Tag Archives: Weather

Heat pushes New York over the edge

Walking in New York right now is like stepping into the welcoming heat curtain that greets you in department stores in the winter, only to find that you never make it through to the other side. Shirts are drenched through within seconds, and your only hope of looking vaguely respectable at work is if the laws of evaporation kick into major effect in the sub-zero climes of the air conditioned subway cars and offices.

Of course, in the near 100 degree heat/100% humidity that New York has been experiencing recently, thermometers aren’t the only indication of temperatures are rising. Everybody may be in a good mood in the warmth of the sun on a day off, but when you’re weary after a day at the coalface, the punishing heat can be enough to send people over the edge.

Right now, New Yorkers have approximately 37% less patience than they would on a normal grey day in the city, according to official government studies. That means that they honk their horns at cars that fail to move off from traffic lights within 0.04 seconds of the light turning green, rather than the normal 0.06. The pavementssidewalks are littered with tourists who’ve been skittled out of the way for walking slowly, rather than just being shoulder-barged and sworn at in normal circumstances. And insurance companies are refusing to cover Starbucks baristas, just in case they forget to leave the whipped cream off a customer’s iced soy vanilla macchiato.

But it’s on the subway that tempers flair most, largely due to the fact that the stations are hotter than an out-of-condition Bulgarian weightlifter’s armpit. The subway system is hardly the most convivial place in the first place, but right now it’s how I would imagine the atmosphere to be at the Jerry Springer Show if the whole audience had just been told that each of their mothers had been sleeping with the 17 year old greasemonkey who’d just wandered on stage chewing tobacco.

Last week, as my train pulled into the furnace that they laughingly call a station, a middle aged woman attempted to barge past a younger woman so that she’d be ahead of her when the doors opened. The younger woman gently but firmly reasserted her position, and stepped on to the train first.

Behind her the middle aged woman tutted loudly, and then turned to a seeming stranger, and launches into a vicious fifteen minute tirade about people who only look out for themselves.

“The problem with people is that these days they’re all about themselves. I used to let people on first, but it got me nowhere. Everybody would take all the seats. Now I make sure it’s all about me.”

Clearly I gave her my best ‘you realise that what you’ve said makes no sense, right?’ look, but to no avail. She continued apace.

“You know, it’s not the New York City people who are like that.”

Given that she’d by this point given the coffee cup-toting woman next to her (who happened to be wearing a hijab) a mouthful about not spilling it all over her, I mentally readied myself for the worst.

“No no, New Yorkers have been brought up properly. They know how to behave. No, it’s the people from elsewhere you have to watch.”

Here we go, I thought. Which ethnic group is she going to have a pop at first? My money was on the Indian sub-continent, although you never can rule out the Chinese in circumstances such as this. I braced myself for the xenophobic onslaught.

“You know, like people from Ohio. Or Kansas City.”

She may not have had much of an understanding of the world at large, but the ranting misanthrope had a fairly clear understanding of her future direction of travel when she finally pops off this mortal coil.

“I’m going up. That’s my plan. I’m looking out for myself, because I’m going upstairs.”

Personally I reckon the universe might have something a little warmer in store for her.

An eternity spent on New York City subway platforms would seem to be a good start.

The change

When I first moved down to London, She Who Was Born To Worry (or my mum, as I generally know her) took the wind out of my fresh faced and eager sails by calling me a shandy-drinking southerner. The implication being that the north of England was rough, the south was posh, and I’d have to start watering my beer down with lemonade because I’d lose all my gritty ruggedness. Clearly the fact that I was always about as rugged as a baby’s bottom had slipped her mind. Not to mention the fact that my home county Cheshire sells more champagne per head of population per year than any other part of the UK. It’s hardly South Central LA, put it like that.

Of course, a move to New York has done nothing to dampen my status as a shandy drinking southerner. That’s despite the fact that a barman in New York is no more likely to know what a shandy is than Nigel at the Union Vaults in Chester would be able to make a decent Long Island Iced Tea.

But now I’m starting to fear that I am fulfilling the prophecy. Maybe I’m becoming a big softie after all.

I’m currently in the UK on business, and having previously checked the weather in London and found it to be in the high 60sF/20C, I merrily packed no jacket. After all the heat and humidity of New York, it’d be nice to get to the relative normality of British weather. But after walking down Kensington High Street yesterday afternoon, I suddenly realised that despite the sun shining, I was rubbing my arms to keep myself warm. All around me people are in summer gear, and yet I find myself wondering whether it would be a fashion faux-pas to wear a balaclava in June.

If that wasn’t bad enough, when I get inside the office or a shop, I’ve started to feel like I’m overheating, and regularly hear myself internally bemoaning the lack of air-conditioning in this country.

I fear that I may have turned into one of those Brazilian footballers who start wearing tights and gloves after their big money move to the Premiership, when they realise that a trip to Blackburn on a wet Tuesday night in January is marginally less appealing than a night at the Maracana.

It’s either that or I’m going through the change. You’ll read about me in the Lancet in years to come, I tell you.

Now, where can I get a shandy?

Summer in the city

If you want to engage in small talk with a Brit, there’s only one thing you’ll definitely need to chat about – the weather. Whether it’s complaining about the rain, or talking about snow coming late this year, the British would be at a loss for words if it wasn’t for the weather. I’ve filled more embarrassing silences with chat about forthcoming snow or sleet than Madison Square Garden vendors have filled bread rolls with Hebrew National hotdogs.

And let’s face it, Britain has so much weather going on that it’s not like people are short of conversation. The only thing that makes the British happier than some unseasonal early summer sun is talking about the unseasonal early summer sun (and how it’s likely to be the only sun they get all summer). The UK is probably the only country in the world that looks forward to forty days and forty nights of rain, just because it gives us something concrete to complain about.

With all that in mind, the British in New York are in their element right now, with stifling 99F degree heat (37C degrees in real money) bringing the city to its (sweaty and blotchy) knees. Walking out of air-conditioned buildings into the open-air is like walking through one of those heat curtains that greet you as you enter Boots the Chemist, except for the fact that the curtain covers the city (and it’s the delicate but unmistakable tones of body odour that lurk behind it, rather than the intoxicating sandalwood with herbacious topnotes aroma of Dior’s latest fragrance).

Yesterday afternoon I stepped out of the office to send a Father’s Day card to Brit Out Of Water Sr from the post office literally across the road. I probably took less than 100 paces, and was away from an air-conditioned environment for no more than three minutes. Nonetheless, I returned to my desk resembling an about-to-be-committed gibbering idiot who had decided to pay a visit to a local water park while wearing full office clothing.

I’d like to say that I was glowing rather than sweating. In reality I was probably lucky to get away without causing an electrical fire when I sat back down at my keyboard. If the next fifty on the 200 Things You Simply Have To Know About New York list is delayed, don’t blame me.

I’ll be out looking for a waterproofed computer.