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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

8 Rules For Tourists in New York

New York is truly one of the world’s greatest cities.  History, shopping, culture, counter-culture, nightlife, underdressed cowboys, fashion and entertainment are only the few of the things the Big Apple has to offer the millions upon millions of tourists we welcome every year.  New Yorkers are proud of their city and love to show it off.  They will happily shout profanities at you at no charge just to ensure that you get the genuine New York experience.

Contrary to popular belief, the city goes
to bed around a quarter to three.

That is not to say that there aren’t clashes between the locals and the tourists.  The goals of leisurely strolling and hurrying-the-hell up generally conflict and when they do transgressions occur that would be downright scandalous in some small towns (somebody will bump you and fail to say “excuse me”).  To cut down on these incidents, Mayor Bloomberg implied through a special code that he wanted me to convey a few ground rules for tourists visiting our fair city.

 #1) The Top of the Subway Stairs is Not the Lobby 

When you emerge from any of Manhattan’s many subway stations, you are probably going to be overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of New York’s historic architecture.  That’s good.  We like that.  You might even be so awe-struck that you’re inspired to whip out your camera right then and there and take a picture.  That’s bad.  We don’t like that.


The problem is that in Gotham City, there’s always somebody behind you.  In fact, there are thousands of people behind you and stopping in bottlenecks like subway entrances brings some two hundred or so people to a dead stop.  The problem is that we haven’t figured out how to let the people forty yards behind us know, so they keep moving.

The end result is you getting violently shoved aside by an underappreciated New Yorker that might have saved you from a Black Friday Wal-Mart style stampede.

 #2) Time Square Cannot Stop for Your Picture 

One of New York’s most iconic attractions is Time Square.  This testament to consumerism and negligent electricity usage is a must see for every visitor in our fine city.  The city recently had the good sense to radically reduce vehicular traffic in the square so there is plenty of room now for you to stop, take in the beauty and snap a few photographs.  One problem with the photos, however: The other 250,000 people who are in Time Square will also be in them. 

"Everybody stop! You're making my picture blurry!"

At Disney World, everybody is generally willing to stop for a moment so that you can get a clear picture of your kids with the guy in the flea infested Goofy costume so I suppose it’s reasonable to expect the same thing when vacationing in New York.  The difference, of course, is that nobody lives in Disney World.  Not everybody here is a tourist and while thoughtful New Yorkers avoid Time Square as often as possible, some of us have to work there or near enough to make skirting the crowd all but impossible.  Try to keep in mind that we’re so busy here that we have our own minute and from what I hear, it’s far shorter than yours.

 #3) Your Extended Family Need Not Walk Arm in Arm 

Walking in New York is kind of like driving in heavy traffic.  Most of the city is crowded and most of the people have destinations.  We understand that our guests are still finding their way around and have to stop constantly to take a picture of that spot where that girl was in that one movie that one time and we make every effort to accommodate them.

"Nobody move... I dropped a contact."

The problem is that we live here and thus are always in the midst of these crowds.  If we patiently waited for the tourists in front of us, we would all starve to death in the streets.  We have to get around you and if you allow us to do so without rudely pushing past, we will take that opportunity.

 #4) Leave Your Car in Jersey; That's What Jersey is For 

Ah, New Jersey, the parking lot of New York City.  I kid New Jersey, of course, because I live in New York and I’m trying desperately to fit in.  And Jersey takes it because Jersey has no illusions about not sucking.  But it is a great place to not have to drive any farther than.

This was taken in 1928 and this same traffic jam
essentially continues to this day.

Just the agonizing trip through the Holland Tunnel is enough to ruin a vacation and at its worst it can take about 6 days and 5 nights.  Unless you brought a Jetson’s style fold up briefcase car you are going to overpay for parking and not have access to your car most of the time anyway.  When you do you will find yourself narrowly escaping death while you glance longingly into the lane you should have gotten into five blocks ago and absently wonder why they waste money marking lane lines in New York.  If you somehow manage to get it from one point to another without banging into something, don’t worry because somebody will take care of that while you’re parked.

 #5) Your Umbrella Doesn’t Have a Force Field 

Don’t kick yourself too hard if you didn’t think about this one because a frustrating percentage of New Yorkers haven’t gotten it yet either.  Everybody walks everywhere in New York and when in rains we can’t exactly shut things down or close the dome.  We still have to walk, which means that eight or nine million umbrellas are wandering around an area of less than twenty-three square miles, most of which is covered in building.

The point is that we were already bumping into each other before it started raining and we’re not all the same height.  Properly carrying an umbrella in New York requires ninja-like dexterity and lightening fast reflexes.  It is a skillful art that takes years to master and nobody expects you to pick it up entirely on your first trip.  We do, however, think that paying at least the damnedest lick of attention as to whose eyes you’re gouging out with it is a fair thing to ask.

There's a simple solution for
those willing to abandon dignity.

 #6) The Escalator is Not a Ride 

Being a tourist in New York can be a real workout.  Most people are used to driving nearly everywhere they go and any trip longer than the one from the car to the grocery store seems like a real endeavor.  For the first few hours the sight seeing adventure seems like a brisk walk and it’s quite enjoyable.  After a few days of it, the walls in the hotel room start looking better and better.

We understand that when the chance to stand still and take a breath arises, you will probably choose that over walking up stairs.  That’s perfectly understandable to those of us that did not grow up in New York.  We don’t ask that you walk up the escalator but we do ask that you move to the right and let us walk on it.  Notice that this whole “get the hell out of our way” thing is something of a recurring theme.

 #7) We Don’t Care How Much Less Expensive it is Back Home 

New York is home to some of the ritziest, most ostentatious retail locations in the world and some of the planet’s most valuable real estate.  Texans like to brag that everything is bigger in their state, but I’m sure they weren’t including hotel rates when they did that math.  In New York City, even change of a dollar will cost you $3.25.

Is it just me or was the guy who took this picture working
damn hard to make $523 seem like a big pile of money?

Yet knowing this, for some inexplicable reason, all of us who live here chose to do so.  We knew that we were moving to a place where a $45,000 a year income makes you upper-lower class and we know that you pay less for your mortgage than we pay for a month of parking.  We’d just rather not here about it every single time you purchase anything on your vacation.

 #8) Don’t Eat at Dominos 

One of the greatest things about a vacation in New York City is the fantastic and diverse array of first-rate restaurants.  Exceptional food can be found at every price range and hardly a day goes by when some ethnic fair doesn’t close off some section of Park Ave for a festival of inexpensive dead animal flesh.  Even some of our street vendors offer world-class cuisine.

And yet, for some reason, tourists flock to the Hard Rock Café and Olive Garden like they’re Michelin favorites.  We understand that sometimes you have to cave and buy McDonald’s for the kids.  That’s why we have McDonald’s.  But that doesn’t mean you have to eat there.  You can wander into any random eatery and stand a one in ten chance of having the best meal you’ve ever had in your life.  Or you could eat the same freeze-dried crap you get at home at two and a half times the cost.

Does not qualify as a New York slice.

If you have any questions, feel free to stop any random New Yorker and mumble them in rudimentary English.  No, seriously.  We love it when you do that.

Aaron Davies

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