Freelance journalist Carla Pratt writes: I’ve seen people hail cabs in all the movies set in New York City. Carrie Bradshaw can hail them with just a whistle, it surely can’t be that hard. Out went my hand in the air.

Zoom…….straight past me.

There are 4.5 million residents in NYC and 50 000,cabs. I didn’t pass maths in high school, but that ratio doesn’t seem great.

“Alright, maybe he didn’t see me … although he did have his light on,” I thought.

Another cab was heading my way. It was time to tackle this situation with a little more gusto. I was standing three feet into the road from the sidewalk, waving my arms around like a drunken gorilla. Zoom zoom. Straight past me again! Am I not showing enough leg?

Having realised I was beginning to look like one of those dopey out-of-town tourists, I gave up and decided to walk the 12 blocks to the restaurant.

Luckily I was only into my third day when I met up with a bunch of friends who live in the city. They had all experienced their own failed attempts at hailing cabs, and so they shared with me the golden rule.

“It’s all in the lights”, said Tad.

“You’re looking for a cab that has the centre light on and nothing else. Don’t bother with a cab that has all his lights off, he ain’t stopping for you. But don’t get confused, because sometimes a cab can have his lights on and his off-duty lights on too, or sometimes a variety of them all. But he won’t stop for you either. Did that make sense?”

Welcome to the city that never sleeps, to the the land of freedom, choice and opportunity and the city home of millions of people who may not curb your enthusiasm, but will make certainly sure that you do curb your dog.

I feel like I’ve done a lot of travel in my short amount of years. Yet never have I been to a city where women push dogs in prams with an air of normality, you are faced with the choice of over 100 varieties of soft drink at McDonald’s before 9am and amazing pianists on grand pianos play in the middle of the street. How do they get the piano there? You tell me.

Nor have I been to a city where the people are so friendly they will fight for the opportunity to give you directions. Or where no one bats an eye at the crazy man in Times Square loudly cursing that Christian women are the devil’s whores. And perhaps I will never again find a city where one of the most highly acclaimed authors in the world stops to open the door for you, and wants to know where you, your parents and your extended family come from.

Even though it’s only been three days since I’ve been in NYC, I was starting to think I had it all worked out. No driver expects you to seriously wait the 30 seconds to cross the road and tipping will get you everywhere.

I knew exactly how the queue system worked at Wholefoods, I knew that the Express 3 on the subway stops at 72nd and 42nd but not 50th and that ordering a fresh egg white omelette with extra ripe avocado only and a side of greasy cheesy fries is totally OK.

With this ideology in mind, and my new Prada suede boots (which cost me the economy of a small country) making a mark on the city, my friends and I settled on an up-market Indian Restaurant in the Upper West Side to dine.

Jalfrezi, Korma, Vindaloo and Saal Ohaa — we’ll have the lot.  A bottle of Shiraz, ma’am? Yes please. Would you like another bottle? Why not?! Any desserts or coffees? No thanks, just four Bailey’s on ice please. Tip them $20, no $30! Oh come on, make it $35.

Leaving my friends to fight over the correct tipping account, I trotted off to the bathroom.

Now before this story continues, let me make it very clear that I in no way had any bodily contribution to this liquidated disaster.

Back to the bathroom. Toilet seat up. Gross. How hard is it to flush a toilet? No one wants to see your post-curry leftovers.

So I flushed the toilet.

Nothing happened.

I flushed again.


Ok, lets try once more for good luck.

Flush. Flush. Gurgle gurgle gurgle….

The entire contents of the toilet rapidly rose to the top of the bowl, floated a while, then completely overflowed like a small volcano. A multi-coloured mound of someone else’s sloshy waste was covering the entire bathroom floor and slowly filtering out underneath the door into the adjacent kitchen.

I ran out. “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me, I SWEAR!” I shrieked. “I couldn’t stop it, it just kept coming out. I don’t know what to do!!”

The kitchen went into a state of panic as materials with any kind of absorbent value were thrown to the ground. The chefs were cursing at me in a language I didn’t understand and the 16-year-old waiter just stood there and stared at me in shock, unsure of what to say or do.

I looked down. My socks were definitely feeling damp. Oh no, oh no, Oh. God. No.

And just like that, the Indian restaurant toilet had pooed all over my new Prada suede boots.

No longer was I Carrie Bradshaw prancing all over the city in heels, I was the stinky-shoed tourist who’d just put this restaurant out of business for a night.

Only in New York City.