Travel > Night Differential

Night Differential

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: October 26, 2010

Night Differential

Stopped in at the local store in Manhattan. Knew the prices would be high, but wow…probably paid 30% more than a public store in San Diego, 50% more than the commissary. My first thought on this was that I was paying for the real estate. But after a few days here, I can see that is only part of the story.

Sure real estate is nuts here. Hotel rooms are past silly. Used to be I could find a decent place for under $200 a night. That was before the current administration took over the White House. I’m not saying there is a cause and effect relationship there, but I am watching to see what happens in the next election. Perhaps all the limousine liberals did leave the US for the Bush years, and are all here in hotel rooms waiting to see how the midterm elections go before they buy. Maybe it reverts back to pre-2008 room prices after the next election. In any case, hotel rooms are pretty much $300 a night now.

Whatever is driving the prices, this town does work. It works in ways few other towns do. Granted you need access to money to survive here. But even more than that, you need smarts. My guess is that the average IQ in Manhattan is the highest in America. They have problems that need solving, and they solve them.

Looking at a construction site yesterday, I could see that most of my construction management skills would not matter here. Once a project gets out of the ground, whether it is the WTC or an NYU building I saw going up, the construction problems are not the classic problems I can solve. The problem is all logistics. How do you get building materials to the site, how do you store them, how do you get them to the workers when they need them? Those are the burning issues of the day. People here have solved those problems. I just didn’t know how.

But I got a clue from a sign by a side entrance to a restaurant. The sign said simply “No deliveries after 7:30 AM” I thought it interesting, but didn’t stop to think overly long about the significance of that sign.

The key to understanding that message arrive at 3 AM this morning. My apartment is way, way north. North of the GW bridge. I have a picture window view of that bridge. At 3 AM, here is what you see. A virtual Armada of semi trucks barreling across the bridge in both directions.

That is how this city runs. All the “stuff” that is needed to run this city, food clothes, construction supplies, etc comes in this way. It rolls over the bridges on the night shift. These truck drivers are the people that make this city work.

I remember a similar scenario when I worked at the Weapon Station Concord in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had protestors at our gate around the clock. They were a mild interruption as we moved ‘stuff’ across a public highway. One of the workers at the base was interviewed and he kind of let the cat out of the bag “The protests at the gate are nothing, if you want to shut down this base, just take out the Carquinez Bridge.”

The locals who drive the bridges of Manhattan always complain about the delay, but that is because they drive in during daylight hours. There isn’t any problem getting over the bridge in the wee hours. Same is true of the surface streets. I went for a run at 4:30 in the morning. I only passed two vehicles on my run. One was an NYC police vehicle. And the other was…I think you know. I smiled at the gentlemen unloading the truck and realized that the food in my fridge was paying his night shift differential.

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