Walking is my favorite way to travel, especially in New York City. There is so much to see. So many routes to take to get to where you’re going. If you get bored taking a particular street on your way to work from the subway station, you can simply take another. I especially like walking through parks in the summer and seeing people sunning themselves on the grass, lovers and families having picnics under the trees, joggers taking advantage of the warm weather, tourists riding around in horse-drawn carriages, nannies gossiping in thick West Indian accents. I love summer in NYC.
During the hot months the aromas of the city become more pronounced which isn’t always a good thing. On any block a number of smells can be detected. While walking pass a bakery, then a halal stand, followed by a pizza place, I notice the change in smells with every few steps. Some of them delightful, others not so much. Sometimes I’ll be happily walking and enjoying the smell of freshly baked cookies, and suddenly my nose would be insulted by the smell of what can only be described as a bag of ass. And it would momentarily disturb my spirit and make me ask aloud, “Da fuck is that smell?”
I can walk for blocks and blocks in the summer, a better alternative than taking the subway in this heat. I only take the train when I absolutely need to, like traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Entering a subway station during a heatwave is like opening an oven that was set to 350. Only instead of being greeted with the scent of rosemary baked chicken, I’m met with the stench of an outhouse, which I am sure you would be able to relate to if you’ve ever had the displeasure of using a port-o-potty, or an actual outhouse.
This is especially true of the 59th and Lexington station. Many a time I would be standing there, slowly melting, only to get a whiff of what is definitely human feces. My mood immediately becomes, for lack of a better word, shittier. And I have to stand in this hot ass outhouse and wait for the 4 train. With each passing minute I feel dirtier and more in need of a shower. My only comfort is the thought of the air conditioned train. You know your day is shit when you can’t wait to shove your way into an already crammed subway car. So, yes, I will walk whenever possible.
The only thing more annoying that being accosted with horrible smells during the hot summer months are the cat calls I have to endure from men on the streets. Yes, much like the violent crime rate there is also an increase in sexual harassment when the temperature rises. This happens to me in Brooklyn more than anywhere else in the city. I don’t usually get harassed in Manhattan unless I’m walking pass a construction site. So cliche. And I don’t even walk that much in Brooklyn. The bus stop is literally one block from my house. You’d be surprised how much street harassment I encounter just crossing the intersection. That’s why I never leave home without earphones. I feel exposed without them. Most of the times my music isn’t even on. I need my earphones as an excuse to ignore the “compliments” being thrown at me.
A few years ago I was walking down Church Avenue with my aunt, and this man hollered something at me, I ignored him, and he became irate and grabbed my hand to get my attention. My aunt, never one to miss an opportunity to verbally abuse strangers, cussed his ass out as I looked on in amusement. Had I been wearing earphones he wouldn’t have known I was ignoring him. He would have simply thought I didn’t hear him and gone about his business.
Of course every now and then I would get a creeper: A man who doesn’t give up and follows me for blocks because he likes a challenge. I experienced this just last week while walking home from the salon. I was hurrying home because my hair was wrapped and I hate being out in public with my head in that condition, especially since I make fun of other women who do it. I’m hypocritical in that way. But the salon is only a two minute walk from my house so I took a chance. Suddenly, I saw another shadow gaining on my own on the pavement. I turned around slightly and saw a tall man wearing too much beige polyester. He looked old enough to be my father. He started by talking about the weather. Really original, this one. He then introduced himself. I paid no attention to his name and picked up the pace. He asked me for mine and I ignored him. He insisted. I kept my head straight ahead as I yelled, “I DON’T HAVE A BLASTED NAME!” His shadow receded and I exhaled. Creepiest. Shit. Ever. I was prepared to walk right pass my house if he kept tailing me. The last thing I need is a pervert knowing my address. But I mean, come on. My head was circled with bobby pins, I had on my boyfriend’s jogging shorts, and I was sphitzing like a ho in church for fucks sakes: the very definition of a hot ass mess. This man was obviously desperate. Bless his heart.
So if you plan on walking around NYC during the summer don’t get used to the aroma of food because your enjoyment will be interrupted by the smell of decay. Ladies, don’t ever leave your home/hotel without earphones. And for the love of God don’t make eye contact with strange men. I did that once and the dude talked my ear off at the bus stop. When the bus finally arrived I pretended I was waiting on someone. I was 15 minutes late for work. I told my supervisor exactly what happened and she wasn’t even mad. She knew that struggle.