How to Function in A Big City

At first I almost titled this piece: Rules for Being a Tourist in a Big City. However, I realized that there are, in fact, many people who live in big cities who don’t know the basic rules of functioning in a city, or even functioning as a human.

I recently took a weekend trip to Boston, where I lived for 3 years, and just like New York, I saw the same stupidity from tourists and locals alike.

So, in order to do my duty as a citizen of the World, I present you,

Shan Babe’s Rules for Functioning in a Big City.

1. Walking on Sidewalks. 

General Rules: Walk on the right, pass on the left. Walk fast or risk being run over. Keep your bike off the sidewalk.

Yes, sidewalks get crowded, and sometimes you just have to weave in and out, (a bit like Frogger) but just try to at least follow of the basic principles of human decency and be mindful when people are trying to pass.

Tourists: I know that where you’re from, you probably don’t walk to get from point A to point B very often, but just imagine if I were in a car in your city, moving 15 mph in a 65. Would you be mad? Most likely, yes. So if you want to walk slow in the big city, you better wear knee pads.


DON’T, for the love of CHRIST, stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture, answer a phone call, search for your phone/keys/etc. If you bump into a friend, (or worse, a guy/gal you used to hook up with) and would like to catch up with them, kindly step aside into the nearest apartment stoop, minding the fresh urine from the homeless man who just peed.

Please don’t walk like a fucking idiot with your stupid friends 3, 4 or 5 people wide. This doesn’t make you look cool, it just annoys the shit out of everyone. This is a big city, people have places to be. Be mindful.

And while we’re on that topic… GET THE FUCK OFF YOUR CELL PHONE IF YOU CAN’T WALK AND TEXT/TALK/SEARCH SOCIAL MEDIA while still using basic brain function.

I’m a big fan of bikes! (Yay Mother Earth!) But get your fucking Citi Bike off the sidewalk. There are bike lanes for guess what??? BIKES! There is also the street where bikes are actually considered a vehicle. (Traffic laws DO apply to bikes as well, even though most cyclist think they are exempt). If you are too afraid of the bike lanes or the street, go to Central Park and ride your bike.

Also, the yellow ones don’t stop, so if you aren’t paying attention and get hit by a taxi… your fault. Sorry.


2. Accessing Public Transportation. 

General Rules: Have your metro card/T-Pass/whatever they call it in other cities, OUT before you stand in front of the turnstile like a fucking dick. Let people off the train before you enter.

Don’t be afraid to ask a local for help finding a place/navigating the subway. Yes, you run the risk of that person being a bitch, but I’m happy to give a friendly tourist the help they need if it means one less stupid person clogging up the public transpo system.

If you don’t have your transportation card out when you reach the turnstile, kindly step out of the way. If you would like to piss off a New Yorker, you will prevent them from catching their train. I don’t wish that wrath on anyone.


If you do happen to reach your scheduled train on time, it is IMPERATIVE that you let the people off the train before you enter. Basic logic will tell you that the train cannot, indeed, depart until all the people are off, so elbowing your way onto the train while people are trying to get off only slows the process… and again, makes you look like a dick.

3. While on Public Transportation. 

General Rules: Seats are for sitting, not for your piles of shit. Give up seats to people who need them. Move into the center of the train. Don’t be a pole-leaner. CONTROL YOUR FUCKING CHILDREN.

In an empty train, it is acceptable to put your purse, grocery bag, shopping bag on the seat next to you. I do it sometimes. However, once the train starts populating, you are NOT so special that you can simply hold this seat for your imaginary friend, Fred, or whatever your imaginary friend’s name is. Move your shit.

If an elderly person, pregnant lady, person with crutches enters the train, get your ass up and offer them your seat. In New York, some folks of these demographic will refuse, (being the tough New Yorkers they are,) but it is always appropriate to ask. You have two legs, good health, and are capable of standing. Yeah, you worked a long day at work, but so did everyone else. This is a big fucking city, most of us are overworked and under-slept.

