left at this point. We were thanked profusely for our dedication and sent on our way with a small goody bag of snacks (trail mix, chocolate, fruit).
My usual route home is via a train which has 1 above ground stop on my section of track (more later), so I figured it would not be running. I decided to walk the two long-blocks to the Central Park station and catch the C train instead. The normally short walk took me over 20 minutes as I waded through drifts of snow that came to mid thigh in places, trekking through eerily deserted streets, save for the occasional pedestrian wandering down the middle of the road taking video. Getting into the station itself was a bit of a trick, as the snow had blown down the stairwell to the point that it looked like a giant curved slide. No steps were visible, and my descent involved clinging to the hand-rail and essentially skiing down. After waiting nearly a half hour, I discovered that, while my normal train had indeed been running, the C was not. Thankfully, a local A eventually arrived and I was able to get back to Washington Heights. Here I encountered a new obstacle. The travel ban combined with the residential/campus nature of my area meant that the streets between the subway and my apartment had become nearly impassable. Broadway had been plowed, leaving 5 foot walls of snow lining it in an unbroken wall that required some serious mountain climbing to cross. My next challenge was St. Nicholas which appeared to have been used as a dumping ground for the snow cleared from nearby streets. Halfway across the wide street, I became mired in a drift that came nearly to my chest. It took me nearly five full minutes of struggling with all my strength to yank myself free and stumble home. I crashed through my front door utterly exhausted and wheezing with an impending Asthma episode.
Thankfully, the warmth of the apartment and a few needed puffs of my meds and I was fine, if a bit drenched from my escapade.
All in all, a storm to remember, and a day that could have been much worse!
Little did I know that the real crisis at work would come in the days following the blizzard...