Top Tips


Everyone knows that the US is the tipping capital of the world. Right? And that New York is the capital of the tipping capital. You probably know this even if you’ve never been to New York. If you have been here, maybe you’ll recall falling off your chair the first time you realised you were about to sign away another 20% on top of the not insignificant sum you’d already paid for dinner, or how tedious it was to be constantly rummaging around for dollar bills to give the guy who opened your cab door/ took charge of your suitcase/ brought that bottle of San Pelligrino up to your room.

But nothing prepares you for the tipping culture that engulfs you when you actually live here. I’ve already mentioned Jennifer and my Whole Foods delivery. Then came my encounter with the merry crew of supers who run this ship called Manhattan House from a labarynthine arrangement of offices in the basement. A nice Irish guy named Terry came upstairs to replace two ceiling bulbs and identify the source of the annoying beeping noise that we’d been hearing every ten minutes or so for the previous week. (It wasn’t the smoke alarm on the blink, after all, but the Verizon wireless router thingy needing a new battery) Being new to the building, I wasn’t sure what Terry would be expecting in terms of compensation. Was his work carried out part and parcel of the rent we were  paying? Did he send invoices to the landlord? Did he expect a tip? Continue reading “Top Tips”

At your service

Can I tell you about the amazing service ethic in this city? This seemingly inexhaustible willingness to give you anything you need, just as soon as you have the idea that you might need it?

My first happy run in with this super-service mentality came after we discovered that the previous tenants were cat owners. I’m severely allergic to cats, and cat dander ( the definition of which, if you don’t already know it, is deeply unpleasant and something you really don’t want to hear) was apparently everywhere in the apartment, so I spent the first four days crying 😥 and sneezing and generally feeling rubbish. JV, the amazingly nice and efficient managing agent, sprang into action. Within a day of my reporting the symptoms, she had amassed the names of three professional firms who could help. A day after that they all showed up to see what they were up against. An hour later they delivered their quotes. When we chose one firm, they arranged to come and do the job on the Monday (this was a Friday), bending over backwards to rearrange other jobs because they could see I was desperate. They came –  three no-nonsense women armed with with mops, buckets, vacuum cleaners and a huge extractor fan with a HEPA filter – spent eight hours tearing around the apartment like whirling dervishes, and left. Job done. And all in a third of the time it would take just to get someone to turn up for the initial site visit in the UK. When I marvelled at the speed at which they operated, the fellow in charge of the winning firm gave me a bemused look. “Well if we don’t do this, we know some other guy’s going to do it and then he’ll get the job.” It’s that simple. There’s this fierce desire to work, to get the job, and to stop someone else from getting it. And they all spur each other on. Continue reading “At your service”

What’s an L2 to do?


So here I am. Living on the fifth floor of an apartment building with about a dozen staff milling around in the lobby  – doorman, assistant doormen, concierge, mailroom attendant, valet manager – and dozens more roaming around the building, ready to fix my faulty washing machine or take delivery of my Whole Foods order. I’m a five minute walk from Bloomingdales (or Bloomies, in local speak), six minutes from Central Park, a short taxi ride away from Balthazar.

And thousands of miles away from my kids.

What the Hell am I doing here?

Continue reading “What’s an L2 to do?”