Welcome to New York!
Now get out of my way.
Like virtually every member of my extended family, many of you, I’m sure, maintain a firm “no New York” policy when it comes to vacation travel; however, for the intrepid souls who are considering venturing forth to the metropolis now that the tourist season is officially upon us, I have some advice. First-timers should pay particular attention. This is insider stuff you won’t find in any guide book, no matter what the cover claims.
Disclaimer/qualifications: Please note, I am not a native New Yorker, but a transplant. Most of the people who live here are. I have, however, resided in the city continuously since 1989 and in that time have called both Manhattan and Brooklyn home. Over the years, I have cultivated more than a passing acquaintance with the city’s museums, restaurants, bars, emergency rooms and (better) trial attorneys, so when I tell you this is inside stuff, you can believe it.
First let me say, welcome tourists. You may think New Yorkers are brusque, standoffish, even rude, and you may be right, but please know we do appreciate your visits, and more importantly the dollars, euros, pounds and yuan you spend, give away and are unlawfully relieved of from the moment you arrive until the second you leave. You are our piggy banks, our income stream, our cash cows, and we know it. So when we jostle you on the street, shove you into a subway car, or scream at you to get the fuck out of the way at the top of the escalator at Saks, think of it not as rudeness, but as our way of saying “howdy friend!” We are like the nippy border collies whose sole aim is to ensure the safety of the herd. If on occasion we have to take a chunk out of your ankles, rest assured it’s for your own protection and well being.
Imagine the sheep with little fanny packs and you get the idea.
Since we are on the subject of herding, I’d like to offer a few tips for safely navigating around the city while you are here. If I may.
GET THE LEAD OUT. PLEASE.
On the sidewalks, especially on weekdays, you must get out of first gear. This is particularly important if you are strolling en masse as a family or friendly group of fifteen. Like an interstate highway, the streets of New York have a minimum speed at which it is safe to travel. Unless you’re blind, wheelchair-bound or towing an oxygen tank, this applies to you. As a group, New Yorkers are hopelessly late, massively over-scheduled and chronically underfed, all of which makes us rather cranky and subject to fits of pique, so you’d be well advised to keep it moving. Dawdling, shambling, shuffling and strolling will get you injured. It’s not that difficult. Think of it as a matter of pride — do you really want to eat the dust of a scrawny little old lady in three inch heels as you shamble along in your Sauconys? Alright then.
STAY OFF THE SUBWAY UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW TO USE IT
Though safe for travel at most hours of the day or night, the subway is the native’s domain. We rely on it to get to work or cross-town meetings on time when traffic is hopelessly snarled (which is every day), if it’s raining and there are no cabs, or when we’re low on funds. As such, we are seldom at our best below ground. So if you take nothing else away from our little chat, please remember this: Step into the subway car and continue to the interior. Do NOT step in, stop and gaze in wonderment at the vast expanses of space, the lounging street people or the guy wearing the tinfoil hat, hip waders and a thong. There is nothing more infuriating than having the subway doors close in front of us because some rube is pondering whether to turn left or right, or worse, is completely oblivious to the six people trying to force their way past him. We will shove, curse and elbow you if need be, and by the way, we know the difference between tourists and natives. Like Joe Pesci in the deep south, most of you do not blend.
On one of these. Sure they’re ridiculous, but they’ll get you anywhere you want to go and keep you securely above both the ground and the fray. We love them for just that reason and would thank you for riding on them if we had time to chat and you weren’t careening down Broadway ten feet above our heads.
CLUSTER IN YOUR SPECIAL AREAS
It’s for your own good. There are certain corners of New York City where people who live here never go: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building and Times Square are the most notable. If you visit any of these wonderful sites, you are unlikely to be shoved by angry office workers, berated by frustrated shoppers or otherwise hassled by the natives, because we aren’t there. Believe me, my neighbors and I will walk ten blocks out of our way to avoid Times Square, not because we don’t like you, but because trying to move along 42nd Street is akin to swimming through cold molasses, and as mentioned, we are generally in a hurry. And cranky. The only New Yorkers you’ll see in these locations want to sell you something, and as such have a vested interest in being accommodating and pleasant. As Fran Lebowitz observed of Times Square, “We built it for you.” Too true.
