By Chris Vespoli

Living in the Big Apple often leaves us with more questions than answers — and we could really use some help getting to the bottom of things. So, here are some mysteries (we hope) Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson will tackle when Elementary returns to CBS on Thursday, October 30 at 10/9c.


1. What’s that smell?

Whether it’s the stench of hot garbage or the stale, tepid air that wafts up from the subway grates, we New Yorkers spend most of our time identifying and then immediately shielding our faces from foul smells. But every now and again our olfactory system is bombarded with perplexing vapors of foreign origins, like when the aroma of maple syrup would inexplicably envelop the entire city. That particular mystery has since been solved — the culprit being a factory across the river in New Jersey that produces food flavors — but others remain. Like for instance, a few weeks back, the entire entrance to Central Park North smelled like potpourri for three days straight. “But potpourri smells great!” you say? Well, not when it’s mixed with the pungent aroma of garbage on the sidewalk.

2. Why are the napkins from delis so flimsy? 

If the napkins our local delis provide us were any thinner, they would cease to exist. They’re good for about two, maybe three, wipes of our mouths before they disintegrate into soggy, clumpy wads – that is, if they survive the trip home in the bag. For some mind-boggling reason, most deli clerks insist on placing the stack of napkins on top of our coffees. We guess it’s a feeble attempt at preventing Java from seeping out of the lid, but the napkins always become soaked. Then we’re left with spilled coffee and no napkins.

3. How do psychics stay in business in New York?

We’re dumbfounded by how they’re able to afford their rents. Honestly, how many people’s fortunes could a “psychic” possibly read in a given week? Prognostication isn’t exactly a hot commodity. And how much could a psychic possibly charge per customer? Can that really add up to enough money to afford rent on a Manhattan storefront? The same goes for palm readers, acupuncturists, and unknown artists who own their own galleries…how do they all stay in business? We have enough trouble affording the rents on our studio apartments.

4. Who do we need to bribe (or kill) to get a table at Rao’s?

Seriously. Does anyone know? We’ve been trying for years.

5. Why are cabbies always on their phones?

Get into a cab and, without fail, your valiant chauffeur will be yammering away at volume 11 on his hands-free Bluetooth headset. Everyone has asked the question, “Who are they talking to for all that time?” but the even bigger question at play is, “Which phone carrier do they have?” They must be signed up for one hell of a great plan if they have so many anytime minutes — not to mention their phone calls seem to never, ever drop out…even in the tunnel.

6. Oh my God, who did I just let into the building?

It always happens when we’re expecting food delivery. The intercom rings, we buzz them in and then…nothing. No one shows up at our door. Panic sets in. Sure, it could have been your neighbor who forgot their key, or the mailman. But it could also be a hardened criminal who is now hiding in the hallway, or in the trash room, or in the janitor’s closet…waiting for you.

7. Why do fire trucks appear just as we’re taking an important call?

Whether it’s our doctor with test results or a prospective employer calling us to set up an interview time, a fire truck, police cruiser, ambulance, or some other vehicle with a loud, cochlea-shattering siren will seem to magically materialize from the ether and drown out our phone conversation. “Hold on, sorry. There’s a loud siren out here,” we’ll say, as we wait for it to pass. But no, it never passes us. Stuck in slow-moving Midtown traffic, it meanders just behind us, following us until we admit defeat and tell the person on the other end we’ll call them back.

8. Whose socks are these?

You’re not a true New Yorker unless you’ve amassed an entire wardrobe’s worth of other people’s socks that have mistakenly gotten mixed up in your laundry after bringing it home from the laundromat or using the washing machines in your building. We’ve all played that guessing game, trying to picture in our heads the odd character who owns the adult-sized pair of Hello Kitty socks that have snuck their way into our bag of clothes. If only there were a Missed Connections for people who lost undergarments.


Have more New York mysteries burning through your brain, like why is there a cat in every bodega? Let us know about them in the comments.


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3 Responses to 8 Mysteries All New Yorkers Have Faced at Some Point

  1. D.R. Yowell says:

    “Like, for instance,” one or the other–Grammar 101. At least there were no “myriads of” in the piece. ; )

    Otherwise, it’s cute story. : )

    • Spilt Infinitive says:

      Nothing like pedants calling out someone else’s grammar mistake with one of their own.

      Try this: “Otherwise, it’s a cute story.”

      Also, one emoticon is enough for any comment. Two emoticons is just overkill.

      Otherwise, D.R. Yowell, it’s cute comment. :/

      • bluecheesedressing says:

        – On top of that he is continuing the misinformed war against “myriad of” usage:
        From Merriam-Webster:
        Recent criticism of the use of myriad as a noun, both in the plural form myriads and in the phrase a myriad of, seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective. As the entries here show, however, the noun is in fact the older form, dating to the 16th century. The noun myriad has appeared in the works of such writers as Milton (plural myriads) and Thoreau (a myriad of), and it continues to occur frequently in reputable English.