NYC is currently going through a period of extreme cold, see the video which starts with the bald meteorolgical facts but then shifts to interviews with cold and shivery New Yorkers. While there are plenty of other places that are also freezing, NYC does weather in it’s own unique and peculiar way. In summer New Yorkers put up with boiling temperatures which heat up to furnace level down in the subways. And in winter, by virtue of all the tall buildings, the wind chill factor makes Alaska seem like a balmy day on a tropical island by comaprison.
So New Yorkers dutifully climb into layers of clothing donning hats, scarves and gloves to minimise the bits of themselves they have exposed to the frigid temperatures. And if they have a grain of sense they only wear rubberised footwear of some kind so they can brave snow and slush without finishig up with wet feet and ruined shoes. Which isn’t all that different to what people living in cold temperatures do anywhere. But there there a few NYC wrinkles.
Go to a bar or restaurant and you are likely to find a completely sealed box like entrance, usually made of thick canvas, jutting out onto the street. These are called vestibules and they provide an airlock so that when people come in off the street they don’t waft great drafts of cold air onto the people already seated inside and already stripped down to their normal inside clothes. Space is at a premium in NYC so most restaurants and bars open directly onto the street which works fine in warmer weather but in freezing temperatures is a disaster. As you enter, your side of the bargain is to close the door to the vestibule completely before you open the door to the restaurant, see NY Post who say these started appearing in the 1990′s and they are unique to NYC.
Another way in which NYC establishments protect themselves from the ravages of winter is the plastic umbrella bag. If you come in off a sidewalk awash with rain and a dripping umbrella you’ll be handed a long umbrella sized plastic envelope so you don’t walk around dripping water as you go. I don’t know whether this happens in other parts of America but I distinctly remember my surprise when an attendant first insisted I take one of these as I came in the entrance of a big NYC department store.
And finally the great derobing experience. Bundled in warm clothing outside to survive, as soon as you are inside of course you have to take it all off otherwise you’ll boil in the warm air conditioning. In restaurants the arrangements vary depending on how upmarket or otherwise your selected eatery is. The upmarket ones take your coat and return it to you as you leave. The less expensive an eatery the more likely it is it will be your responsibility to stash your own coat. Everyone is in the same boat so polite arrangements that don’t interfere with other diners is the rule.
It’s sensible though to think ahead and ensure you can stow gloves, scarves and hats either in a bag or in pockets. And if you are going into a department store and walking around for some time then sometimes the best you can do is completely unzip your big outdoor coat so it flaps around you and circulates the air so you don’t get too hot. If you are going to be shopping for hours either bring a bag with you or ask for one from the store and stow thick outside clothing in it. It’s all worth it, freezing cold or boiling hot NYC is still the best city in the world you just have to work with it.