Monday, January 28, 2013

GET LOST: A New York Tour Guide's Guide to New York #12f


I thought I'd combine these two into one installment because there's not much to say about either.

Hansom cabs, for anyone who doesn't know, are the horse-drawn carriages found almost exclusively around the southern end of Central Park. Although they will presumably take you anywhere you'd need to go, within reason, mostly they're used for seeing the park itself. Recently I thought it would be rather funny to have one of them take me to work, and just get out as if it were from a normal motorized taxi. But I sort of disagree with them.

Don't get me wrong, I sometimes try my best to imagine the city before the invention of the combustion engine. It must have been such a wildly different environment, albeit considerably stinkier. But mostly I just think people riding hansom cabs look rather silly, if not lazy. Romance I think is the one exception I'm willing to allow. To each his own, I guess; the sight and smell of a horse's back door doesn't make me feel particularly romantic.

My main objection stems from being an animal lover. I suspect the stables take very good care of the horses. But I don't think New York is a good place for even very large dogs, unless their human companions are extremely active (jogging every day active), extremely responsible, and have easy access to a park where dogs are permitted. For certain this is no place for a horse. There's no reason for it. The combustion engine has been invented and they've worked out most of the bugs, too

The worst is seeing these poor creatures standing around when it's 19°F (-7°C) outside (blanketed or not), or for that matter trotting through the city when it's 89° (32°C). Those are the real temperatures. Compare this life to the horses living on a sprawling horse farm in rural Virginia, running around eating dandelions all day. New York City law allows them to work nine hours a day, seven days a week, inhumane by just about anyone's standards. It just makes me sad.

Ironically, I don't have the same problems with horseback riding. This is more of a skill, requires a certain level of athleticism, and also allows the rider to develop a sort of relationship with the horse, if only for an hour or so. Unfortunately, you can no longer rent horses in Central Park. Since the only parks where you can are in the outer boroughs, I'll leave that mode of transportation for someone else to discuss.

Pedicabs are also propelled by animal, but the mammals are human beings. It's basically a tricycle rickshaw. These, as a friend of mine once said, are the absolute height of laziness. You can't be bothered to carry your own body down the street, so you have some poor guy do it for you (they overwhelmingly seem to be 20-something-year-old males). They should charge about one dollar per block or forty-five dollars for an hour, but you can practically walk faster than they travel a lot of time. Speed is not a selling point here. 

Aside from the fact that, unlike horses, they're doing this more or less voluntarily, one justification for hiring one is to help the person out. Likely he's doing it to get his financial footing in a new city or make a little extra money to add to that from a more conventional job. I suspect some of them may also be athletes, professional bicycle racers and so on, who do it to make some money while also training. Hire one with a nice looking butt, because that's what you'll be staring at the whole time.

©2012, Ryan Witte

12g. Bicycles, Boats, Kayaks

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