Tom's Take: Journey of a Million Steps in the Big Apple
● By David Norby
Illustration by David Norby © Style Media Group
It was my family’s idea to spend a week in New York City. It’ll be fun. We’ll see so much. I’m not much into big cities but I figured, OK.
Did you know there are an estimated 13,000 licensed yellow cabs on the streets of New York? There is also over 600 miles of subway track. True. So of course, while we were there, we barely used either. Instead, we walked.
Good Lord, did we walk.
I’m not opposed to walking. I’m actually a fan. Walking is healthy. It’s invigorating. It’s fun to walk a few blocks in your neighborhood on warm summer evenings, crisp fall mornings or cold winter days. But Manhattan is over 255 blocks long. That’s over 13 miles. I’m pretty sure we walked most of them.
So why didn’t we take advantage of the cab or subway system, like millions do every day? I blame one phrase:
“It’s just easier.”“Hey, let’s visit Central Park!”
“OK! Let’s get a cab!”
“Ugh. Have you seen the traffic? It’ll cost a fortune.” “Let’s walk.”
“It’s just easier.”
“We’re going to Lower Manhattan today!”
“Awesome, which subway do we catch?”
“Um, it looks like we could catch the A, C or E on 50th. Or, the 1, 2 or 3 on 34th. Wait, maybe we take the B, D, F or M…”
“But it’s 25 blocks.”
“It’s just easier.”
See what I mean?
So we did. From our Mid-Manhattan hotel to (and all through) Central Park, Lower Manhattan, Upper Manhattan, the East Side, the West Side. We hit Times Square of course, the city library, Natural History Museum, 30 Rock, Broadway, the Empire State Building, Wall Street, Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and a couple places I’m pretty sure were featured in the opening scenes of Welcome Back, Kotter. We would’ve walked to Staten Island if there hadn’t been a bay in the way.
Our kids actually handled all the walking surprisingly well. But then again, they’re young and their vertebrae haven’t yet begun collapsing into each other. My wife did too, maybe because most of the time she was the one saying: “It’s just easier.” Me, on the other hand…? I don’t want to say I was whiny because that doesn’t bode well for a 52-year-old grown-damn man. So, instead I’ll just say, I “voiced my concern”—concern that all this walking could wear our feet down to nubs; concern that our hearing would be permanently damaged by all of the honking taxis (many of them empty, by the way, and going our direction); concern that we were missing some of the unique New York...character...that can only be found on the sticky floors of subway platforms.
And to be fair, we did catch the subway a couple of times. Once, to Brooklyn, where we got off at the wrong stop and ended up having to—you guessed it—walk some 20 blocks to a restaurant that turned out to be closed. (Call ahead to make sure they’re open? Fuggaboutit.) And, another time while we were waiting on a platform, we got to see a rat get electrocuted by the third rail—wouldn’t have seen that walking.
I get to plan our next Christmas vacation and I already have it settled: a cabin up in Truckee. With a little luck we’ll get snowed in and have to play board games all day. We’ll sip hot chocolate by a warm fire and find our way to the slopes for some skiing. And if my family asks why we aren’t doing something more exciting, like maybe a week in San Francisco? Yes, I already have my reply: “It’s just easier.”