So, you’ve already lined up a job and an apartment in the Big Apple, and after a careful consideration of your transportation needs, you’ve decided to go ahead and keep your ride, making you a New York City car owner.
New York City has the greatest public transportation systems in the world, with a subway stop, bus stop or taxi almost always nearby, yet your dumb ass thinks you know better than everyone, so you’re going to actually drive around this gridlocked nightmare. Okay, fine. You’ve come to the right place because yours truly is an idiot as well. I’ve owned a car in NYC since my first day here in July of 2014, so I have a few tips on what you need to know.
Don’t get me wrong; owning a car here is misery and nothing you learn from this list will change that. It may just help make it a little less miserable. So without further ado, the seven things you need to know:
1. DON’T Care About Car Cleanliness
Your car is going to be dirty, so you may as well get used to it. If I had to describe the condition of my ’07 Honda Accord right now in nine words, those words would be “There Are Currently Five Penises Drawn on My Hood”. I noticed this a couple of weeks ago, and still haven’t done anything about it. This is partly because I want my girlfriend Evi to do something about it, inasmuch as she has my car, almost always has my car, and the vandalism was discovered in her neighborhood, where there are always shitty little troublemaking kids* playing around.
*As far as I’m concerned, all kids younger than 12 are shitty little troublemakers.
The real problem lies in that it simply isn’t easy to wash your car here. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who actually have a driveway, what are you going to do? Run a hose from your third story apartment to where you parked three blocks away? Overpay for a car wash that is probably twenty minutes from your place and never on the way?
Add in the fact that when winter comes, everything is covered in dirt and sludge for five months, and you just resign yourself to knowing that your precious baby is never going to be clean.
2. DO Get Your Gas in New Jersey
My roommate John and I were on our way to a Jets game in East Rutherford, New Jersey (for those who don’t know, the “New York” Jets and “New York” Giants both play across the Hudson River, in New Jersey) when, after crossing the border, John said, “hey, go ahead and stop for gas”.
“I don’t need gas. I’m half full.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Get your gas here.”
It turns out, gas is a LOT cheaper in the Garden State. Sometimes 50 cents a gallon less. And, you’re not allowed to pump your own gas, so you don’t even have to get out of your car.
“It just goes to show how corrupt New York is,” said John. “Here (in NJ) they have to pay for some asshole to come out and pump your gas, and it’s still way cheaper than New York. You just know you’re getting jacked with taxes over there.”
By the way, getting your gas in another state isn’t as impractical as it sounds. I drive so few actual miles that I probably only fill my tank once a month or so, and in that time I usually find a reason to go to New Jersey.
3. NEVER Go To New Jersey
Okay, I realize I just told you to go to New Jersey for fuel, but my blogging philosophy is “if I worry about what I’m advising now conflicting with what I advised before, I’ll never get a blog done”. Anyway, this really only has to do with aesthetics. If you take any of the myriad ways into New Jersey other than the Holland Tunnel, you’re probably fine. But if you do take the tunnel, prepare yourself for the ugly.
Like, seriously, seriously ugly.
The New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel looks like postwar Germany. There is no greenery. You drive by huge abandoned buildings with broken windows. You could herd cattle in the potholes. I imagine that people who have to drive around that area to go to work probably choose a more pleasant place to drive for their vacations, like Baghdad.
4. DO Give Your Absolute Full Attention to Driving
Pop Quiz: You’re on a decent-sized New York City road with two lanes going in each direction, and parallel parking on each side. In which lane would you have the best chance of smooth driving?
- The inside, or left lane.
- The outside, or right lane.
- All of the above.
It was a trick question. The correct answer is “Probably the sidewalk”. There is no single time or place that driving in NYC doesn’t require 100% of your attention. Why? I’ll tell you why: Assholes. Okay, they’re not really assholes, in fact, they’re probably really nice people. But in your head, they’ll at least temporarily be assholes.
When New York City was designed, they apparently hadn’t invented the “turn lane” yet. So if you’re on the left lane, there’s always some asshole ahead of you that needs to turn left, and has to stop and wait for 35 vehicles to pass to do so, which stops all traffic behind him.
