I was warned. I should have been prepared. I had heard countless tales of just how rude some New Yorkers could be. But I didn’t listen. I still came to NYC bright-eyed, bushy tailed and painfully naive.
In my defense, I grew up in Upstate NY. I was born in Florida, but raised in Rochester from the age of seven. It was by no means rural, but there was still a small town mentality. People often said hello to each other and seemed to care about their neighbors (or at the very least, knew their names). So I was in for a bit of culture shock when I moved here.
First of all, I quickly learned that there is a required pace for walking. I was clearly not meeting the approved miles per min. I often got pushed and almost tripped several times while navigating my way through the concrete jungle known as “the city” (Manhattan). The worst experience was one day at 34th Street/Herald Square when the light turned green and (no exaggeration) 300 people came towards me (ok, slight exaggeration). I barely made it across the street!
I also realized that eye contact was not always welcomed, nor beneficial. Apparently looking at certain people for too long (3+ seconds) meant that I wanted to either fight them or… Once, I smiled at an older man and he smiled back at me, then licked his lips and winked. Ummm. NO.
Then there was the time I was on the train and sat across from a sleeping man. Midway into my ride, the train jerked and he woke up. That’s when I realized that he was very disheveled (and smelly). Well, he must not have wanted anyone near him, because he took out a box cutter and threatened me and the woman sitting next to me. We got up and ran to the other end of the car. SMH.
Needless to say, I mastered the wog (walk & jog) pace (I was the one pushing now, old ladies beware!); started to bring a book on the train; and became aware that empty seats (or train cars) were sometimes too good to be true. I figured I was now armed and ready to live out my days like a native New Yorker.
But one night I got invited to an event at a friend of a friend’s apt in the city. I got to the address and realized that there was more than one doorbell. I wasn’t sure which floor the apt was on, so I guessed. Bad idea. A woman’s voice came over the intercom and asked very sternly “Who is it?!” I answered that I was looking for…
Before I could even finish my sentence, she yelled out “You got the wrong bell b*%@#!!!” I stood on the stoop with my jaw dropped. What had I done to deserve that? She didn’t even know me. So I rang her bell again to give her a piece of my mind. With all the venom I could muster, I said, “That was not nice!” She retorted (insert several bleeps).
I called my friend and asked her which apt it was. Turns out, I was at the wrong building. Sigh.
Welp, I am still here, over a decade later. So either I am a glutton for punishment, or I actually like the unpredictable nature of the characters I come across on a daily basis…B. Final answer.