April 28, 2008

People Watching In New York

One of my favorite things to do here in Manhattan is to take some time out to relax over a cup of coffee at a vantage point sufficient to watching the city pass by, person by person. The way people dress (this town seems to sport a hundred different fashions at once, there is no apparent finite number of trends), the paces they keep, their expressions and actions and so forth, probably the best way to reaclimate myself to my home town.

It can also be pretty amusing.

Today has been a rainy one, pretty steady, slowing only occasionally to a drizzle — and I have always loved rainy days in N.Y., so I’ve been spending a lot of time out in it. I made a pit stop at a longish, narrow Mexican greasy spoon kind of joint on Kenmare Street (I couldn’t figure out the name of the place, I’ll have to get it next time) ***Got it — The Corner (esquina in red neon) Deli, believe it or not, probably the name of a former tenant of the property, seeing as it’s not a deli, and the current business didn’t bother changing the sign or the name *** — between Lafayette Street and Cleveland Place, a line of stools ranged along a counter facing windows. The eatery is pretty popular, they were doing steady business at the cashier’s station fronting the open kitchen — you pay for your order, take it and find an empty stool.

Okay, so directly across Kenmare is LIEUTENANT JOSEPH PETROSINO SQUARE. It’s actually a triangular square (no kiddin’) bordered by Cleveland Place, Kenmare and Lafayette. On the corner opposite the square on Cleveland Place is Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, a must-go to for anyone visiting New York.

Anyway, back to the story, so typical New York these days.

The intersection of Cleveland and Kenmare is almost always jammed up on weekdays, the product of idiots running yellow lights on both streets and blocking the intersection two different ways when the light turns red on them. So this stretch limo (you know, those foolish looking long-as-a-bus ones) gets stuck halfway across the intersection, heading west on Kenmare, and then an SUV gets stuck right behind it — this happened because another driver, responding to his own green light, cut in front of the limo and got stuck behind another guy who’d done the same thing) and abruptly there’s this mess…

…A traffic cop in his emergency orange rain gear comes out of nowhere, gets in the middle of the intersection and starts shouting orders, whistling and waving his arms (there was also a lot of finger wiggling there, I couldn’t decide whether that was supposed to be more signals to the drivers, but it made him look like he was having a seizure of some kind). He also had a West Indies accent, and the thought did cross my mind that perhaps this was a traffic directing sequel to Cool Runnings.

It was a lot of fun to watch.

The traffic cop did get control of the traffic, though it was a frantic, seat-of-the-pants kind of thing. I heard him yell at one driver, “And you’re going where, exactly!?”

Finally, after about ten minutes, he threw up his hands in frustration and stormed away, and the intersection immediately returned to the mess it had been on his arrival, with him stomping off in the background.

I have yet to figure out whether he was dispatched to the intersection or was simply some sort of roving director of traffic, but he sure put on a fun show.

by @ 2:12 pm. Filed under I'm Easily Amused, New York Minutes