The End of Quiet

Is it just me, or has the UES been unusually dead this summer? We’re all used the place being a graveyard until Labor Day, but in 2011 it’s like we’ve surpassed tomb-dom and hit something deader. Like the innards of a full-on, sealed-up, pre-Schliemann crypt.

It’s that same feeling of eerie stillness as when I’m up at 5 a.m. when only the bread trucks are out. Only I’m feeling it at 2 p.m. On a Wednesday.

On Third Avenue at dinnertime, people lounge at half-filled café tables. I easily score a seat. Outside. The traffic light turns. A wave of cars pass. Then, the avenue empties while the light continues superfluously green with no cars to take advantage of it. I cross against the light. Then go back again. Just for the fun of it.

Parking slots abound. And not just at meters. You can have yourself two or three free spots. In front of your own building. It makes me feel like a parking savant. I’ve also become a kind of Taxi-Whisperer. I raise my hand, and one appears. In the rain.

It’s like I suddenly have super powers.

All the UES dogs are on vacation too. The Central Park meadows that normally host the pre-9-a.m. off-leash playdates see only stragglers, like a boarding school dining hall with the few international kids left behind during Thanksgiving. Doormen, with no doors to open for anyone, pick their cuticles and daydream. These days, if Plato pees on a planter, no one comes out to yell at me.

There’s no waiting in the nail salon. Or in the grocery store. Unless you’re at the New Fairway on 86th between Second and Third, which might as well be Fifth Avenue at Christmastime. Word to the wise: Anyone who is actually in the UES (or perhaps the entire city) is at Fairway. Some other places that are weirdly crowded: Alice’s Tea Cup and Pain Quotidien. I suppose this is where the people in denial go—to snug, den-like spaces where just a few souls create a crowd. There they can pretend it is not really summer, sip hot beverages and eat sweet pastries.

I haven’t taken a survey about why no one is around this year. Because, well, no one is around to survey. But I imagine it goes something like this: Those who might normally stick it out and work took a look at the depressed Dow, flatlining employment numbers, Eurozone meltdown, debt-ceiling mishigas, sovereign debt crisis, and said, “Screw it. Just screw it. I’m just getting my ass on a Hampton-bound jitney where I can contemplate my depressed home value in peace.”

Come Tuesday, it will all be over. Those of us who remained behind will not have the city to ourselves anymore. We’ll lose our temporary magic. But we welcome you back, neighbors. And we’re sorry we peed on your planter.

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