Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rules for New York

When I first arrived in New York about a month ago, I received a lot of information and advice from a lot of people about the ins and outs of the city. This is my take on some choice bits of information I was given.

1 – Under no circumstances should you eat on the subway, it is terribly rude.

This may be true, but if that is the case than the majority of New York is very rude. It is also possible that those people who gave me this advice had never been to the Bronx. The culinary variety found on the subway cars on the way into the city is matched only by the variety of people eating them.

2 – If you have to ask for directions, you don’t belong here.

This cannot be true, because I keep meeting people who have lived here for years who have no idea where they are or where they are going. As I am told, New Yorkers know their neighborhood very well, this may be a 15 block radius in Manhattan or larger in the “outer” boros (an interesting affectation I have heard, implying that everything not Manhattan is outer … like the entire city is outer to these people, its ridiculous … and true to some degree), but generally people only vaguely know the city outside their daily routines.
This adage is particularly false in Long Island, where the signage is so atrocious that there is no way anyone from anywhere but the town you are driving through could possibly know where you are. Roads change names randomly without signes, split spontaneously and stop suddenly, and there is not information about it on any road or any map. If you ask people from Long Island for directions to a different part of Long Island, they look at you like you are asking how to read a menu in Korea.

3 – New York dresses up a lot more than California.

Not only is this 100% true, it’s a no-brainer. For most people. I seem to be learning it the hard way. Since I have been here I have been initially refused entry to two different clubs due to my attire, although in one case I did eventually get in. At that bar, The Park, where I was meeting my cousin and her friends for her birthday, I was first disallowed because I was not with a girl, then, once my cousin came out, the overly friendly cross-dressing bouncer informed me that I was “supremely underdressed” in my jeans and sweater, and only pleading by my cousin got me inside.

4 – Don’t listen to the Manhattanites, the whole city is small.

Wrong. It takes over an hour to get into Manhattan from my section of the Bronx, and I am several stops from the end of each subway line. Even the express bus takes an hour to get into the city, which is odd as it is an express, shouldn’t it be faster than the standard way in. And Brooklyn/Queens may as well be in Africa from here it takes so long to get over there. Watching peoples faces change as you tell them you live in the Bronx is impressive, its like watching people who just found out you were from Mars.

5– New Yorkers may be a bit reckless but they do know how to drive.

I am not sure who perpetuated this vicious rumor, but it is completely false. The people in this city cannot drive. Its like being in LA in the middle of a rainstorm on a roadway full of tacks. The roads have ridiculously low speed limits that no one follows, the merges are horrific both in construction and in the way that people use them, and the majority of traffic jams are caused by some idiot who cannot wait 30 seconds for a hole in traffic and pulls out quickly into an on-rushing car causing a ripple effect that takes out the whole road. And rubbernecking here … its like Californians do not even know the meaning of the word.

6 – New Yorkers don’t like tourists.

While I would be hard pressed to say that New Yorkers actually like anyone, this bit of information is certainly true. When I am out in Manhattan wearing shorts not in unbearable heat (it seems that shorts are tourist code, even in early fall when it was 85 and humid, and I was wearing shorts and T-shirts, most people I saw in the city were wearing jeans) people were much ruder to me, gave me nastier glances and were generally much more unfriendly than when I am out in standard New York attire, jeans and a button-up shirt.

7 – New Yorkers are relatively rude, short tempered and unfriendly.

This one is only partially untrue. Having moved to New York for the angst, stress and neurosis that I was lacking in my life in California, the generally shortness for New Yorkers came as no surprise. People here are far too busy for your crap. However, they are really too busy for anyones crap, their own included, so it is not a personal thing. In fact, New Yorkers are a lot like Israelis, once you get past the initial rude/brusque push-off they are very warm and helpful.

8 – Although it is a big city full of people, it is very hard to meet people in New York.

Again, shockingly untrue. I have people coming out of my ears, so many people that my hands are permanently stained with ink writing down phone numbers and emails and what-not. Now I have some friends in New York, and have met a lot of their friends, but have also met a number of folks just at book fairs, at work, everywhere. If you smile at them, people seem to feel like its okay to just talk to you about anything. Its pretty cool. Admittedly I am from California and am now considered exotic and interesting, so it could be the accent (crazy that I have an accent) or something else that is helping me out …

9 – New Yorkers are serious about their sports, especially baseball.

This is so true it is almost false by understatement. I was sitting in a lab meeting two weeks ago, just kind of spacing off, when I was returned to reality listening to the five women at the table get into a loud, passionate debate about some kicker on the Giants years ago. I have met women who are big into sports, but they are almost always found with guys who are bigger into sports. But this place turns that on its ear … The people here are religious about sports, especially baseball. The Yankees have their own cult following and I believe that more than half the women in this city are going to marry one of the Yankees at some point. At the Yankee game I went to in the summer, I saw Hasidic Jews wearing Yankee pariphenalia and davening for the Yankees. Right now I think the city is in mouring.The Mets fans are just as bad, but generally seem more excited about the Yankees losing than the Mets winning. And everyone else not a Yankee or Mets fan has some opinion about them.

So I learn, and make mistakes, generally getting lost, offending numerous people and mostly providing a great deal of entertainment to those that know me through my bizarre antics and slow learning curve. But its been great so far and should only get better ….

No comments: