Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sidewalk Sitters

Something I've noticed over the past 5-7 years, or thereabouts, since the hyper-gentrification of everything went into full swing, is the increasing habit of non-homeless people to park their backsides on the sidewalks and curbs of the city.

At first, it would startle me. I'd see them at a glance, assume "homeless," and then get up closer and have to do a double-take. She's not asking for change with that Starbucks cup.



And it's not just that these sidewalk sitters are non-homeless people. I'm not talking about a bunch of skateboard kids or punks "chillin'" on the dirty curb. The people I'm talking about are largely middle and upper-middle class "regular" folks. It's the tourists and Juicy Couture shoppers. It's moms from Ohio.



They sit to make phone calls and write text messages.

They relax on the curb to have deep, intimate talks.



They plop down with their soy mocha lattes.

They sprawl out with their shopping bags.



They read maps and drink Snapple.



They place plastic containers of snacks on the curb next to them and indulge in a little street munching.



They spread their legs, enjoy their iced coffee, and send their digital missives.



They collapse en masse, with a group of pals, and shoot the breeze while leaning against a lamp post or a mailbox, or with their sandaled feet in the gutter. As if nobody ever pisses or pukes there. As if nobody's dog ever took a shit in that exact spot, and no toxic liquids flow through that green stream.



And you know what it is. It's the assumption of sterility. All those shiny boxes, those condos and newsstands made of glass, all that Bloombergian glitter makes people think everything in New York is clean, so the sidewalks must be too. Clean enough to eat off?

It's a minor complaint, perhaps a petty one, but something about it just bugs me.

40 comments:

  1. It's totally disgusting. It's mostly the under-25 set. Is it fair to say it's the Hinduization of America? You see this sort of stuff all over India, except in India they have the smarts to sit on their haunches, and not plop their buttocks on a filthy sidewalk. No wonder we've got bedbugs everywhere—the kids are glued to the sidewalks when they're not glued to their CrackBerrys.

    ReplyDelete
  2. interesting how it coincides with--actually the sidewalk sitting pre-dates--Bloomberg's scattering of chairs everywhere. chairs in Times Square, chairs in the middle of Broadway above Union Square, and on 9th Ave in the Meatpacking District.

    people really want to sit. so what's up with that?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Grumbler, Sidewalk-sitting may not be as pleasant as NYC's venerable practice of stoop-sitting, but hey, there's always a curb and people kick you off the stoops nowadays. Based on the circumstantial evidence of your photos, I'd say there's a correlation between the rise in sidewalk-sitting and the use of cell phones. People are yielding to the compulsive urge to check the fricking phone, and don't care where they sit to do it. But as long as they don't call or text ME, who cares? Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Or maybe they just don't care?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Not really a trends piece yet... But! I have seen two different men defecating between cars in different parts of the East Village in the last three days...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Might be okay to do it in Ohio, maybe even San Francisco but no way is that acceptable in New York. I suggest when you spot a sitter...just piss on them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This made me laugh. Next time I'm in NY 'm going to be hyper-aware of people sitting in the street, and I'll think about bums peeing there and laugh. ....!

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's just gross, and I'm surprised that they don't mind sitting on residual vomit, piss, and shit (dog and human). I guess they don't realize how dirty the streets are.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for bringing this up or down.Sitting on sidewalks is a problem all over now.The fact is its a dangerous and stupid thing to do.

    Next problem,kids on bikes.
    ger

    ReplyDelete
  10. The reality is people do a lot of walking when they are in NYC compared to other towns. They really just need a place to sit down. Think of how many people hang out in the benches around Bryant Park. On the other hand, I do think the Europeans that come to NY probably think that NY is as clean as some of their cities, which, unfortunately, it isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The next time you spot this phenomenon, try to determine why there are no vehicles parked there. Most places, every inch of curb is spoken for.

    ReplyDelete
  12. They are sitting in dog feces, urine, pigeon excrement, vomit and.... spit. People spit all over that sidewalk. ALL OVER IT. And, there are tiny ants on that sidewalk and bird lice.

    If they sit with their backs to a building wall, they run the risk or pigeons crapping on their heads.

    Look at most of them. They are texting. They are sitting there and they are oblivious because they are attached to their gadgets.

    I give up. Send me back to Willoughby.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Something about it bugs you? Christ, don't go soft on me, Jeremiah. You're too young.

    EVERYTHING about it irritates the living CRAP out of me. I'd like to take a fungo stick to every one of those idiots.

