Reading an article on Yahoo News this morning on “The Top Cities For New Year Year’s Eve Celebrations”, made me laugh, as it was so USA-centric the writer had likely spent little time outside America. But, more importantly, that she named Times Square in New York City as a “given” you’d want to spend New Year’s Eve there just made me laugh even louder. The world’s worst place for spending New Year’s Eve, I’d spend my New Year in any other world’s top city, before I’d set foot in that hell hole again.
I spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square years ago when I was in university. A group of friends and I traveled to New York City specifically for the New Year’s Eve celebration, so we could stand in Times Square and watch the ball drop. The two days we spent before December 31st exploring New York were fun and, although New York will never be one of my favorite cities, it’s certainly interesting. But, when New Year’s Eve finally arrived, little did I know I’d be so glad to get out of New York by the end of it and I’ve rarely been back since.
What you don’t see when you watch New Year’s Eve in Times Square on your television set, is how truly dreadful a place it is if you’re actually standing there. Hundreds of thousands of people congregate in a spot just a couple of blocks long and everyone is trying to see the stages and the ball. Once you’re there though and have established your spot, you really can’t move. So unless you hit Times Square about 24 hours before the festivities begin, forget ever seeing anything.
For most people who venture out to Times Square for New Year’s, they’ll be standing on their feet in the freezing cold for at least seven or eight hours. Getting food or drink is impossible, as at any of the places selling them the line is so long it’ll be next New Year before you quench your thirst or sooth your grumbling stomach.
Plus, you don’t actually want to drink anything in Times Square anyway. There isn’t a bathroom for miles, as every restaurant and cafe has been smart enough to close up shop before the mobs arrive, so unless you brought a bottle to pee in, you’ll only end up wetting your pants. And, don’t even get me started on how bloody cold it is. By the end of the night, I thought I’d never feel the tips of my fingers again.
The highlight of New Year’s Eve in Times Square for me was when a young, drunk guy stood on the roof of an eight storey building, swaying scarily as he tried to figure out his next move. The crowd upon spotting him, most who were drunk themselves, began shouting “Jump. Jump. Jump”. Someone with him thankfully pulled him back from the edge and away from sight, as half the people on the street below probably wouldn’t have cared if he’d hit them when he plummeted rapidly down on his journey to the pavement.
When the ball dropped, there’s so much noise and fanfare but, believe me, unless you’re close to the stage area, you don’t see anything. We only realized it was New Year’s Day when the crowd struck up Auld Lang Syne.
But, this dreary event still wasn’t over. Around 30 minutes after New Year’s hits, the entire crowd en masse decides to make its way to New York’s subway system. If you don’t get trampled and killed in that crowd, it’s your lucky day, and with half the crowd jumping over turnstiles to get onto the platform when we got to the subway station, the wait was even longer.
By this time, of course, 90% of the people desperate to get home, now need to pee. I lost count of how many times I smelled piss or saw an errant penis as I stood in line to get on a train. Now New York is a dirty city at any time of the year (have you been in the summer when the trash sits out on the sidewalks? Nasty), but on New Year’s Eve with 100,000 people fighting to get on the train and lots of loose bladders/ Foul doesn’t even begin to describe it.
After our thoroughly nasty, tiring, freezing cold and dull New Year’s Eve, my friends and I decided to leave New York City earlier than planned and stay a couple of nights in Philadelphia on our way back home instead. A much more beautiful and less crowded city, we all agreed, if in the neighborhood the following New Year, we’d be standing somewhere in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Los Angeles, Miami, Savannah, New Orleans, London, Rome, Beijing, Bangkok, Hanoi – anywhere before we’d put ourselves through New Year’s Eve in Times Square ever again.
In fact, I hated Times Square so much, I don’t even watch it on New Year’s Eve on my TV set anymore. Last year, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did that job just fine thank you and the downtown area of Bangkok will be this year’s TV viewing.