Why I'm thankful for crowds returning home for holidays in NYC

Welcome back, New York City, in all your congested, untidy, patience-testing glory. Good riddance to the “ghost town” that the world’s media warned us was to be our permanent destiny.

I hate loud noise. I hate overcrowding. But I say to the Big Apple on this golden, parade-redux Thanksgiving holiday:

Be as loud and as congested as you can be. Sidewalk trumpet players, blow your rusty horns to the skyscraper pinnacles. Bongo drummers, wake the living dead clustered beneath “sidewalk bridges.”

Enough of pandemic hush and its close cousin, the “Is it over?” tentative, abundance-of-caution, masked-up variant (to use that distasteful word).

Notoriously cantankerous crank that I am, maybe I’ll change my tune six months from now. Today, I’m loving the myriad daily dehumanizing episodes whose 20 months’ absence made them seem precious.

Slow-moving tourists downtown who ask where Wall Street is: Folks, you are on Wall Street, may I help you with anything else?

I love that friends say they can’t get Thanksgiving reservations at any restaurant in town because they’re already booked up.

I love picking my way around sidewalk vendors selling junky wooden animals on Sixth Avenue in Midtown. I loved steering through a boozy “Welcome back to the office” party for a law firm in the building where I work.

The zillion-decibel din at restaurants Hawksmoor, Gage & Tollner, Le Bilboquet, Carne Mare, Clocktower, Hutong, Polo Bar, Cellini, Nobu Fifty Seven and Fresco by Scotto was music to my 71-year-old ears. The mob scene in the Carlyle Hotel’s lobby and lounges tickled me to the bone.

At Bloomingdale’s men’s department, I (almost) enjoyed having to hunt for help because the sales guys were busier with customers than they’d been in a long time.

The long wait for the Apple Store Genius Bar was more soothing than infuriating. Starbucks baristas, brought to a virtual standstill by having to cope again with multiple orders at a time, charmed me.

I thrill to the sight of young people camped out on Rockefeller Center sidewalks hoping for tickets to “Saturday Night Live,” whose cast members weren’t even allowed in the same rooms last year.

Subway crowds are best of all. Trains are filling up again — not yet to pre-pandemic levels but trending upward. Not only in heavily trafficked Manhattan but on the J line to Brooklyn’s Broadway Junction, the elevated station of my childhood that was scarily lonely a few months ago.

If you’d rather stay in and watch the parade on TV, know that more people around make everyone safer. It’s no coincidence that subway crime has finally begun to fall as the trains became fuller. Times Square’s annoying Elmos and the crowds they draw might be a better crime deterrent than cops on horses.

Anyone with a heart, a brain or an ounce of affection for Gotham should rejoice.

True, there were small consolations during last year’s lockdown and the on-again, off-again, masks-off, masks-on reopening purgatory that followed.

I briefly enjoyed the unaccustomed solace of Central Park walks with hardly anyone around. I didn’t miss the clamor of kids when the lobby in my building of 360 apartments was devoid of life and the chairs were roped off with yellow tape as at a crime scene.

On Aug. 1, 2020, I even wrote that a minor blessing of the lockdown was its “civilizing” influence on the raucous, tourist-trampled city.

I complained that the pre-pandemic city was a “mosh pit” of jammed restaurant coat checks, too-long lines for Broadway theater toilets and weekend gridlock of “overlapping parades, street fairs, street races, fireworks shows and cycling events.”

But we all went a little crazy last year — remember when we thought former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a hero? — and that was my own moment of madness.

I long ago had enough “civilizing.” So, judging by this autumn’s revival, did everybody else.

The public grasps the truth that mustn’t-let-our-guards-down “experts” avoid lest they lose their quote-of-the-day media access: Few fully vaccinated New Yorkers are catching the virus. Those who suffer “breakthrough” infections almost never get seriously sick, much less require hospitalization.

Those who’ll howl that I don’t know what I’m talking about should pipe down and see the city Department of Health’s daily updates, click on the “recent trends” box and look at the data for hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated. There have been near none since August despite slightly rising case numbers.

Bill de Blasio might be our worst mayor ever, but he isn’t too dumb not to read the charts. They’re why we’re getting our Times Square New Year’s Eve party back.

So go out and enjoy the chaos. Be nice to the tourists. And let’s all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We earned it. 

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