Oh NYC you have taught me so much. Over the years, I have subletted in “the City” as it is called several times but my heart has always been in North Jersey. I’ve heard people refer to Bergen County as “the Annex” since it is basically like a borough. I love my borough but as a person who prefers the best of both worlds, the suburban life outside this crazy city, I can safely say that I also abide by the rules and lifestyle of this city as a now and then resident. A tourist said to me the other day, “New Jersey, New York, same thing!” (This tourist was almost correct but I won’t start ragging on Central and South Jersey right now!)
There are a few things that we New Yorkers do that people sometimes just won’t know. We stand on the right on the escalator to stalk and we stand left to walk. We know the subway backwards and forwards but might still have a map in our pockets in case we have to take weird lines. We know not to eat at chains restaurants or any restaurant with less than an A rating. I use my umbrella as a weapon of mass destruction. We know that you cannot call a taxi and in the rain you can just forget it. We jaywalk. We pay way too much in rent. We all live on top of each other. An hour wait is not long. Two Brothers is not pizza. 95 times out of 100 we do not go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. If you smell piss, it’s probably piss. You don’t need a take-out menu when you have seamless.com. We pronounce it HOW-ston, not Hew-ston. It’s not Avenue of the Americas, it’s 6th Avenue. Puddles are not puddles, they are lakes and dirty ones. You cannot find Book of Mormon tickets at TKTS. When walking in New York City, you abide by normal traffic rules on the sidewalks. You don’t need to wave hi to everyone; people simply want to get where they are going. If you have the unfortunate experience of walking through Times Square during, well, any time really, walking is like dodgeball. When you are walking in Times Square you weave through so many people, almost wanting to aim and get them “outta there!”
I was standing around the Port Authority Bus Terminal the other day and people watching. It was St. Patrick’s Day, a day where people don green anywhere they can, pretend they are Irish, do shots at 9am, take off from work to go to the parade, and try to avoid the cops at all costs while drinking in public. It’s a day when tourists are everywhere and New Yorkers are fueled with the magical elixir of alcohol to be even more judgmental of these clueless folks.
I worked in Times Square on St. Patrick’s Day. When I went out for lunch, people were singing, fighting, and chasing each other on the streets. I couldn’t wait to get home. I waded through the sea of people and was waiting for my husband at Port Authority. I had time and was watching tourists on the wrong side of the escalator. It kept happening and I was watching in awe at the reactions of the natives. Some wanted to push these tourists down the escalator, some just moved to the side and the majority just rolled their eyes, knowing that they just had no idea. I saw policeman stopping woman with beer cans in paper bags and trying to break up a fight over a shamrock hat while a New York couple took a selfie with that mess behind them. Seriously. It was a mess of green everywhere.
Where did these rules come from? Why don’t they exist in Mississippi or Minnesota? Do we just learn them because we have adapted? Do we only know these rules because we made them up our own or because we are more aware of our surroundings?
New York is such an evolved group of creatures. Overly educated, street smarts, or brilliant at something else entirely, different cultures, races, religions, beliefs, and various shapes, sizes, and styles- we all contribute to this enormous melting pot. So do the tourists. In 2013, there were 54.3 million tourists in NYC and they spent $58.7 BILLION dollars. Our melting pot includes them and all of their quirks, including when they stop four deep in the middle of the sidewalk. People balk that New Yorkers are mean but in reality they are focused on getting to where they are going. Maybe tourists bring the meanness out in us. Who knows? No one can answers why, who, what, or how things happen in this big little city of ours.
I look at all of the good and the bad that happens in this city. When I watched the Twin Towers disintegrate, when I see the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks from my rooftop, when I see the Empire State Building lit up for Pride week, when Hurricane Sandy shut down the bottom half of this bustling metropolis, or when I hear about someone getting mugged next to me, I know I’ve been here for all the things that make this a city and sometimes a tough one. Good or bad, I feel pride in taking part ownership. I share it with the 25ish million other people in the tri-state area. I know I fit right in, whatever I might be. For today I’ll be a concierge, wife, and still a singer with Broadway aspirations. Somedays I want to roll my eyes, I want to push them out of the way and yell at them, and sometimes I want to help but I accept these tourists daily as a part of this ever-growing metropolis I call home sometimes. I play dodgeball with them in Times Square and help them constantly with directions. I thank them for standing in front of me on the sidewalk, making me late but also for coming to my desk and helping pay my salary. Like all kinds in New York, I don’t have to agree with them. I just have to accept them.