New York will remembered as the North American city with unrivalled griminess. Streets were filthy. General practices were disgusting.
Regardless of whether we found ourselves in Brooklyn or Manhattan, the same situation prevailed.
- Rats were apparently spotted on our first night in Brooklyn.
- Access/egress paths to subway stations possessed rusted gates and the undeniable whiff of urine.
- Concrete blocks bearing an immeasurable count of black blobs were found around heavily populated districts in Brooklyn. The same was seen in less commercialized neighbourhoods in Manhattan.
- Streetside "patios" in SoHo were directly exposed to the fumes of sewer systems, regardless of whether they were located nearby or not. The stench travelled.
New York weather didn't differ too greatly from Toronto: the vibe was the same, hence an absence of a sense of travelling somewhere "new and exciting".
With the added factor of smog and pollution, the humid air quickly became repulsive to be immersed in.
Even upon returning to a destination equipped with sufficient ventilation and air conditioning, the unbearable feelings of stickiness remained. Vivid in my memory is showering twice every night to rid myself of the vile New York air. I wasn't successful, and my complexion and overall well-being suffered severely.
Appending to the theme of gross, unsanitary conditions witnessed throughout the city, public bathrooms are definitely not exempted. While expectations for restaurant bathrooms had already plummeted beyond normal levels of comprehension, it was shocking to discover that the facilities found in hotel lobbies were of a similar status.
Cleaning staff hardly fulfilled their responsibilities; a member of janitorial staff at the Hilton at 53rd St and 6th Ave was observed to shift all of her weight onto a mop before lazily shoving the tool into a closed stall, then retrieving it. This pattern continued for a few more stalls before a sigh of exhaustion escaped her and she, and the mop, trailed out of the bathroom in a slug-like fashion.
On this topic, I cannot forego the mention of toilet paper quality. Thin and rough sheets reminscient of crude sandpaper were placed in every single establishment visited, including hotel lobbies and guest rooms. The city seemed unwilling to spare customers the pain of low-quality toilet paper and reluctantly exfoliated bottoms.
Water pressure was also insufficient in older neighbourhoods, meaning that trickling streams and/or rapidly cooling faucets were frequent.
Hand soaps were utterly unacceptable: with a strength on par with corrosive cleaning agents, the detergents installed in public bathrooms were anything but epidermis-friendly. In under 24 hours, the surrounding edges of my fingertips began to shrivel and peel, resulting in a week's worth of excruciating pain. Hand-washing frequency hadn't increased on the trip - shockingly enough - and neither did the intervals at which moisturizing lotion was applied. It wasn't me; it was the soap.
Number locks were also seen on almost every public bathroom. Whether it was to discourage the use of customer restrooms as public washrooms or keep in line with the nationwide concept of consumerism, it was an unnecessary add-on in districts where homeless residents were minimal.