New Yorkers are not especially known for their patience. Stand on a subway escalator's left side -- otherwise known as the passing lane -- and it might evoke a sharp reprimand from fellow riders.
But in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, millions across the New York metropolitan region who depend on the nation's busiest transit system are still waiting for their subway system to be fully restored.
"There is no precedent for this," said Clifton Hood, author of "722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York."
Dubbed New York's "life-blood," an estimated 5.5 million people ride the city's subway system each day in the country's most densely populated region.
Most New York City residents don't have cars to fall back on. Less than half own cars, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which cites the latest census data on car ownership. That's a stark contrast with the rest of the nation, where 92 percent of all households own at least one car.
So when Gotham launched into emergency mode this week ahead of Sandy, shutting down all of its 468 stations for the second time ever, the effect was crippling on commuters and the places they work.
At a corner Midtown market, where the Manhattan bustle continued in spite of Sandy, Edward Greenwald, 49, struggled to fill scheduling gaps left by stranded employees despite his own commute from storm-battered New Jersey.
"I've got employees coming in from all across the Tri-State area," he said. "It's been really hard for them to get in, almost impossible. I've been coming in at 6 a.m. everyday and leaving at 10 p.m. just to help out."
Dating back to 1904, New York's century-old subway system is so extensive that if it were laid out in a single line, the tracks would extend from Manhattan to Detroit.
Defending it and the city's power grid from storms that whip along New York's low-lying neighborhoods could be a concern that gains momentum beyond the week's recovery effort.
"We going to have to find some long-term, or longer-term solutions to this," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters this week.
And yet there were some indications that this kind of crisis was coming. Just 14 months ago, Hurricane Irene prompted New York's first-ever total subway closure.
"Rising sea level and climate change are likely to cause dangerous flooding in the coming decades," according to a 2004 report produced by the Marine Sciences Research Center for New York's Department of Environmental Protection.
That report said much of the region is less than three meters above sea level -- which is slowly rising -- and therefore at risk from a so-called "100-year flood," a term often used to describe its relative probability.
New York "has a 100-year flood every two years now," Gov. Andrew Cuomo quipped this week to President Barack Obama, who briefly cut off campaign stops to tour the region and assess the billions of dollars in damages along New York and New Jersey's coastal plains.
"Our climate is changing," the mayor wrote in an editorial this week. "And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week's devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
Broader questions about climate change, infrastructure and how cities like New York will respond to storms like Sandy will likely continue to loom large.
"New York might have to take the Netherlands model, where they have all their power systems elevated," said Kenneth Button, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.
"This is really not just a New York problem, it's a problem that exists in many places."
The Dutch flood protection model employs large-scale flood gates, as well as a series of low-lying drainage canals and pumping stations.