The City That Doesn’t Sleep

A couple weeks back we ventured up to Westport, Connecticut for the delectable production of I Do! I Do! It was our first time going to the venue but Roxie fired up the ol’ caddy and off we went. The drive up was delightful. The whole afternoon and evening was perfect. Dinner, the show, our backstage visit at the theatre and our stop at McDonald’s on the way back to Manhattan. Everything was perfect… that is until we re-entered the Bronx. Suddenly traffic came to a stand still. We were stuck for a spell on the way out, but this was far worse and I don’t think any of us had anticipated it. We kept occupied with SarahB‘s playlist, spending quality time with Sweeney Todd and Anyone Can Whistle.

Well sir, as it turned out there was a pileup in the center lane of the Hamilton Bridge which had been holding us up. I was keeping steady enjoyment in the backseat, taking in the drive and company. But I was also keeping an increasing eye on the clock. The last train out of Grand Central up the Hudson Line departs at 1:50AM. There is nothing after that until 6:20, during which time the NY landmark is closed. Not taking account of the potential for traffic I didn’t think much of getting back to the city and heading home, and for a change I was actually looking forward to getting home and passing out.

As we approached the TLC, Roxie and I worked out our plan. Time was limited but she was going to drive me to 42nd Street – and I was going to dash over to the station. Kari wished me luck on my fool’s journey as we left her at the Snuggery and proceeded to race against the clock. We were pressed for time, but were somewhat positive since the streets of Manhattan were ridiculously clear. We headed to 42nd Street where I bounded out of the Caddy and started to make a run for it.

Barreling down 42nd Street, I braved the excessive late night pedestrian traffic which seemed as though people were just getting started. I was making brisk time but aware that it was slipping away from me. Well, I arrived at Grand Central at 1:53AM. I could see the train’s lights moving away from me down the darkened tunnel.  By the way, my cell phone battery was on its last legs throughout this odyssey. After learning there was an Apple Store open 24/7 up at Central Park South and 5th Avenue, the droid promptly powered down. Going back to the Upper West Side was out of the question at this point – the ladies would be in bed long before could I get there.

The riff-raff (myself included) were unceremoniously given the heave-ho by the men of the NYPD whose job at 2AM was to empty the joint so it could be locked for three and a half hours. Outside, shady cab drivers were offering service to Westchester, but I wasn’t about to get involved with that. So I started to walk around the building and made my way back to 5th Avenue. There really isn’t much open in NY at this point – even on a Saturday night – so I figured I might as well go to this Apple Store and check things out. It was about this time that the rain started falling.

The streets were for the most part empty. An occasional couple meandering around was about it. The homeless all appeared to be fast asleep on the church steps. I was amused, smirking at my own situation. I’ve had some interesting treks to and from Manhattan before, but this was the first time I’d be flying solo overnight. The Apple store was there in front of FAO, in what seems to be a feeble attempt at aping the Louvre entrance. I entered the glass cubicle and descended down the spiral staircase. Much to my surprise, the store was quite active. I wouldn’t peg it as busy, per se, but there were more customers than employees.

I’m not Mac savvy – I haven’t had one myself in ten years – but I still can maneuver my way through a system with considerable ease. So I took up a perch to check into Facebook, Twitter and Gmail to let people have some idea of my whereabouts. It was around this point, I started to realize the sense of adventure the night was bringing me and started to enjoy myself. I started to people watch because I curious to see who was out and about at this time of day. If worse came to worse, I’d resort to my abilities as an Eagle Scout to take care of myself. But one of the things I’ve noticed about my time in NY, most people tend to just leave you alone.

At 3:30 I found myself starting to slip a bit and realized I needed something liquid – and preferably caffeinated – to get me through to 6:20. I  googled Starbucks, and searched for one that was open. Much to my surprise there are only three in Manhattan that are open all night. By my great good luck, the nearest one was in Columbus Circle. So I trekked out in the light rain across the southern edge of Central Park. This was when I started seeing people whose weekly salaries probably equal my annual income tumble out of buildings in ruffled tuxedos and tired cocktail dresses. Every once in a while I would catch someone clearly on an early walk of shame. Traffic was so dead that I stopped paying attention to the lights.

Well, I wasn’t the only one looking for a late night fix. The Starbucks at 60th and Broadway was packed. I ordered a green tea latte and was able to get the last available seat. The people watching continued. At 4AM, there were people still on dates, construction workers on break and some foreign folks having very lively skype calls to Russia and other Eurasian locales. I stayed for about 20 minutes, taking advantage of the opportunity to sit down as seats are scarce in the Apple store.

When I was finished there, I decided I may as well venture back to the store. I was still amazed to see vendors out and about. More people were coming and going in the Apple Store. Folks were camped out in chairs on the plaza in front of FAO Schwartz. I’m guessing some had to be in a similar predicament. The rain had continued lightly, almost like an afterthought. The temperature wasn’t cold either so I wasn’t uncomfortable.

Heading back into the store to play with more gadgets, I noticed the morning crews had come. The floors were now being cleaned, and a very surly looking woman was going around restocking shelves. There were less people about this time, but still folks coming in. Some were taking advantage of the opportunity to get work done. Some were now playing games. The sales clerks were vaguely preoccupied; it seemed as though there were more of them than were necessary for the time, but that’s the great mystery of retail planning. I considered blogging that night…but forgot my password so I just roamed about facebook and twitter for a spell. I checked the weather channel to see what my trek south was going to be like and got up to go.

On my way to the stairs – the elevator was now blocked by a stern custodial worker – the elevator doors opened and much to my surprise, a gentleman rolled out with a child in a stroller who couldn’t have much older than my 18 month old nephew. It was the only time I saw anything close to a reaction on the workers’ face. I gave the blood-shot eyed man a quick glimpse of sympathy – that was a hyperactive baby he had on his hands.

That was when I bounded up and out. I was still marveling at the location of the store when I noticed that nothing much had changed outside The same vendors were still parked utside and the weather was holding steady, with light rain. My feet were pretty much in full rebellion at this point – miles in dress shoes do not a merry trek make and was just hoping to get home and into bed as soon as humanly possible. It didn’t take long to get back to the station where there was a rather amusing lineup of drunks waiting to get in and get home. Some were slouched, some were chatting, some were completely passed out. They let us in around 5:15.

At this point, I was done. Most of my friends know I like to stay up late but I really don’t like pulling all-nighters. I rarely did so in college. So I checked out the schedule and collapsed in front of the scheduled track. I started to doze off and waited. I eventually got home at 8:15 after a very long train ride (with connection) and unceremoniously passed the hell out.

4 thoughts on “The City That Doesn’t Sleep”

  1. Wow, what an adventure. How can you not love a city with an Apple store that’s open 24/7! Talk about the greatest city in the world! I am surprised that there are only three all-night Starbucks in Manhattan, though. There must be a diner somewhere that’s open all night.

  2. One of my favorite things I’ve witnessed in Manhattan is being out at 4:00 am – leaving for the airport or coming home from work or being out – I love the juxtaposition of people still being out on the town and people heading to work. It’s a fabulous intersection.

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