So you dart over to the right lane, where you drive a few hundred yards, then a different asshole in a car in front of you starts slowing for no reason at all, comes to a complete stop, turns on the flashers, then just walks out of his car into the business he’s in front of. Yes. People park right in the street like they own it. This is called “double parking”, which is illegal but EVERYBODY does it. They have to, because there hasn’t been an available legal space in NYC since 1975. Not only cars, but beer trucks, UPS or FedEx, semitrailers…you could see anything double-parked.
So you dart back over to the left lane, but WHOA you didn’t see the little asshole on the moped who’s delivering somebody’s GrubHub order, so you dart back right and WHOA a taxicab asshole just pulled into that lane and blared their horn at you, so you decide to turn at an intersection since your light is green but WHOA pedestrian assholes are crossing and they have the total right of way so you have to nail your brakes, and AUGGH KILL ME NOW!!
So are you starting to understand why I said driving up here is miserable? I liken it to a video game. There’s always some obstacle trying to kill you. You better pay attention.
Oh, and for the record, I have never double-parked.
5. DO Know These Four Laws
1. It is illegal in all five New York City Boroughs to make a right turn on red, unless signage specifically allows it. I broke this law many times until I started noticing signs that said “Right on Red Allowed Here” and wondered why the hell that was necessary.
2. The speed limit is 25 miles an hour on all unmarked streets, and in basically all of Manhattan.
3. Do NOT use your cell phone for anything. Similar laws have popped up all around the country recently, but NYC’s law has been in effect since at least 2000 and they take it seriously here.
4. The pedestrian always has the right of way. Always.
6. DON’T Own a Nice Car
I love my car, but I willingly admit, it’s nothing special to look at, and it’s become increasingly non-special since I’ve moved to NYC. Any car that is regularly parallel parked is going to get beat up here. Your front and rear bumpers will get “battle wounds” from people (or yourself) going just a little too far in an attempt to get into or pull out of a parking space. My car has also accrued a significant amount of door dings, which I don’t really understand at all since it’s rarely in a standard parking situation.
That’s a long story for another blog post, but one time my girlfriend parked near where urban artists (I like to call them “vandals”) were plying their trade, and somehow, the next morning, I had splashes of yellow paint all around my trunk and one side of my car. I was in Florida at the time, so Evi called me to discuss solutions, at which time MY solution, professional body people, was not undertaken. She tried using one fluid, which didn’t work. Evi, apparently not realizing that paint actually, you know, dries, then did nothing else. So now I have a car with small, random yellow splotches. But hey, who cares? I don’t own a nice car.
At this point, you may be thinking, “hey, maybe you shouldn’t let your girlfriend borrow your car so much”. My response is this:
7. Keep a Personalized Out-of-State License Plate with a Zero
“Dude, your license plate is unintentionally genius,” said my roommate after I showed him two of my parking tickets.
First off, I really thought I’d avoid parking tickets altogether. It was simple: I’d always follow the law. Then I saw signage like this:
I think I could actually understand Quantum Entanglement before I could decipher exactly when the hell it was legal to park in the area those signs represent. And keep in mind, you most likely have someone behind you blaring their horn while you’re trying to decode this signage. The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to avoid parking tickets in this city. They’re so common, there’s actually an app you can download to fight them. I’ve already beaten one of the tickets, and I could’ve beaten both if I’d known what I know now.
You see, a ticket of any kind has to be exactly correct in everything or it’s automatically thrown out. And, most parking cops are parking cops because, well, let’s just say they didn’t just miss the cut at Harvard or something. Anyway, the city prevents errors by requiring all New York drivers to have a sticker on their car with digital code that the parking cop can just scan if they want to give you a ticket. No manual typing, no errors.
I don’t have a sticker. All I have is a license plate that says, “SLOW JOE”.
Or, more accurately, “SL0W J0E”.
In Florida, and I imagine in most states, there is no letter “O” in license plates, in order to avoid confusion in databases. So my two “O”s are actually zeroes. But in both of the tickets issued to me, the parking cop screwed up and put the actual letter “O”. Heck, in one of them the dimwit forgot the “W”. So they were both inadmissable.
And, I feel like I can park just about anywhere now. My roommate seems to agree.