Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll has no song to sing in NEW YORK, NEW YORK! It’s a Heckuva Town. She writes:

There has been much speculation during this ChiCom Disaster about why the New York-New Jersey megalopolis has roughly half the COVID-19 cases in the whole dang country. Beyond the crowded subways and high rise living, the sea of jostling humanity any time of the day or night, tourists from every country in the world with their pathogens in tow, and several massive Chinatowns, I have some random related thoughts.

I have limited experience with New York itself or with New Yorkers, but that has never prevented New Yorkers from gifting us with their pronouncements about Red State America, which they commonly denigrate as “Jesusland.”

My first experience was in 1970 when, as a “community activist” from Minneapolis, I spent six weeks in the New York office of a national antiwar organization raising money twelve hours a day on the phones. It was the worst job of my life and it paid $65/week. The one highlight was finding Dustin Hoffman’s name right in the phone book, and leaving a message on his answering machine, which was a very novel device then. We had to find our own housing with friends. I developed an abiding hatred of speaking on the phone.

Just 23 at the time, I lacked whatever thin veneer of sophistication and worldliness I have acquired since then to protect me. Talk about somebody who just fell off the turnip truck and landed in the Ninth Ring of Hell!

My first day I gave away about half of my week’s pitiful stipend to the army of panhandlers who wandered the streets – mumbling old women in five bathrobes, obvious junkies, mothers in doorways with small children. Did I mention it was December? I had seen nothing remotely like it in my small town in Minnesota, nor even in Minneapolis. It broke my heart, but by the end of the first week, I had learned that I had to emulate the native New Yorkers: Avoid eye contact and hustle on by the misery or give up eating.

The next morning I found a greasy spoon a couple of blocks from the office and ordered a cup of coffee and a Danish. The unfriendly waitress asked me, “Regulah cawfee?” and I replied in the affirmative, assuming that “regular” meant black. Haha. It came with curdled cream and a LOT of sugar, but I was too scared to send it back. Also, I didn’t want to confirm her suspicion that the little rube didn’t understand what “regulah” meant.

The next payday I splurged on a hamburger and a chocolate sundae. As I finished the last of the ice cream and got down to the chocolate sauce in the bottom of the tulip cup, there was a cockroach swimming for its life. Arggggh. I called the waitress over, hoping for an adjustment on my tab. No deal. “Hey, it’s not HALF a roach, which means you didn’t eat it; no harm, no foul.” Ah, welcome to the Big Apple. Time to just buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter!

Half a lifetime later, in the early ’90s, I had occasion as a comedienne to go to New York again to entertain a private women’s business organization. My client put me up at the Sofitel, a fancy French hotel by Central Park. I ordered a 2-cup “pot” of coffee from room service, and it was $19.00, without the room service charge or tip. Thirty years ago.

There was considerable time before the gig, so I put on walking shoes, ready to go for a walk in the vicinity of the Park. I strode out the hotel door, stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, and a garish “gentleman” walked up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and offered me a chance to come work for him. I’m sure it was a fabulous opportunity, but I fled right back into the hotel. I suppose I should have been flattered that in my 40s I still looked like a good prospect, possibly for some niche market of aficionados of short, zaftig middle-aged women. It was the one and only time in my life I got to use a karate move to break his grip as New York “men,” simply went around us, determined not to “get involved.”

One thing that struck me and stayed with me was how UNHEALTHY so many of the ladies looked at my client’s business confab and trade show. Now, admittedly, I was used to apple-cheeked Scandinavian blondes, tan, tall, outdoorsy types who lived in suburbs called Lilydale and Apple Valley and Little Canada. So many of the attendees at this event looked sallow or pale, with bad skin, and a whole lot of them smoked. In addition to the other reasons mentioned in the first paragraph, I am going to speculate that New Yorkers are not nearly as healthy as Midwesterners. Comorbidity, thy name is New York!

And something else. One time, we had two New Yorkers who Mr. AG had met at a Jewish summer camp come visit for a week while Eddie, the fella involved, was attending a work seminar in Minneapolis. Lovely, smart, fun people. But, Eddie remarked, in total amazement, that Minnesotans actually OBEYED the metered entrance ramp traffic lights! “My God, they only go on green and nobody tries to sneak through after one guy goes! That would NEVER work in New York!” “Yes”, we said, “it really does WORK, and it makes traffic flow much smoother.”

We had had one previous occasion to observe New Yorkers’ belief that rules did not apply to them. We were at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1990. The Big Easy had a surefire way to transport thousands of jazz/food fans from the Festival Fairgrounds back to their hotels in The Quarter.

People stood in a long line, giving each other restaurant recommendations while patiently waiting for the cabs queued up on the perpendicular street. A cab pulled up, a couple or a group got in; another cab pulled up, another party got in. Slick as could be and very quick. We were about 10 parties down the line, moving up fast, when, suddenly, a large group of obvious New Yorkers (accents, volume, attitudes) came and instead of going to the back of the line, started going down the line of CABS to intercept them. The whole system broke down and it looked like the last helicopter out of Saigon very quickly.

They ruined it for everyone to avoid waiting in a convivial line for, perhaps, 20 minutes. I’m still mad! And I wonder how much the attitude that rules don’t apply to them, being such important flippin’ NEW YORKERS, figures into all this. Did they go to Lunar New Year to defy Trump’s “racist, xenophobic” travel ban? Did they think that no stinkin’ virus could attack such hip and sophisticated people? That viruses were only for Flyover Land? I am sorry for all the loss of life and misery; I do not applaud it, as so many soulless Democrats do when they learn that a Rush Limbaugh or a Laura Ingraham is ill. But I do think we need to figure out definitively why it hit that area so hard. And remedy what we can. We can’t afford to do this again. Fuhgettaboutit!

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