Staying close to a door on the train is often prime real estate, especially when you’re trying to get off in a few stops. That being said, if the train gets crowded, scoot your ass over. Or, if you can allow enough space to squeeze by without assaulting your neighbor, please get the fuck out of the way.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO NOT LEAN ON THE POLE. If I have to busy out my balancing skills to not fall over on a train because you are leaning on the length of the pole, I’m going to go bananas.


Next, we have the children of public transportation. Crying babies get a pass… they are babies, and although incredibly annoying, cannot help their annoyingness. Your toddler and kids though? They aren’t cute. Their iPad that is blasting their video game with no headphones? Not cute. Them treating the train like a jungle gym? Not cute. Them blowing snot rockets and spitballs across the train? Not cute.


Control them.

4. Personal Hygiene 

General Rules: Deodorant, deodorant, deodorant. Hand sanitizer is a must. Crop dust in less concentrated areas.

We all stink. We all fart. We all poop.


In a big city, everyone is closer to one another because the population is exponentially condensed into a confined space: the subway, the bus, the sidewalk, the “hottest” nightclub where everyone is packed in like sardines.

Be courteous for us, and shower. Bathing is essential for living in a city. I understand some of us may be smellier than others, but I tend to carry around deodorant, a toothbrush, mouthwash, gum and floss with me in order to keep myself smelling up to standard. I realize most of us may not be THAT particular, but I see it as me doing my duty to society by being one less smelly New Yorker.


Also, be mindful that millions of people are touching that subway pole, that turnstile, that bathroom door, etc, etc every day. Don’t cough or sneeze and then wipe your hand on public property. There is a reason I contracted the swine flu a year ago, and it’s because there are fucking nasty people who inhabit this city. Do yourself a favor and go to Duane Reade, CVS, Walgreens or your closest neighborhood bodega and buy some .99 cent hand sanitizer. The world will thank you for it.

And just as a courtesy, if you have to fart, just look behind you. There is nothing worse than being downwind of a silent-but-deadly bomb. Research says that farts release fecal particles into the air, so think about how you would feel if a piece of shit hit you in the face.


Speaking of poop…

5. Public Bathrooms

General Rules: Wipe up your piss. Girls, don’t get gross with your lady business. Smelly poop can sometimes not be avoided.

There is no excuse for piss on a toilet seat that everyone uses. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like to sit my ass cheeks on a public toilet seat. I’m well-versed in the art of the “squat and pee.” There is, however, a little rhyme all of us should remember: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie.”

Simple. Or, just lay down TP on the seat an then sit your ass down. A Myth Busters episode took cultures of toilet seats and said they are often much cleaner than people assume. Also, fun fact: the first stall in a series of stalls typically has the least amount of germs since it often gets overlooked.

Now… next up: ladies. Once a month we have to endure Aunt Flo and all her glory. Most of you have been experiencing this every month over the course of many years. WHY, THEN, is it so impossible for you to not be the GROSSEST HUMAN ON THE PLANET, and clean up after yourself???

Get it together.

The last uncomfortable topic I will talk about is poop. Sometimes it’s unavoidable in a public place. If you find yourself in public, and know you need to poop, try these tips. Use the stall furthest away from the closest human. Use the restroom in the basement of the facility or the top floor; those are usually less condensed. If you find yourself in the awkward position of being in a single stall with a line outside the door, simply flush a few times, and apologize to the next person in line… or just blame it on the previous occupant…

Sometimes shit happens… literally…


6. Escalators.  

Yes, escalators.

This one deserves it’s own category because it INFURIATES me when people don’t know the basic rules of the escalator.


Do NOT stand side-by-side with your stupid friend and clog up the whole damn escalator when there are people trying to pass on the left.

It is so simple, yet there is always that ONE MOTHERFUCKER who ruins it for everyone.


7. Eating Out

General Rules: ALWAYS TIP. Large parties: be prepared to split the bill or just bring cash. Don’t be a dick.

This one is for all my friends in the service industry.

Some people may disagree with me here, but there really is not ever a reason not to tip. Especially in a big city where wages are usually meager enough, and some people live SOLELY on tips. Unless that server or bartender came to your home and slaughtered your first born, cut off your sexual organs, or physically assaulted you, you should ALWAYS tip.

