Scotland and New York could do with exchanging more things to each others benefit. I have to say, though, I’m not sure New York would come off best.
Take fire escapes. In New York they have the fire stairs ‘outside’ the building where the fresh air and rescuers are, not inside close to the hot flames, the choking fumes and certain death.
The fire hydrants are also sticking up out of the pavement easily accessible, not flat and buried under a millimetre of tarmacadam spread by a team of shifty looking itinerants in a white van.
This one is pictured next to the team who were assembling my lunch sandwich (more on that later)
Speaking of holes in the ground, any reader of the Beano will know that uncovered drains make superb comic devices but also that our real drains are far too small and our health and safety rules far too strict to ever create such a superb moment of hilarity. Not in New York where the unsuspecting out-of-towner is a prime candidate for dropping into the abyss when passing a store getting a delivery.
This is one of the safer ones, mostly they don’t bother with the warning cone.
For those of you who have not read the beano…
It doesn’t get old does it?
And the underground heating system in New York is surely something we could benefit from in the frozen North…
Mind you most of the people on our streets are steaming every weekend so we may not need this feature.
New Yorkers also maintain a good balance of efficiency and politeness that we seem to lack back home. You don’t go up to a counter in a shop without knowing what you want for fear of being tongue lashed in three different languages but at the same time you will almost certainly be wished ‘a nice day’ once you have mastered the pace of retail transaction. In Scotland the end of a retail transaction is almost certainly ‘NEXT!’ or in Glasgow ‘WHOOZ FURRST!’
Okay – enough of the faff – on to the food…
We have been exchanging food ideas for decades with New York but I have to say we have definitely lost a lot in translation and I think I know why.
New York is awash with restaurants (every fifty yards) and, although they are all busy, it is hugely competitive. Good looking men and women walk the streets trying to kidnap tourists into their restaurants offering everything from a flirty suggestive look to 50% off for those who don’t fall for their more obvious charms. In Scotland you have to travel some distance and then go into the restaurant and hope one of the staff finds a sufficient time slot in their social networking tasks to notice that you are interested in eating. Once you finally find one you don’t feel much like changing your mind and going elsewhere (its more trouble than its worth). You end up eating whatever crap they choose to serve you.
Take the humble toastie…
Here is a toastie shop in New York
This one is situated on 51st Street between 5th and Madison Avenue close to Jimmy Choo for those of you who wish to keep your women out of the way while you nosh on massive wads of pastrami and corned beef awash with ranch dressing (not our version of corned beef – fat caked cow shavings).
Bought for $8 (about £5 – the cost of a toastie in local pub?)
Of course just as their health and safety practices leave a lot to be desired so does their attention to pricing (in some areas – such as the Broadway tourist trap – not Toasties to be clear).
I obtained two slices of fairly average pizza from http://rayspizza.com/ on Broadway for my dinner tonight.
I couldn’t quite fathom the menu so I grabbed this expecting the usual three to four dollars a slice. My change from a twenty was eight dollars. Now either a slice of pizza at Ray’s costs $6 or I was short-changed. This article I read later may be enlightening
It’s not the first time I have felt that my accent suggests a lack of awareness of currency. If the five I got in my change was a ten that would be about right. It’s frustrating when you get caught out like that, especially the embarrassment of feeling that some chancer has got one over on you. It’s down to experience now.
But at the time I had wished the ground would open up and swallow me.