I’m a New York City fraud. I’m not fooling anyone, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
I moved away from my suburban safety nest quite some time ago, but there are certain small town sensibilities that will be forever baked into my psyche. And even as I walk the streets of New York City as a resident, I always find myself pulled more towards the Taco Bell than El Rey del Taco. You better believe I’d be eating endless soup, salad and breadsticks every day for lunch if they didn’t charge you $30 just to walk into an Olive Garden here.
You know, whoever decides what goes into Times Square is a genius. They knew that the country bumpkins of America (anyone who wasn’t born in New York City) step off the plane at JFK and immediately begin to fear for their lives. Take Melissa, for example. She’s taken the brave step to see the lights of the big city and she bought her ticket to see Phantom eight months ago. But the second some shady “cab driver” starts mumbling “You need ride? You need ride?” as she’s forcing her way to the ground transportation area next to the baggage claim, she starts to doubt every decision that led her to this point.
She’s shuffled into a yellow cab by some stranger, who looks official enough to trust for now, and manages to mutter “Times Square” to the Jordanian driver murmuring very rapidly into a hands-free headset. And, as if by some miracle, 35 minutes later she arrives right in front of her hotel. She shoves 3 crumpled twenty dollar bills through the window of the plexiglass divider and dashes as fast as she can into the lobby of the Marriott, purse clutched tightly to her chest. 24 stories up, she enters her room and looks down on the mind-boggling arrangement of honking trucks and people clusters dwarfed by aging, sooted skyscrapers. Like some sort of Polly Pocket: Urban Nightmare Edition.
Several panic attacks and cold showers later, she makes the decision to step outside and explore. She’s in New York City! It’s meant to be fun, isn’t it? She intuits she should probably ignore the enthusiastic man who wants to know if she likes comedy as well as the mangy, potbellied Elmo waving at her. There’s also a man lying on the ground rolling back and forth while he cry-sings. He’s either having the worst or best day of his life – it’s hard to tell which.
Then, thank heavens, a welcome sight! Aeropostale! Forever 21! The Disney Store! Toys R Us! It seems New York is really just like the mall back home, but the stores are all in giant buildings and you have to push your way through a thick wall of sweaty Europeans to get into any of them. (That, and it smells not-so-faintly of rotten eggs constantly.) It’s kind of fun when you think about it! It’s everything they sell me at home, but more expensive and harder to access!
She eats a quick $50 dinner at Applebees (it really did taste better than the one at home, though), thoroughly enjoys her Broadway show (the chandelier actually crashes down to the stage!), and even takes a minute outside her hotel to turn around and create a mental snapshot of what it all looks like.
She did it. She survived.
She’ll just go ahead and move her flight up to tomorrow because, well, I mean she saw everything, right? She had her New York Experience. No need to ruin her “perfect vacation” by outstaying her welcome. She really does ♥ NY and she’s a better person for experiencing it.
Now, I’m not making fun of Melissa. I am Melissa…even though I live in (the not-cool part of) Queens and have the lifestyle of a born-and-bred middle class New Yorker. I take the 7 train home just like everyone else, trying to ignore the fact that an Asian woman just farted in my face because I won’t stand up for her. But I can never seem to shake the feeling that I’m trespassing in some way. And is it wrong to want carpet, a dishwasher, and a washing machine that doesn’t make your clothes smell like a YMCA locker room after they’ve been washed?
They say it takes at least 5 years of living in New York to become a “real New Yorker”. I’m more interested in how long it takes for me to forget that I grew up in relative comfort and with full-sized appliances. When I’m alone at night, however, walking to the subway and a man looks at me dead in the eyes as he’s peeing on a mailbox, I can’t help but feel pride in the fact that I’m actually both of those people. Melissa and the public urinator. Soft and suburban; serrated and citified. If only I could just get to a damn Chick-Fil-A once and a while.