The first thing everybody said to me upon hearing that I was going to New York City was, “Don’t get mugged!” Coming from a “map-dot” town in South Carolina, I was apprehensive about my first trip to the Big Apple, and comments like this did not help. But when we arrived in New York, my first problem was not with the living people, it was with the dead ones. Our hotel, the Comfort Inn & Suites Airport in Maspeth, was located across from a graveyard that covers an entire block. Needless to say, it was a very quiet neighborhood.
After we checked in, we decided to head into the city. The hotel offered a shuttle to take you to the subway, or as we were told – the train, station. So, we hopped in the van and tried not to seem too terrified of the New York traffic. The subway was a completely foreign concept to us, but implementing some strategic advice from the lady at the front desk of the hotel, we managed to get tickets. It was really not as complicated as everybody claimed. It is also not scary at all because everybody is too involved in their own lives to bother you. We quickly learned that talking is bad, even within our own group, and talking to people outside your group is like screaming, “I’m a tourist, make fun of me!” Everybody has either a book or an iPod and makes no attempt at conversation. On the twenty-five minute ride from the hotel to Times Square, nobody said a word. Having lived in a town where you can’t walk out your door without being told the latest gossip by your neighbor, I found this quite disconcerting.
Having safely navigated the subway to Times Square, we stepped out into the city. After the shock of the sheer size of everything wore off, the first thing that I noticed was the lack of color. For being the fashion capital of the world, New Yorkers seem to be opposed to any color other than black. I own virtually no black clothing. Bright and happy is my style all the way, and I stuck out like a sore thumb in my blue, green, and white striped jacket. Apparently, this is just not done. If you want to blend, wear black. I know it’s boring, but this is the unspoken law.
Another of the “laws” is not to make eye contact with anybody. Ever. If somebody is walking toward you and you make eye contact – that is a sign of weakness. This means that you surrender the right of way to them and you will get out of their path. This is one way to tell a native from a tourist. A real New Yorker never surrenders the right of way. They walk in a straight line. If you are in that line, you should move because they have no qualms about plowing you down in their quest to get wherever they are going. That is probably the biggest adjustment to make when you get to NYC. Dealing with the fact that nobody else cares about you. This is kind of nice because nobody sticks their nose in your business, but kind of saddening because other people think a cup of coffee is more important than your life.
But their coffee is really good, the pizza lives up to the hype, and the plays are more than worth standing in line at Ticketmaster for an hour. The experience is worth being stared at in all your too-bright, camera wielding, Southern-talking, tourist-screaming glory.
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