    ReplyDelete
  14. okay, it REALLY bugs me. but it bugs me in a similar way that the bike lanes bug me--i'm not exactly sure what it is about it that annoys me so much.

    i think you guys are right--it's related to cell phone use. obliviousness. and a lack of "healthy respect/fear" for the true filthiness of this city. maybe that false (?) sense of safety. people who walk are moving targets, people who sit are sitting ducks. people on phones are not paying attention to the potential risks.

    does a sense of "things in their place" come in here? i often find myself thinking "the sidewalk is for walking," not for sitting, standing and talking, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm sorry, but I honestly don't understand this complaint.

    If somebody chooses to sit on a curb, whether they're aware of its filthiness or not, it shouldn't be something that fazes anyone.

    Firstly, New York is dirty in every crack and crevice, so to make this exception is just bizarre. Secondly, you're sitting on a curb in pants or a skirt, not your bare ass. Hygienically, one should be fine (unless they never do laundry). Compare sidewalk sitting to, say, repeat use of handrails in the subway and there really is no comparison.

    I will say being glued to your phone and sitting on the curb during busy hours is ridiculous and rude, but it's rude walking while texting, period.

    Forgive my contrary response. Maybe I should be more of a germophobe.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's probably people who aren't used to walking. So they have to sit down to take rests periodically. This used to bug me when I saw groups of young people sitting on the floor at airports, a trend which has apparently extended to the street. I like the above comment about the "Hinduization of America".

    ReplyDelete
  17. I walk a lot and I get tired, but it has never even dawned on me to sit on the sidewalk. May as well sit on the rip of a garbage can. Gross. When it's been absolutely necessary to sit down, I've found a stoop or step, which isn't much better, but less likely to be covered in puke and dog poo.

    Also, sitting and putting your bag next to you on the ground would be a good way to have it stolen.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I actually saw one sitting ON THE FLOOR OF THE 7 TRAIN ONE MORNING, right in front of the doors on the opposite (not open) side! Post-collegiate sports bar type of guy. I couldn't even imagine what would make a person do this. What's wrong when people are oblivious to the filth of NYC? Oy.

    Do you think it started with the Barnes & Noble slobbo sitting? Our law is that if they are on the floor, you are permitted to step on them.

    ReplyDelete
  19. It's just disgusting isn't it? People sitting on the street that don't HAVE to. Not to mention how they seem to be clean, employed, and well nourished. New York would be much better off filled with filthy hungry angry homeless people lying in garbage. Thanks for documenting this horrible condition all of us New Yorkers are now forced to live with. There's nothing more infuriating than relaxed people enjoying the city streets.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think it bugs you for the same reason on lot of things you write about bug you - you are bothered by people who do not think like you, act like you, or otherwise approach the world in exactly the same manner as you do. Though I cannot be certain, my guess is that you would recoil at being compared to narrow-minded folks such as Sarah Palin or John Boehner (sp?), but you seem to be an equally closed-minded and judgmental person who simply sits on a different part of the left-right spectrum. This may sound like a cheap, ad hominen, retort, but it's not. Nothing has destroyed the tradition of true liberalism more than the rantings of people think they are so open-minded that they cannot comprehend why others don't think just like they do.
    I do not make a habit of sitting on the sidewalk, but I would not rule it out if I needed to. And, I most certainly have sat on steps in countless places, including Central Park, in front of the Met, Union Square, my building's stoop, the Bronx Courthouse and cities around the world, all of which have seen a share of germ-carrying substances spread across them. One of the most compelling aspects of life in NY is the fact that one can actually partake in normal, human activity within the public space. this includes a lot of walking, but it, by necessity, must also includes some sitting. What would be really nice, is if it did not include the pissing, vomiting, and defecating that many of the posts here so readily accept as part of New York that they would, metaphorically, piss on people exercising their right to take a break while they are out on the streets without leaving behind a biologically-contaminated mess for the rest of us. There are places for that . . . they are called restrooms.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wouldn't be a bona-fide blog post without the obligatory contrarians, even on such a silly issue. Come on--what about this is *not* gross/curiosity-inducing? I don't even wear my shoes in my apartment when I get home. And the post isn't judgmental, as has been implied, it's just a "wtf"

    ReplyDelete
  22. Anon at 3:25 nails it. This is really a parody Jeremiah post, except it's real, as he is often beyond parody. Especially hilarious is the juxtaposition of this post with the one where he gets indignant about people asking him to take his shoes off when he walks into their home. Yep, the shoes that have been walking all over that shit, piss and puke all day, which doesn't matter when it comes to someones home when they've invited you in, but apparently matters a lot when it comes to some stranger's butt, who is no doubt from the midwest, of course. Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wow. Maybe it's because people are tired, and there are virtually no benches in NYC. How is this possibly a problem? Would you rather a neighborhood be so terrifying that no one dared to stop and linger. Give me a break.

