Is it possible to like something and hate something? New York City is that kind of place for me. I anticipate my visits, but generally hate the experience. Yesterday, I spent about 12 hours there. I only go if I have to, and yesterday I had to. I take the train because, if I had to drive, there would be nothing left of me but a greasy spot. If the train doesn’t stop where I have to go, I can walk. So far, it hasn’t been worth the taxi fare or Uber fee to keep me from walking - even as far as from Penn Station to Carnagie Hall. This year’s trip was similar.
I bought a matinee ticket to Mike Birbiglia’s show "The New One" in midtown and Marc Maron’s show at the Beacon Theater later that night. I made it to both shows from the train station on foot, going over 22,000 steps on my Garmin. Both shows were great. Two talented monologists and funny to boot. But, that isn’t my point.
I live near Philadelphia, and regularly (and voluntarily) visit, even if it’s just to walk around, have a meal and goof around. It’s a wonderful city, and I always enjoy my time there. New York? Well ...
I’m not sure how people perceive me. I don’t know what they see when they look at me. In New York, I’m pretty sure there is RUBE on my forehead that appears under the light of the city, like a black light makes semen appear on bed sheets. I get approached by every charity, scam artist, and otherwise beggar looking for something that is in my pocket. Others walk by, and they single me out. I have to toughen-up and tell them to leave me alone. I also need to stop carrying cash when I go there, so I can have a valid reason for telling them to "piss off." It’s a work in progress.
Toward the end of my twelfth hour in the city, I had begun to adopt this attitude, and I figure that it would take a couple of weeks for me to refine it to the point that I was like other New Yorkers. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but it’s a necessary defense mechanism for being there. I’ll remember that the next time I go.
Pedestrians are bold. I watch traffic lights and those red or white hands that say "Walk"or "Don’t Walk" because my attitude is, "Please don’t hit me." New Yorkers attitude is, "Hit me, bitch!" I can’t work that way. They just walk, regardless of traffic or the color of the light, and it’s an amazing study in human behavior that the drivers do not have the same attitude as the pedestrians. I suppose it’s because the drivers have more to lose? They stop, and I guess the pedestrians know it - and they just walk.
Getting around is easy, though. The streets are all numbered by Avenue and Street, so if something is at 49th Street and 6th Avenue, and you’re going to 53rd Street and 8th Avenue, you automatically know that it’s four blocks up and two blocks over. There is almost too much going on. It’s all jammed-into the Borough of Manhattan, as though it’s necessary to fill every space with ... something. I wonder how any business develops an identity when they are all crammed into this space. Hordes of people make it difficult to establish eye contact, and the sheer volume and crush of people create a sense of anxiety that I suppose they learn to live with. For a visitor, it’s almost overwhelming. I tend to get in and get out as quickly as possible.
The problem, really - is the people. They walk around with their noses in their cell phones, like lots of other people. However, there are WAY more people on the streets of New York City than there are in any usual situation. I have become better at the "heads up" warning for them. I can’t imagine that they have such a high position in life that they have to be constantly connected. I have no idea what they are doing, but it’s obviously more important to them than watching where they ar going.
Which is the other thing. They bump into you. Sometimes bluntly, other times it’s just a brush of the arm. Either way, there is never an apology or an "excuse me." It seems to be normal, and they seldom move away. Again, the Rube is supposed to avoid them. I’m working on that, too.
There is a lot of car horn blowing, as if blowing a horn makes traffic disappear. I’ve seen it, and it doesn’t. All it does is create that city noise. It gets to where you hardly notice it. Traffic is constant, whether it’s 3:00pm or 1:00am, it’s there. After all, it’s the City that Doesn’t Sleep.
But, I think it could use a nap.