Matthew Bates, Teacher (2009-present)
Originally Answered: What is a city you will never visit again?
New York City. Specifically, Manhattan.


I spent two weeks there for work in 2002. I was a personal assistant for a kid that was having a major surgery at NY Presbyterian Hospital. The kid’s parents put me up in a very nice hotel near the hospital and, since there’s wasn’t much for me to do other than sit with the kid in the hospital for a few hours each day, I had plenty of time to explore the city.

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I’d been living in Chicago for four years at that point. I didn’t have anything against big cities in particular. But Manhattan was on a whole new level of obnoxious, dirty, overpriced, and overcrowded.


Here’s what I didn’t like, in no particular order:


1.Constant honking of car horns. My hotel room was 20+ floors high, and I still had trouble sleeping because of the constant honking from the street corner below.It was obnoxious.


2.Trash piled high on the sidewalks. I get it… there are no alleys to hide the garbage in until it’s picked up. Still, there has to be a better way than just piling everything on the sidewalk days before it’s picked up.


3.Overpriced everything. A small cup of grapes… maybe 25 total… was $3.50. Grapes are not some exotic fruit, even in the off season. They’re like bananas… always available and always fairly cheap. Well, everywhere else in America, at least. I wonder if people who’ve never left NYC realize how much they’re being ripped off.


4.Rude workers. Besides the doctors and nurses at the hospital, I did not have a single pleasant encounter with anyone who was working in Manhattan. Everyone acted like I was bothering them by attempting to be their customer, or they were outright rude to me when I asked a question. The worst were the hotel housekeepers. I’d hear them speaking English in the hallways while I was in my room, but as soon as I’d ask them to skip my room ,because I was trying to nap, they’d switch to another language ,and act all annoyed. Like, lady… chill. I’m doing you a favor and making your job easier.


5.Nothing really unique to see or do. There was nothing there that I couldn’t also get in Chicago. Often, I felt like I was paying for the privilege of saying I ate at a famous place or went to a famous place, even though it wasn’t anything special. Even the street vendors that New Yorkers are so proud of… they aren’t that special. It’s just food from a cart. Overpriced food from a cart. I took the subway to Times Square, because that’s a good touristy thing to do. The subway was bigger and faster than the one in Chicago… I’ll give them that. It was also dirty and crowded and took me to a place that was even more dirty and more crowded.


6.Over-regulated everything. This is just a personal pet peeve of mine as a small-government type of guy. Everywhere you looked there were official city permits on display. Even the street performers had them. I saw one street vendor complain to a cop that another street vendor was too close to his “spot,” which I guess he paid the city for. It was like you couldn’t do a thing in that city unless you got permission from the city. I suspect “permission” including a hefty fee.


My excitement for Manhattan diminished quickly after my first few days there. I spent the other 10+ days I was there looking forward to the day my client was released from the hospital, and I could drive him back to Chicago. “Once they say we can go, we can be packed and off of this island within about three hours…” That’s what kept running through my head for my final week there.