My 10 Biggest Fears Living in New York City

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


For people who grew up in a city-like environment, city living might not be intimidating or very scary at all. But for people from small towns like where I grew up, cities can incite a sense of threat and intimidation. When the biggest crime in your hometown is someone driving their four-wheeler through your neighbor's crops, the thought of muggings and rapes and random murders is about as scary as it gets.

It's a good thing that I don't find New York City scary, then. Yes, there are some not-so-good neighborhoods in New York, and yes, I'm always cautious of my surroundings and where I should not go at night/alone/ever...but after all of the time I've spent here over the past decade, this city does not scare me. In fact, New York City came in at number 42 in listings rating violent crime rates in American cities for 2014. (But trust me when I say that I'm the most perceptive person you'll pass on the street. I know anything can happen to anyone, anywhere. I'm not delusional, I promise.)

Do you want to know what does scare me in NYC? Good! I made you a list:

1. Open Cellar Doors. It depends on the time of day and purpose of the establishment that owns the space, but I am terrified that one day someone is going to bump me and I'm going to go careening into the dark, dank depths of one of these open cellars. My fears are not unfounded. These are especially dangerous on my walk to work, as restaurant workers pop their heads from beneath the sidewalk with arms full of dry goods and hurried locals wind through pockets of tourists. I'm making this first on my list, because it is truly my biggest fear.

2. Closed Cellar Doors. Another terrifying idea? Stepping onto the closed, flat surface of a cellar that has outlived its usefulness and falling through said broken doors. It's always a gamble when you have no other option but to walk right over one of these. Do I stop speed-walking and make my way around this when the slow walkers in front of me have safely passed? Or do I just take a chance, hope for the best, and get in front of the pack? I swear one I walked over last Friday night was nearing the end of its life; I appreciated the loud, metal BANG in warning.

3. Pigeons. Pigeons are everywhere here; you cannot avoid them. I don't mind the birds so much, and rather enjoy watching them peck around for food or drink water from puddles while waiting around sometimes. I can't help but think, "Look at that pigeon, surviving in this crazy city! If that pigeon can survive here, I know I can!" My fear of the pigeons comes from above. One day, one of these disgusting flying rats might poop on me. Worse, I might not know it and walk around all day with it in my hair, or on my jacket. And then I will get one of these terrible diseases and die.

4. Falling Structures. Fears sure do seem to come from above or below here, don't they? If it's not pigeon droppings landing on my head, it could be a window. Or scaffolding. Or an air conditioner. Or a person committing suicide. Or a building that just gives up during construction. Should I continue? I think you get the idea. Look up when you're here; not only is it pretty, but it could save your life.

5. Being Pushed Onto the Subway Tracks. I hate to be paranoid, but I don't like it when someone is standing too close to me while I'm waiting for the subway in front of them. Some people are crazy, and one of them, one day, might decide that today is the day they want to push a completely random stranger into the path of an oncoming train. Plenty of people fall onto the tracks each year, but most of those are accidents. (Well, most.) I'm envisioning a total Frank Underwood moment here, but I'm not completely crazy because it has happened in the past.

6. Being stuck in an elevator. This extends beyond New York City; just ask me sometime about the terrifying elevator in my parking garage in Roanoke a few years ago. The elevator in my office building is really hot, and the one in our apartment building is rickety and doesn't do much to earn my trust. One day one of these elevators is going to get stuck and I'm going to be sweating it out for hours in pure panic. Leave it to my bladder to be full as well, and my nightmare of trying to pee into a bottle will come true. Worse if there's a camera. And worse than being alone in this situation would be having a fellow victim...or five. And worse than that, it could fall in true Tower of Terror fashion.

7. Slippery Sidewalk Grates. If the cellar doors weren't scary enough, the sidewalks here are covered in different grates, from storm drains and utility trenches to subway breezeways. Some of them even open to an eight story drop. Walking across these on a nice day is somewhat frightening enough, but walking across them on rainy days is just asking for disaster. Either I need better slip-resistent shoes, or they really are the most surprisingly slippery surface one could walk across. How girls around here walk in heels is beyond me, rain or no rain.

8. Bicyclists. I'm a big fan of bicyclists...when they're following the rules of the road. Maybe I just didn't get the memo, but apparently there are no rules for bicyclists here. From commuters to tourists on Citi Bikes to delivery boys trying to make good time, this city is buzzing with people on two wheels, and it seems that they have no idea how roads work. Red light? Blow right through it! Pedestrians have the right of way at a cross walk? Just barrel right through while angrily yelling and frowning! They're in your way, after all. Last week I stopped in my tracks to allow a rogue bicyclist delivery boy cross through my path, and he did the same for me. Well that was nice, but it resulted in an awkward restart and near collision by both of us. Next time I may not be so lucky.

9. Busses and Taxis. Traffic in general. This one is similar to number eight, but I have a much higher chance of dying if I'm hit by a bus. There are over eight million people living in New York and over two million more people come into the city each day for work or tourism. If that doesn't spike your anxiety enough, factor in the fact that people would still rather drive or ride in an above-ground vehicle in a city with the best public transit system in the US. Everyone here is busy and in a hurry, so New Yorkers develop a pretty good sense about when it's okay to jaywalk. (Sidenote: This here's an interesting bit of history!) If traffic is stopped, I'm crossing the street and keeping on my merry way. I don't think I'll ever be stupid enough to dart out in front of a fast-moving vehicle, but people get hit all the time here, and it's not always the pedestrian's fault.

10. Drive By Baptism. We've all seen this happen in the movies. You're standing on a corner on a rainy day, innocently waiting for your chance to cross the street, when SPLASH! a vehicle speeding by hits a puddle of standing water and soaks you from head to toe. New York doesn't have the best drainage system on every street so I've already had a few mishaps over the years where I've stepped into water the same color as pavement, but these puddles are just begging to be driven through by a speeding taxi. With great luck it will probably happen on a day when I'm really in a hurry for something important.

Are the any other ridiculous (yet, apparently, legitimate) things that I should add to this list?

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