    ReplyDelete
  24. On second thought, we are really over-thinking this. Maybe these people are just taking the 'No Standing' signs literally.

    ReplyDelete
  25. When I was a teenager I spent a couple days walking around without shoes for reasons that now I cannot remember other than that it was an incredibly freeing feeling. The downside was that you really had to walk looking down and it was hard to relax.

    What was really startling was how many people, all women, yelled at me. It really and truly bothered people about what I might step in.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think the underlying issue here is the transformation of how New York City is perceived. I'm sorry, but growing up here in the 80s, one would not dare sit down on a curb like that. It points to a real and material change in the city.

    What that change is, and if it's good or bad, is a complex question, but it is one that deserves to be asked, seriously, by anyone who cares about New York.

    This website has been asking the right questions from the start, and I can't wait to see more.

    Sitting isn't a crime and that's not the issue that is being discussed here, if you look at what was written.

    ReplyDelete
  27. The name of the blog is called, "The Grumbler," and he even acknowledges at the end that it may be a "petty complaint," but it still bugs him. I found it compelling because I never really thought about it till now, but I think it's an interesting point of view. If you don't want to read about someone grumbling, then maybe you're at the wrong blog.

    ReplyDelete
  28. don't understand the rumpus...people sitting on subway stairs, now THAT'S annoying

    ReplyDelete
  29. @E.V grieve
    trend???? wanna haiti type cholera cocktail???
    open shitting = cholera menace.

    ReplyDelete
  30. @ Vladimir & Marty: yes and yes. it's an observation about a noticeable change in the city. i'm grumbling. i said it was petty.

    what we have here, and what i always find fascinating and curious, are the people (usually Anon) who come out to comment and all say, in essence, "Don't wonder about this out loud. It makes me feel judged."

    now that right there is worth wondering about and discussing.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "Don't wonder about this out loud. It makes you look petty and hypocritical."

    There, I fixed it for you.

    -Anons

    P.S. Who cares whether someone posts under Anon or not? What's *your* real name?

    ReplyDelete
  32. laura again, "J" its as simple as this. new york needs more benches. end of case. no hindu mambo jambo here. anyway its only the lowest castes in india who will sit in the gutter. white people are weird.

    ReplyDelete
  33. This situation doesn't bother me at all.

    However, I don't think it is particularly safe for people to sit on sidewalks and that they should know better.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I live and work in Manhattan and I see this happen at the store I work in ALL the time. The funny thing is that 99% of the time it's young white woman doing this. They'll just sit down with their legs spread out to either go through the items they just purchased or to make an "important" phone call and mostly either right by the door or in a spot where you have to jump over them to get by .Is it a cultural thing? WTF???!!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Just ewhhh. I'm totally guilty of asking people to remove their shoes when they enter my home. (It's an Asian thing.) But I let my pooch lie on top of my duvet cover... Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Im from the Bahamas, just recently independent colony of the British. I have kids and i dont even let them sit on the carpet in my house. In our minds the floor is for your feet and nothing else ever. What goes on the floor does not go on the bed ever. If we saw people sitting on those filthy NY streets or anywhere for that matter we would think they were animals. Even our homeless dont sit on the sidewalks.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I grew up here in NYC in the 70's. When I was young we used to sidewalk sit, even subway platform sit. It was actually kind of cool to do it. We were 11 year old rebels. Obviously stops and doorways were preferred and much more comfortable, but we were usually shooed away fairly quickly. Now I will still sit on a stoop from time to time, but I don't think since High school my butt has found a floor outside my own house.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Yeah, like Andrew, back in the early '70s I would sit on sidewalks with my teenage hippie friends. Not in NYC, cos I didn't live here then. We were rebels, too, and thought of it as a kind of freedom. So at first when I saw this I thought, "So what?" But then when I saw what kind of people they were, and what they were doing, I felt a sudden separation from them: these are not my people. (It is really the shopping bags that bother me most. Especially if they are pink.)

    ReplyDelete

NOTE: Comments are moderated by the blog owner. Your remarks and lively debates are welcome, whether supportive or critical of the views herein.

However, commentary that is intended to "flame" or attack, that is harassing, or contains violence, potential libel, and the like will not be published. Commenters who regularly harass or abuse, Anon or not, your comments come with an identifier and go directly to the Spam Box.

Please bear in mind, this is an individually run blog, not a democratic nation nor a wide-open public forum. Comment publication is entirely subject to the owner's discretion.

Thank you.