Tag Archives: Norris McWhirter

Ten things you can learn about New York City from the subway

Newton’s little-known fourth law of motion states that all city dwellers shall complain about the transport system that gets them to work in the morning. Londoners have more reason than most to moan, with a Northern Line that resembles Calcutta on a bad day, and weekend engineering work that means any trip from Leicester Square to Covent Garden has to go via Cardiff.

But when it comes down to it, underground systems are a microcosm of the city above, and if you ask me, there’s plenty we can learn about the city above by taking a look at the teeming humanity below. Just one week on the subway in New York is enough to glean some valuable lessons about New York and its itinerant population:

1. New Yorkers have an attention span that is only marginally longer than the average gnat. As a result, the majority of the city’s residents believe that there is a danger of spontaneous combustion unless they are constantly stimulated. People used to prepare for their work day by reading a newspaper; now they watch Gossip Girl on their iPod.

2. The majority of New Yorkers take up at least 47% more space than they think they do. As a result, most commuters never believe that a train is full, even after seeing documented evidence that Norris McWhirter and his fellow Guinness Book of World Records cronies have declared the train the current holder of the award for most people crammed into a confined space in a subterranean environment.

3. Most New Yorkers are hard of hearing, and have to play music at volumes only previously heard in military noise torture tests, in camps that make the Guantanamo Bay experience seem like a day out in Disneyland.

4. At least one third of all the city’s residents are homeless, and are forced to carry around all their worldly possessions in rucksacksbackpacks the size of, say, Mongolia.

5. Aggravated bodily harm is not illegal once you are thirty feet underground. If you need to use an umbrella, a fist or a good old fashioned honest-to-goodness shoulder barge to get past people, that is perfectly acceptable. If you leave your victim cowering on the floor, all the better.

6. The credit crunch means that a lot of people can no longer afford paper. All notes have to be scratched onto the subway windows as a result.

7. 95% of New York men have never seen a pregnant woman. At least that’s why I assume no-one ever seems to give up their seat when they see a gestating female clinging grimly onto a subway pole. It’s either that, or every New York man has had their fingers burned offering their seat to a woman who turned out to be less pregnant, more a big fan of cakes.

8. In Salem, they identified witches by the onset of mysterious convulsions; in New York, the outsiders are the people you see on the subway who aren’t wearing a coat manufactured by The North Face. If you are not wearing a black coat at the very least, you will be chased out of town by men brandishing pitchforks. North Face-branded pitchforks, obviously.

9. The lack of public toilets in New York was made possible by the 1932 Subway Conveniences Act, which stated that at least one subway carriagecar on every train will be required to stink of piss. Any train found to be lacking such a stench is forced to find a homeless guy with a collection of four thousand shopping bags (none of which contain soap) and place him in a carriage as a deterrent to commuters.

10. From the age of 2, all New Yorkers are trained to seek out vacant subway seats by smell alone. It is physically impossible to beat a seasoned New Yorker to a seat, even if you are given a 10 yard start. And your opponent is on crutches.

Still, these sardine cans get me to work, so I can’t really complain. I mean, obviously I will complain. But until someone coughs up for a personal chauffeur for me, it looks like I’m stuck with it so I may as well make the most of it. Now, where’s my umbrella?

Making a (big) splash

We’ve just come back from a day of sunshine and splashing around at the New Jersey water-park Hurricane Harbour, making the most of the Labour Day three-day weekend. Imagine Alton Towers if all the rides were slides, and all the decorative tat had a vaguely nautical theme, and you’ll start to get close to imagining Hurricane Harbor.

[What is it that Americans have against the ‘u’? Was there a treaty issued shortly after the Boston Tea Party, banishing the letter from the kingdom, and forcing it to live out its remaining days as a hermit in a shanty town in Uruguay??]

Anybody who has ever had an even slightly negative body image should be forced to spend a day at an American water park. Those who know me well will know that I have a few issues about my weight – the main issue being that if I was swimming off the coast of Japan, I would be under near-constant threat of imminent attack from blood-thirsty fisherman with a penchant for blubber.

Yet in Hurricane Harbor, it’s possible for the average man to feel like he’s just been plucked from the pages of GQ or Arena, in comparison to the vast majority of the park’s male visitors.

This is, after all, a place where the main snack product available for purchase is the funnel cake. For the uninitiated, the funnel cake is like a giant donut which has been squeezed through a funnel to increase its surface area and fat content. People who manage to eat a full one can fully expect to see Norris McWhirter appear from the dead in order to proclaim a new world record for the amount of cholesterol consumed by one person in a twenty minute period.

And it doesn’t stop at the funnel cake either. The main food emporium at the park serves burgers, pizza, hot dogs or fried chicken, all with seasoned curly fries. It’s hard to believe that any meal at Hurricane Harbor comes in at under 1000 calories, and that’s before you’ve even begun to think about a large Coke. I asked for a chicken wrap, only to be greeted by the blank stares of staff who believed that the only two appliances in the kitchen were a freezer and a deep fat fryer.

All of this allowed me to swan into the water with all the confidence of Daniel Craig or that bloke from Lost who was also in the Davidoff ads. Obviously, now I’m back home, I’ve reverted to feeling like Les Dawson. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bought that third helping of funnel cake after all?