Are there situations where I’ve dealt with some real cunts as servers/bartenders? Sure. Have I ever given someone a crappy tip for being a cunt? Sure. Have I ever not tipped? No.  My hope is that karma gets the best of these people, and in the city, it’s likely they won’t last long anyway if this is how they treat their customers. Also… YOU might be the cunt, and the attitude you get from them might be deserved.

This is especially true with large parties. Large parties are fucking annoying. If you are going to go somewhere and have a large fucking party, discuss the details ahead of time. Is everyone expected to split the bill evenly? Is everyone bringing cash? Is the server okay with splitting checks? How about the person who has one beer and an appetizer? Is there a person designated to work out the bill at the end of the night? (In my case it was always my friend Christina, she was a MASTER of working out the check).

If you find yourself in a large party, DO NOT assume that because you want to order fucking mozzarella sticks and chips and guac and potato skins, that everyone else wants to eat them… OR PAY FOR THEM. I’ve been in so many situations where we’re all supposed to “split the appetizers” when all I had was a small salad and a glass of the cheapest wine. I’m broke as a fucking joke. Don’t assume everyone has money to throw at your fucking potato skins.


And don’t be a dick. If you can’t afford this birthday party, be honest. I’ve gone to dinners where I’ve let the birthday boy know that I would be eating at home and had one drink that I paid for in CASH. If you know that you need to bring cash, go to an ATM. We’ve all been in these situations, and they are THE WORST.

8. Going Out

General Rules: Have your ID out when you get to the bar/club. Don’t be an idiot and order a crazy complicated drink at a dive bar. Don’t get white-girl wasted. Spilling drinks is not cute.

Just like having your metro card ready when you enter the subway, have your ID out when you go somewhere. I want to drink, and if some dumb bitch is standing in front of me is giggling while she tries to search through the bottomless pit that is her purse for her ID, I’m going to get aggravated.

Don’t get between me and my whiskey.

Again, I have a lot of friends who are bartenders. They tell me what annoys them the most. Girls who come into dive bars/sports bars and ask for mojitos or cosmos or some other complicated drink that you usually get at a cocktail bar. If you’re at someplace in Midtown Manhattan that has some kind of incredibly Irish-sounding name, chances are you’re going to annoy the piss out of the bartender when they have to make you some stupid fucking sugary drink, when you should have just ordered a beer or a well drink.

Don’t get white-girl wasted… or try not to. This one is more of a guideline… not law.


However, if you choose to get white-girl wasted, pull yourself together. None of this spilling drinks bullshit or taking off your shoes. Remember our lesson on personal hygiene??


9. Tolerance

General Rule: Different strokes for different folks

Just because you don’t understand a lifestyle, does not mean it’s wrong. As long as no one is hurting you, anyone else, or infringing on your rights as an american, I see no reason why we all can’t co-exist. Big cities tend to be filled with all sorts of weird birds.

Especially if you’re a tourist, or a non-native, you cannot be judgmental when you come into OUR city. Keep your racist/sexist/homophobic/naivety to yourself. You are a visitor. I don’t go to the Bible Belt and start shouting about how I’m an atheist. Don’t come to Hell’s Kitchen and run around screaming about how you hate gays.

Tolerance is a beautiful thing.



The city is a beautiful place, but you share the city with millions of people. BE MINDFUL. The universe does not revolve around you and your smart phone. BE ALERT.

Also, remember your manners. Remember to be kind. Try to be patient with those who deserve your patience. If someone is being an idiot, and you absolutely MUST call them out, try not to be the bitchiest version of yourself. Stand up for intolerance. Practice basic principles or cleanliness and hygiene. Don’t hold up the line… whatever line that may be.

No matter what city you live in, be it New York City, Boston, Chicago, LA, Rome, Paris, Tokyo or Beijing, remember that there are different cultures and ways of operating. If you are visiting, figure these things out BEFORE you travel. The natives will thank you for it.

Now go! Get out there! Frolic wild and free through the streets! You now have the basic principles for functioning as a human!

Goodnight New York City, Goodnight moon




A New Yorker,

Shan Babe



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