There is one place it’s entirely safe to visit, where you will see New Yorkers in their natural habitat and need not worry about your pace or placement: Central Park. It’s the only area of the city with enough space to accommodate all of us and all of you, where we tend to slow down and relax, to stop and smell the roses as it were. So take a carriage ride, rent a boat or photograph yourselves at the Angel Fountain to your hearts’ content. But please, keep it moving on the paths.
Posted on May 2, 2012, in Friendly Advice, The Slattern Speaks and tagged Duane Hanson, Empire State Building, Humor, New York, New York City, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.
Superlike. I’ve lived in NYC (well, Queens actually) for almost five years now. But a week after I moved here, I began getting irritated with tourists and their slowness. Granted I moved from Mumbai, which is like New York, but has more crowds, poorer infrastructure, and ruder locals.
I grudging give visiting friends and relatives them the tour and look embarrassed in all the Times Square and Statue of Liberty photos.
My nightmare is taking them to the comedy cellar and have the comedian pick on them and then think I’m a tourist too!
I find the subway turnstiles to be the worst part of it all. “You have to swipe faster than that…no, not that fast. A little faster. Here, let me do it for you.” As we stand there — me on the inside and my four hapless guests on the outside cluelessly trying to gauge the correct speed for the next MetroCard swipe — invariably there are about forty cranky, borderline psychotic New Yorkers stacked up behind and being whipped into a frenzy as the train pulls into then out of the station while they wait for some rube to finish toying with the turnstile. That’s why I put all my guests on those double decker buses. They are a gift from God. Glad you could stop my. Love your site.
Being from Miami, I’m used to brusque and rude, so I was prepared to move, keep moving and NEVER ask for directions in NY.
I do have to give New Yorkers SOME credit though. On my first trip, I went with a native. Within the first 5 minutes of being out of the car and on the train platform, my buddy was stopping people for advice and directions, to my horror. But, to my equal surprise, he was accommodated in an almost friendly and helpful fashion.
Later, I had to do the same thing and I escaped with my wallet and dignity intact. So, yay NY! 🙂
But, yes, KEEP MOVING!
Now that’s the spirit! Thanks for stopping by.
Your sage advice could be applied to Hong Kong as well. They are very similar, right down to the smell: NYC and HK. Except the guy in the tinfoil hat, thong and hip waders is replaced by a girl in pink Hello Kitty.
Hip Waders and Hello Kitty are probably cousins, at least in the spiritual sense.
I was just thinking why haven’t I ever been to America (actually there are reasons but I should just bite the bullet) and I started writing a post asking for tips onwhat to do/where to go. I shall file your post in anticipation of any visit. Though the rules could easily be transplanted to London so L’ll be well up to speed already. Though I don’t like touristy things, I managed to go to Egypt and not see anything remotely old.
If I want to move away from the tourist herds will I be accepted anywhere? I won’t be walking around with a big camera or guide book anything.
Urbanites tend to blend. We will welcome you with open arms, and I will happily buy you a drink in one of the city’s finest dive establishments, provided I can find one I haven’t been banned from.
Thank for the advice. If I have to visit your fine city I’ll try to follow your instructions. It’s the duty of the visitor to make his hosts as comfortable as possible.
Oh Tom, if I didn’t know better, I’d think I caught just a whiff of snark here.
Dogfucious say – Ahhhh, so true. My human tells me horror stories about NY all the time. He used to have to go there several times a year and tried to palm off the “opportunity” on someone else in his employ. He threatens to send me there if I’ve been a bad dog. I asked him if NY was the place he’d most like to avoid, he thought for a second and said, “no Paris is.” Then one must consider my human enjoys wade fishing in the Everglades.
I’m told the wade fishing in the Bronx is spectacular — or was that blade slashing? I can never get that straight. Thanks for stopping by!
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