My Phone’s Dead, I’m Lost, Drunk, and Dead Broke: Your Guide to Getting Home in NYC
As I regained awareness of my surroundings (ahem…coming out of a blackout), I realized I was stumbling out of one of the Lower East Side’s ubiquitous filthy houses of debauch. The night had been a resounding failure. No one enjoyed my humor, the opposite sex somehow found me unappealing, and I spent the money I needed for food and shelter at the bar simply to justify my presence. My sole victory was drinking enough to temporarily lose consciousness while managing to stay upright with the contents of my stomach inside of me. When I decided to abort this botched attempt at ‘fun’, I didn’t realize that the worst of my troubles lie ahead.
I stood in front of the bar clumsily rummaging through my pockets while struggling to discern what had happened and where the fuck I was. I stared into my phone to see if it could provide answers and deliver me to the promised land of sheets and pillows. Alas, technology failed me. The battery of my phone spent its life force glowing conspicuously in the dark bar as I pretended to have people to text with.
Then a more startling revelation. Upon further examination of my pockets, I discovered they contained neither cash, credit card, check nor money order. How could I let this happen? My phone was dead, I was lost, drunk, and egregiously flouting New York City’s most fundamental social law: always carry cash. A low and guttural “god damn it” was pushed forcefully from my throat past my lips. I steadied myself and prepared for what would be a long and arduous journey.
I was down but not out. In a city of endless possibility anyone with a little ingenuity can find their way home. Through the use of battle hardened strategies devised for this very situation I actually got to sleep in a soft bed and not a hard bench. I will not share the specific method I used on that fateful night for legal reasons, but because of my infinite generosity I have compiled for you, dear reader, some helpful suggestions for getting home in NYC, even under the direst of conditions.
Unlike other major cities that lure you out at night with the promise of good times and intoxication, then shut down the public transportation just when you need it most; the MTA is a 24-hour operation. Rain, sleet or snow you can always count on the greasy embrace of squealing subway cars to take you where you need to go at a very reasonable price.
I can hear your protests already. “I’m a broke bastard. I don’t care how reasonable the price is, I’m a loser and sometimes I just can’t afford it.” Luckily for you, I’ve been there before and have a number of solutions from the rational to the criminal to the degrading.
Talk to the cops: Though regularly criticized for their brutal, often illegal tactics, the NYPD is populated mostly by reasonable (but perhaps violent) people. Most cops in the city are regular guys who, unlike cops from other jurisdictions, don’t treat public drunkenness like violent crime. They also understand that the proverbial shit eventually happens. You may be able to get one of New York’s finest to help you but you must understand that to be successful in this endeavor, your presentation is crucial. Coming from a family of veteran officers I have a slight insight into the mind of the man on patrol.
Cops in this city observe an endless stream of absurdity, stupidity and desperation day in and day out. If you want to enlist a cop’s help in getting you past the turnstiles, you need to remember three things: they don’t have to do anything for you, get straight to the point, and don’t come off like a bum. A cop’s duty is supposedly to protect and serve but if they don’t do their job, what are you going to do? Arrest them? Either way getting you onto a subway is not at all in the job description so making demands will not get you anywhere. Do not come to them with a long list of excuses and explanations, get to the heart of the matter. They do not want to hear your sob story. Finally, you must seem as though you are momentarily down on your luck and not perpetually so. Cops, like most people, are annoyed by perceived vagrants. Whether you are or are not is inconsequential; you must at least seem like you have a home to go to.
Jump the turnstile: I understand that many of you may have a negative view of the police and some of you may even own an NWA album. What does one do if they are determined to avoid law enforcement? If you have the stomach for venial criminality you can sneak past a barrier with relative ease. If you are tall lifting your legs over the turnstile is easy with even modest upper body strength, while the small and weak should have no trouble sliding under. Just remember to look out for NYPD, MTA employees and haters.
Ask strangers for money: As a very last option you can try to rely on the mercy of others. I save this undignified strategy for last because in my opinion that is when it should be resorted to. The foremost difference between a broke-ass and a bum is an outstretched palm. I am not making a moral judgment here, I am stating a social reality. It is up to you to decide how you feel about being a bum. For many unfortunate souls there is no other option but I think it rather uncouth not to avoid it if at all humanly possible. I’d rather be a criminal, at least the crook puts forth an independent effort to improve his condition.
If you decide to take this ignoble course, I suggest you heed the same strategy in dealing with regular people as you would with police. No one wants to help a lifetime loser and nobody wants to hear a tale of woe. Since many people have unlimited access or extra cash on their Metro cards, it may be prudent to ask for a swipe instead of cash. Luckily NYC is place of immense prosperity and generosity, you are likely to find someone who will take pity on the pathetic wretch you’ve become.
Trains to the suburbs: There are a few other means of getting home if the subway is not an option. For those of you who reside in NYC’s suburbs, the bathrooms of trains on New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and Metro North lines provide excellent cover for stowaways. The PATH train into New Jersey operates similarly to the subway except fare enforcement is more rigorous, so you should take greater precaution if entering illicitly. Getting out of the city without any cash is more difficult but definitely not impossible.
Cabs: Another important thing to note is that cabs rarely ask for money up front. If you have cash at your place you can pay when you get there. If you do not and are quick on your feet you can take a cab near your house and run like hell as soon as the driver comes to a stop. If you have any respect at all for the working man this should make you feel terrible. You must ask yourself if sleeping on a sidewalk will make you feel worse.
Some of you found this amusing. Some less. Thanks for reading either way. Many of you scoffed at the idea that you would ever be as irresponsible as to end up blind drunk, broke and alone far from home. Congratulations, you probably suck. At least one of you will try to recall these words through the fog of inebriation at a desperate moment. This was for you.
image from ryot.