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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday reminds us of how green we aliens still are

Once a year we have a gentle reminder that we are indeed true aliens. Super Bowl Sunday, an event that dominates our new planet’s newspapers and conversations for weeks beforehand, still arrives with one of us asking “So who’s playing today?” (Just in case you missed it, it was the Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers won.)

I like being reminded how green and alien-like we eternal packers still are - it takes me back to the first weeks after landing when we emerged blinking into the bright light of August in New York, still unaware of the true foreign-ness of our new home.

It wasn’t so much the obvious things such as the continuous movie soundtrack of wailing sirens and honking taxies that made us realize we had switched galaxies. It was when things were not what they appeared to be – especially if it was something as obvious as a ticketed price. I still remember  the first time we proudly handed over what we thought was the correct money in a drugstore only to be foiled by the dreaded New York sales tax. This challenge to anyone’s mathematical abilities magically turns that $3.99-stamped pack of chewing gum into $4.33. And don’t even try to work it out with more than one item. Why do you think everyone uses credit or debit cards over here?

Then there’s crossing the street. In most countries, the green walking man at a set of traffic lights means just that – that little green aliens like ourselves can walk across the road safely. Here however just because you’ve been given a green light (in Big Apple it’s actually an ominously ghost-like white man), this does not mean all alien mobiles have been halted. In fact those cars to your left or right have usually also just been given the go-ahead and so could easily turn the little green walking aliens into little white ghosts.

I’m still working on the correct protocol in these instances. Either staring straight into the eyes of any pushy driver, hoping they may feel the tiniest twinge of guilt in running me over. Or adopting the hard-nosed  New Yorker “don’t imagine I’ll admit to seeing you even if you’re driving a car the size of a school bus, therefore if you knock me down I’m suing you” stare-straight-ahead stance. Either way, Male Mini-me now knows to cross on the “safe” side of road – ie downwind of me.

We’d think we’d be getting "acclimatised" and then as the seasons changed, we’d once again find ourselves looking at well-known items in a different way. When the rain came, we discovered the New Yorkers’ love of wellies or gumboots as they are called here. This being New York, we’re of course not talking Irish-green-only-fit-for-a potato-field wellies but swelly wellies and yummy gummies with heels, platforms, belts and psychedelic colours. This holiday season there was even a limited edition gumboot from a well-known champagne house in its trade-mark mustard yellow, on offer for a mere $98 (or $105.673473 with sales tax).

And when the temperatures dropped, we had our introduction to that great New York tradition, steam heating. Some 30 billion pounds of steam flow under the streets of New York each year heating and cooling commercial and residential buildings. But don't worry - those great pipes of steam that suddenly appear in the middle of New York streets are usually when outside water has fallen through a manhole on to the rather hot steam pipes rather than a leak in the system itself.

Meanwhile nothing can quite prepare you for your first night in a steam-heated apartment. The clunks, the hisses, the splatters, the whooshes. Throw-in your own private boiler with its groans, whines and rattles and you start to understand why New York is called “the city that never sleeps”- at least in winter.

Hot, steamy nights will never mean the same again, no matter what planet we're on.

Creative Commons License by Caroline Eagles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.