After a lovely Thanksgiving on the coast of Connecticut, we have taken a fortnight to settle into a new apartment on the cusp of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. What a strange and complicated world we inhabit. How do the social mores of various urban centers evolve to become so eccentrically different? And how is it that Brooklyn is so “Nuu Yawhk “?
It turns out that all Brooklyn apartments are too small. In addition, most are either too hot or too cold, and too light or too dark. We hit the trifecta. The place is barely big enough (think hotel room with galley kitchen) but it definitely is too bright. Large, south-facing windows offer an attractive view of New York Harbor. (If you push the dresser to the window and lean way out, you can see the Statue of Liberty.) The flip side of the view is the heat that the windows generate. Last weekend we had to open the windows and we were tempted to turn on the air conditioning. It was December 8th, for heaven’s sake.
What will happen next summer? I am afraid our furniture will melt. I posed that question to an apartment superintendent, “Hey, dat’s Nuu Yawhk,” he responded.
Speaking of “Supers,” how much does one tip a superintendent after being in residence for only two weeks? We just received our “Holiday Tip Guide,” courtesy of the property manager. Apparently it can never be enough. $50-$500 is a suggested range to consider. I find that to be of limited practical help but they thoughtfully included a link to Brick Underground, the insiders’ guide to New York real estate and to apartment living. If I ever finish the pages dissecting holiday tipping I will move on to the articles related to “How to Deal With the Smoker on the Fire Escape.”
The tip guide does offer that “duration of residency” can be considered when making your calculation. But then you have to be comfortable that your tip will be received in the spirit of a gesture of appreciation for a job well done, above and beyond the job description.
In fact, there is a distinct cultural sense that the “tip” is actually a shake down, a greasing of the palm, designed to ensure that the minimal requirements of the job description will be satisfied. Do you want the front desk to hold your packages until you return? Then you better give them “a little something” to remember you by.
To be fair, the front desk staff, the maintenance staff and the building super have been very polite and helpful to date but horror stories from other buildings abound. We are feeling our way.
Meanwhile, I have joined the small army of people moving our cars from one parking restricted space to the next. [Ed. note: learning New York’s alternate side parking rules is a challenge. They vary from street to street, and from neighborhood to neighborhood.]
I may be a little late to all this urban etiquette, but don’t worry, I have learned to jaywalk with the best of them.