News & Opinion

Snowpocalypse 2015

Dear Mayor de Blasio: Delivery Guys ARE Emergency Workers

The Daily Beast

January 26, 2015

New Yorkers are already in the middle of a weather emergency, with 3 feet of snow set to dump on us in the next 24 hours. Is it wise for their mayor to start a full-on culture war, too?

Journalists, trying to ascertain how draconian Bill de Blasio’s measures to get all traffic off New York’s streets after 11 p.m. would be, asked about food delivery. The tone of the question was very much, “But surely this doesn’t mean food delivery people?”

Because, the tone of the question rightly inferred, while food delivery cyclists invariably go at high speed the wrong way up, down, and across streets, they are also one of the unsung lifebloods of New York. Food delivery in New York is not a treat, not something New Yorkers do on the odd night they are lazy or pressed for time. For many people, it’s something they do as part of a daily routine.

Remember Miranda in Sex and the City feeling embarrassed that the lady at favorite Chinese takeout spot knew her order before she gave it?

And Monday night there’s going to be a huge freaking snowstorm, and so people might really want to order in—from places, that is, that are still open and that are still operating food delivery. I hope any of those guys on bikes Monday night are getting triple pay and will be tipped handsomely—and New Yorkers do better on this score than their miserly tipping the last time such bad winter weather hit us.

But there’s not much point in me wishing anything, because the mayor said food delivery personnel are included in all those people who should stay off the road.

Food delivery staff, de Blasio said at his Monday afternoon press conference, are not emergency vehicles and will be banned from the streets, along with all other drivers, after 11 p.m. “A food delivery bicycle is not an emergency vehicle,” he said.

Bear with me while I hover on the margins of facetiousness, but food delivery is absolutely central to New York and how its crazy-busy population dines. You may observe that and say, “Well New York is loopy,” and you may be right. But that’s the way it is.

And no, food delivery is not an emergency service, but it is a vital service—and actually, if you live on your own, if you’re feeling terrible, if you’re infirm, or injured, or depressed, if for whatever reason you can’t get food any other way, then yes, I’d say food delivery is an emergency service.

Depriving New Yorkers of food delivery for any reason may sound like the ultimate First World indignity, but there’s a poignancy to banning food delivery Monday night. It really is the sign that you can lock down New York, a city whose boundlessness we take for granted.

And so to your kitchens, New Yorkers, and those weird upstanding things. Most of us have ovens in our apartments, and yes, they are used by gifted cooks. But others lie dusty and unused, unless as a storage facility for shoes. Perhaps, during Snowmageddon, de Blasio suddenly wants us to skill up, to whip up a risotto, steam some vegetables. It’s Manhattan’s Waltons moment.

And if you’re looking askance at the idea, run out now and buy some sandwiches, Raisin Bran, and hummus—because at 11 o’clock Monday night, a blizzard will likely be fiercely swirling, and with it—for one night only—a few taken-for-granteds by cosseted New Yorkers, so used to contracting out parts of their lives, will be temporarily suspended. You’re on your own for one night only, New York, when it comes to food.

The panic this elicited could be seen on Sunday, with people lobbing loaves of bread and any jar of anything into baskets, as if preparing for the end of the world.

The notion of something not being available, of something complicating their lives unacceptably, makes New Yorkers panic.

Monday night will not just be Snowmageddon 2015, it will be the night many New Yorkers use that upright “thing” in the kitchen with the rings that have never been heated and the clock that’s always an hour out.

January 26: The Night the Mega-Blizzard Came, and Also the Night Some Nervous New Yorkers Boiled Eggs for the First Time and Felt Pretty Great Afterward.