**Warning: Do not read this post if you are in the process of eating something, have just eaten something, or ever plan to eat again.
New York City does not have a reputation for cleanliness. I knew this before I moved here; that is not to say I was prepared for it. You can’t prepare for the level of filth you’ll encounter over the course of two years in New York in the same way that an average citizen can’t prepare for what it would really be like to walk on the moon (R.I.P. NASA); there’s just no frame of reference for such an otherworldly experience.
Now, if you’ve ever been a tourist passing through (an in-town-for-the-weekender, let’s call you for funsies), then you have an inkling of what I’m talking about. Areas like Times Square, World Trade Center, Central Park, and the major museum locales may make an effort to be relatively clean, but like the stubborn mildew that clings to the grout between your bathroom tiles, the true grime of the City will not be ex-sponged! (See what I did there? Expunged; ex-sponged…lawls.)
The trash cans are all completely full, and their rims are home to a rainbow of gum wads whose diverse and brilliant color spectrums are capable of rivaling any Pride flag. The ground is littered with all of the trash that won’t fit into the overflowing trashcan. I’ve seen mothers toss empty coke cans in the general direction of the trashcan while walking by. They don’t even pause to watch and see whether or not it goes in; they push their strollers right past and keep their faces straight ahead, mostly because they’ve realized the truth: New York is a trash can.
Just kidding. It’s not. And doing that is most definitely not OK, moms. Geez.
Anyway, though this level of filth is more than that of your average city’s, tourists can still walk away from their New York weekender experience thinking “Well, it’s a little dirty, but it’s not that bad.” And the point of this post is to correct this grave misperception because, well, it’s just WRONG. It gets So. Much. Worse.
Hang out in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, East Village, or Alphabet City for a bit and you’ll quickly realize that New York City, for all of it’s amazing wonderfulness, is also a filthy, dirty, OMG-I’m-literally-retching-It’s-SO-gross, place.
(**This is not to say those neighborhoods aren’t really cool neighborhoods. They’re actually my favorites to hang out it. But, they’re dirty, and those of us that love them still have to admit to that. Truce?)
OK, so, story time:
While hanging out in the various neighborhoods within the borough of Manhattan (so, officially not beating up on any individual neighborhoods here), I’ve encountered the following:
-When it snows in the winter, the garbage men can’t pick up the bags under the snow, and the snow plows can’t plow where the bags are piled onto the sidewalk, so the trash sits there for weeks, during which time, apartment dwellers set out more trash that is also not picked up. The frozen garbage piles are often as tall as I am. And when they finally thaw, PUU-EEEY.
-Trash swirls in the wind so that it’s difficult to avoid walking through it. I’ve had many a random dirty napkin fly right into my arm.
-Pigeons congregate in larger groups than they have any business to, and then do their business.
-The flies here are the size of horse pills. And just as painful to swallow….( Haha! I kid, I kid! Maybe.)
-Sometimes, when you’re walking, the air just reeks of shit. When this happens, you hope to God it’s just some dog’s, and that you weren’t the one who stepped in it.
-There are rats. Which, I know, “big city–of course there are rats.” But I mean, THERE ARE RATS. I always see at least one if I’m taking the subway at night. They usually stay on the tracks, but a friend of mine swears one crawled over her shoe once.
AND one time I came across at least six together on the sidewalk. They were as big as cats, play-fighting over a piece of caution tape. I had to cross the street. I believe with every emotionally frayed fiber of my being that that’s how rat kings are made.
So, all evidence points to New York City being completely disgusting. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, because I love me some New York, but, it had to be said.