Enforced holiday comes as shock to busy New Yorkers

Fri, Nov 2, 2012, 00:00

IN THE aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, lawyers are working from home, teachers and students have been forced away from their desks, and Wall Street bankers have been edging only warily back to lower Manhattan. With subways out, phones down and electricity still out in many places, going to work has never been so impractical.

Twitter is full of grateful comments, such as this one: “GRIDLOCK! Another vacation day courtesy of #Sandy. Traffic moving 2mph and all busses stuffed.”

In a nation where the mean number of paid holidays is eight days per year and especially in the frenetic city of New York, this imposed vacation has come as a shock. The hurricane has allowed families to spend time together, and given working mothers a sudden infusion of unexpected free time.

On Wednesday, an enterprising man offered interested parties “shelter from the storm” in the Miscellaneous Romance section of Craigslist. Coy “hurricane invites” have circulated, and the Huffington Post has already coined the term “Hurricane Sex”.

With little to do and forced to bunk up with friends, some said they have been turning (temporarily) to drink. “I think people are drinking a lot of alcohol,” said Myra McCormick, a teacher who was using the free time to catch up on chores like the laundry. “Many of my colleagues, they’re like, ‘I’m actually tired of drinking’. I’ve been drinking way too much.”

At the Bottle Shoppe off-licence in Williamsburg, Eduardo Wiemuth said locals had been stocking up on supplies over the hurricane weekend and the pace continued to be quick. The hurricane had knocked people off kilter, he said. “It’s the busiest city in the world and people don’t work for four days. It’s pretty crazy.”

In Brooklyn, many parts of which were unscathed by Sandy, coffee shops and restaurants were full yesterday. In Williamsburg, the atmosphere was relaxed, and cafes thronged with bespectacled young Brooklynites.

Stephen Erikkson, a 58-year-old freelance piano tuner and technician, was sipping a coffee in the Blue Stove cafe, with his daughter in a buggy beside him. Usually he and his wife alternated on childcare duties, he said, but the hurricane allowed them to all spend time together. “Monday and Tuesday I enjoyed the company of my wife and child, together en famille,” he said. “It was a great release from day-to-day strains and stresses. There was a sense of suspended possibility and enjoyment.”

The Park Slope area in Brooklyn, known for its yuppie atmosphere and yummie mummies, was “a total scene” according to local journalist Ashley Milne-Tyte. “There are families out. Bars and restaurants are buzzing, shops are doing a thriving business . . . It’s more packed than a Saturday.”

But the level of enjoyment at the unexpected holiday varies. Employees of New York city were asked to try to overcome transport difficulties and get to work. Those who work in service industry jobs, often paid by the hour, are losing income. Alex Tatusian, a 23-year- old barista at a coffee shop in Greenwich Village, said there was no water or electricity there so the place was closed. Since he’s paid by the hour he is losing out.

Limited bus and subway services are slowly coming back; cars are able to cross bridges to the city if they carry at least three occupants. But with electricity still down in lower Manhattan, the enforced vacation may continue for the foreseeable future. That’s good news but many New Yorkers will struggle with it.

“Americans are also not very good at taking vacation,” explained Tatusian.