nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Bureaucratic tendencies

I am frustrated. I thought I had learnt to brush off the rude side of New York, that I could cope with no one saying thank you and yet constantly asking me how I am, but it appears not.

First, there is 311, which according to nyc.gov is:

“New York City’s main source of government information and non-emergency services. Whether you’re a resident, business owner, or visitor, help is just a click, text, or call away.”

On Saturday I rang 311, inspired by R’s tale of getting back the scooter and lunch box he had left in the boot (err trunk) of the taxi when he was with E last week. He had rung them and they had traced the taxi driver using his credit card information, used to pay for the ride, and the taxi driver had come back to our building to return our things. I was very impressed.

But when I rang them I got quite a different experience. I had walked by a Range Rover with both of its front windows smashed in and glass all over the pavement and road. I was with J but thought I would ring 311 to tell them so that they could alert the police and owner. Battling my way with the voice recognition software of 311 which clearly wasn’t trained to understand a British accent, it finally gives in and sends me off to a real human. She then palms me off on 911 – the police – probably because she couldn’t understand me either.

And this is where it gets really painful. I explain to the lady on 911 that I have seen the car, it’s not my  car (yes, I tell her this three times) but I just want to do the right thing and report it. No, the person who did it is not there, as if they would hang around while I made the call.

She asks me for my details as the officer will want to speak to me. Why? Because there has to be someone for them to talk to. I wonder if this is loneliness on their part? Surely just knowing the address and looking at the car will give them all they clues they need to work out what happened?  They don’t need me. At this point I say to her that I have a roaming toddler, I’m on my way somewhere, I don’t want to hang around. So she refuses to take the street information from me. End of conversation. Well done, NYPD!

I walked by the next day and the car was covered in black plastic and tape, but the glass was still all over the place.

And today it didn’t get much better as the lady at the post office refused to take the lovingly sorted coins of our piggy bank (elephant shaped) telling me in no uncertain terms “I ain’t takin’ no quarters. I don’t want all your coins!” And sends me off with my tail firmly between my legs. Blimey. What fabulous service.

The bank was the same, you have to provide the coins in paper rolls. Really? My piggy bank doesn’t offer that service. So here I am stuck with tonnes of coins and nowhere to change them. Looks like I’ll be taking them all to CVS and their self service tills, that’ll irritate the locals!


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T is for Tea

I spend a lot of my life at the moment reciting the alphabet and saying ‘A is for apple’ etc. in an attempt to teach J his letters and get to grips with the written word. T is usually for Thomas or Teddy, but today it is for Tea in honour of the following conversation I had in Teavana, a chain of shops that sell loose tea and various things to go with that tea.

Me: “I’d like some tea bags please”.

Tea man: “We don’t sell tea bags. We sell loose tea.”

Me: “I know that. I want the bags for the tea to go in, please.”

Tea man: “Oh, you mean filters. Yes, we have those.” And he wanders off to get them.

Tea man: “You know that you should use a tea pot or a tea ‘pod’ (?). These don’t make good tea.”

Me: “I just want the tea bags, thanks.”

Tea man: “You mean tea filters. Oh, OK.” Wanders to till looking disconsolate but deigns to sell them to me. Five bucks for 100 single cups.

When I get home, I examine the box the tea filters (not bags, must learn) come in and it says: Perfect tea filter. Brew PERFECT tea anywhere.

Someone should tell this man that being rude about the products in your shop isn’t good sales technique and annoys customers, especially me.

Oh and the reason I have to buy filters in NYC now is because my beloved Tea Horse, seller of lovely loose tea all the way from exotic St Johns Wood in North London has gone bust. Should have bought more tea. And filters.

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Remember that episode of Friends when Phoebe spends a day or so on the phone waiting to get through to a real human being and then discovers at the end that she’s been on a premium rate phone line and it cost a fortune? Well, I may not have been on a premium rate line, but the experience was similar. 36 minutes and 32 seconds later I managed to persuade AT&T to refund me $40 that they took by mistake. That’s nearly a dollar a minute for my time. I think there’s actually only one person at the other end as the automated lady tries to stop you from going anywhere near a human. I tried pretty much every permutation and eventually clicked that ‘technical support’ would get me through an actual person. And then she put me on hold for another 10 minutes until I’m sure I just ended up speaking to her again. They have AT&T stores here but if you want to get your money back they won’t speak to you. In fact, when I went in there a while ago to resolve the same issue, all they did was get me through to customer services who put me on hold. Customer service? I don’t think so.

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It pays to tip well in New York

Every weekend I loyally go to Fairways for my weekly shop. It’s not quite as good as driving to Sainsbury’s, but I’ve got used to it. I started off by being really friendly to the staff, expecting them to comment on my accent and be nice back. But no, it doesn’t work like that, so I stopped bothering. The staff are helpful but not friendly, they all speak Spanish to each other and pretty much ignore you. On a more positive note they do pack your bags and offer a delivery service.

Today it was raining and cold. I did my thing, wandered around my usual circuit and expected no interaction. I was stunned when the guy who served me on the deli counter asked me if I was Australian or English. He must have served me dozens of times before and now he decides to be friendly and ask a question. The cheese guy corrects my pronunciation of Comte cheese and smiles. What is going on?

At the checkout I witness the woman at the checkout next to me having to justify the type of beans she has bought because the cashier won’t let her use her coupon. She says chick peas are not beans. Come on, give her a break, she wants to save 50 cents or something like that and they are giving her a hard time because it doesn’t say beans on the tin and she has six tins to get the discount. They are mean to her. Then my cashier starts giving me grief because my food is perishable they don’t want to risk delivering it. What? It’s cold outside and raining; they aren’t busy, they usually deliver pretty quick and I’m prepared to take the risk that my milk might go off. It won’t!  Urgh. My unusually pleasant experience is blighted by the perishable policy being invoked. I threaten to use Fresh Direct but they don’t seem to care. They take $85k a week in this store so my dollars are insignificant. I recognise the delivery guy and explain my plight. He says I tip the best in my building, so he’ll take my delivery straight away. It pays to tip well in New York.