If you would have asked me where that was 20 years ago, I would have said Times Square before the Disneyfication of the Guiliani years, though now it’s arguably a different kind of hell all its own. These days, however, I would have to say the Rockefeller Center area during the holidays is the epicenter of NYC hell. Don’t believe me? I dare you to go during any peak holiday weekend and disagree with me.
It’s a funny thing. You’re at home, sort of bored and itching to feel the holiday spirit, so you start imagining this festive afternoon with your family, visiting the tree, sipping hot cocoa while watching the ice skaters glide across the rink, popping into a shop or two.
What actually happens is this:
When you get off the train, which you waited 20 minutes for btw, you’re immediately swarmed by masses of people and then herded like cattle by traffic police across the street. If certain intersections are bad, the police will actually use yellow caution tape to guide the crowd along.
It suddenly feels like winter, so instead of standing around to admire the tree, you just point it out to the kids who don’t really seem that impressed anyway, despite that it’s HUGE and you wonder, dayum, that’s a big tree and how the hell do they get it here from wherever it came from, and is that thing stable anyway? How is it standing upright? And even though it’s huge, it’s slightly disappointing in real life though you have no idea why you feel let down. Maybe because you’re expecting to be totally wowed, but when you’re looking at it in daylight, the lights are not so twinkly and beautiful and it’s just…a big tree in the middle of the street.
You pop into the Real Simple Pop-Up shop and not even 5 minutes pass before your six year old is inquiring about goody bags. Like what? Does the kid have radar for free stuff? How does she even know? And so you spot your friend from Real Simple, Amy Feezor, who saids that there are indeed goody bags in the vicinity of the store. Um. ok. Oh, and you get there 5 minutes too late to see Tim Gunn.
You spot Santa at the Pop-Up shop and even though he’s clearly a little too young and a little too skinny (yo, what’s up with that?) you announce to the girls that “Santa’s here!” and they’re like “ok, so?” and you’re like “well, don’t you want to see him?” and they’re like “ok” and then you nudge them over to Santa who stands there really enthusiastically to greet your kids with open arms and your 4 year old decides that Santa is scary and runs away (maybe because he’s skinny).
For some reason, you have a total brain fart moment and decide that today will be the day you bring the girls to the American Girl flagship store across the street from Rock Center, even though in past years you did everything you could to distract them if you happen to be walking by the store. But this time you voluntarily decide that you’ll take the girls there as a very special treat since grandma has agreed to buy them American Girl dolls for Christmas as that is what they really want for the 2nd straight year, even though you don’t want to spend $100 on a *%!*!!@ doll.
And of course once you’re herded across the street by traffic cops, you’re herded into a line to get INSIDE THE *%!*!!@ STORE and this *should* make you come to your senses, but no, no, you made promises and you decide to be honorable this time, so you get in line which really does go by fast, but then you get inside and OMG. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Why is all of humanity inside this store?
So you let the girls look at the wall of dolls and ask them to pick out the tickets of the ones that they like so you can remember it for later when you’re ordering the *%!*!!@ doll, but Claudine doesn’t understand that we’re not here to buy a doll, we’re only here to look and pick. “But everyone else is buying a doll”, she whines, and you look around and you see that she is right as boxes of dolls and doll clothes and accessories (an American Girl wheelchair?) are piled high onto arms and strollers. You try and explain once again that we only came to look and you end up dragging a grumpy, whiny, weepy four year old out of the store empty handed.
Once outside, your 4 year old continues to whine, this time because she’s cold, so you try and fish around the 4 Real Simple goody bags that your friend Amy gave you, looking for her mittens, but you only find one and ARGH, it appears to be lost! Which totally sucks because they are new and they were already lost once at the Pop-Up shop, but miraculously Mark was able to find it and that happy dance you were doing earlier because he was able to find the missing mitten turns into *%!*!!@.
And that is why Rockefeller Center is the epicenter of NYC hell.