Do you have what it takes?

Now that you know how not to leave New York City (read it here), what about the flip flop?  Do you have what it takes to move from Anytown, USA to the Big Bad Apple?

“Right,” I hear you say “You’re talking about money.”   Well, yes, you will need oodles of cash to live like a king here, but we can get into that topic another time.  I’m talking about the squishy inner parts of you.  Do you have what it takes emotionally?  Will you fall in love, or will you flee after 6 weeks?

The bad news is that you won’t know until you try it.  The good news is that I made a list.

Things you will miss about the rest of the world

  • Restaurants with tables big enough for 8 people instead of big enough for 4, with 4 extra chairs
  • Closet space
  • Dark and quiet
  • The possibility of being a big fish in a small pond.
  • Halloween like it should be, instead of kids hitting you up for quarters in the bodega.

If you already live in New York, here are some things you will miss if you leave

  • Bagels and dim sum
  • Museums
  • Having funny conversations with total strangers.
  • Riding elevators.
  • Trotting around midtown like you own it.
  • Grand Central Terminal.
  • The part of Broadway where you walk from the sun of Central Park into the shade of the midtown canyon.
  • Watching TV and seeing other people in New York and knowing you aren’t there.
  • Saying “outdoors” to the greengrocer.
  • Walking

These are all important considerations.  However, there’s another test that is sure-fire.  It goes like this….I tell you a story that actually happened to me.  If you laugh, you’re a New Yorker.  If you make a concerned face and say “oh, that’s terrible!” then you will be happier in the leafy suburbs, or the wild mountains, or the incomprehensible shopping mall, but you will never quite got the hang of New York City.

Who’s the lead sheep?

Here is the story.  It’s better if I tell it in person, but since I have the bag over my head (see picture in corner), you’ll just have to let my words paint a picture.  Gather round, kids.

Once upon a time, when I was working in midtown during the Giuliani administration, New York was undergoing one of its many makeovers.  The peep shows were closing, the hookers were moving to Queens, Applebee’s was under construction on 50th Street, and the mayor was bringing on the tourists.  Lots of’em.

There I was, on my lunch hour, ready to cross the street.  Now, crossing a street is something of an art form in New York City and a skill you would have to learn if you moved here.  In a nutshell, the prime directive of Crossing a Street is, “every man for himself”.  The tourists are not expected to know that, but I hadn’t yet cottoned onto the fact that there WERE tourists in midtown (ah, the age of innocence).

Since I wasn’t thinking of the prevailing tourist conditions, I wasn’t alert to the fact that tourists everywhere have a certain herd mentality.  They form large, slow-moving human dams on the sidewalk, and then wait at the curb to cross a street by blindly following the lead sheep.  That day, it turned out I was the lead sheep.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  As soon as I realized this was A Thing, I changed my ways.  For starters, I’m squeamish.  Also, I bet  there’s a lot of paperwork involved if you cause the death of a tourist, even by accident.  Plus the guilt and trauma, obviously.

After this incident, which I will tell you about if you shut up already, I realized that tourists crossing the street is A Thing and I modified my behavior accordingly.  These days, I pivot abruptly on my heels, shriek “Watch Out!” to the startled crowd behind me, then glare sharply at the frightened masses before plunging headlong into traffic.  This tactic works because it temporarily paralyzes those at the front of the pack.  Result: someone else in the layer of people behind me on the curb becomes the lead sheep.

This story happened before I figured that out.  In fact, it was the reason I figured that out.  Back to that sunny lunch hour….there I stood at the corner of 44th and Broadway, oblivious to the gathered hoards behind me.  Turns out, two of the gathered hoards behind me were the cutest, most petite, youngest, tenderest flight attendants from, I’m guessing Singapore Air?  They were immaculate.  Not a mean bone in their bodies.  Spotless.  Probably just got off the first class shift from Bangkok to Newark.  Me, standing in front of them, had just calculated that I could cross 44th street going north with approximately 7 seconds before the yellow cab hurtling east intersected with my body.  I stepped off the curb to stride purposefully towards the other side.

The flight attendants stepped off too.  Not because they could make it to the other side before getting hit by the cab, but because they were following the lead sheep.  They had just broken Crossing Rule Number One: don’t follow the lead sheep.

On the far curb, I turned around to watch, because I had made eye contact with the cab driver.  In that split second, I knew he could see the whole scenario laid out precisely in his mind.  First, he stepped on the gas.  Then, he stepped on the brake and leaned on the horn.  The flight attendants froze in terror as the cabbie deftly swerved around them.

The cab driver, having done his bit, proceeded to ignore them as if they were one of those steaming Con Ed street pipes.  He knew that the baton had passed wordlessly to his passenger.  In the back seat, the passenger had already rolled down his window.  I could see he was a nice, mild-mannered, polite Jewish Accountant sporting trendy glasses and a suit with a thin drab tie.  He immediately stuck his head out of the cab’s window and yelled “Stooopid bitches!” at those poor innocent flight attendants as they scurried back to the nearest curb.

So this is New York in a nutshell.  The driver didn’t have to say a word, because he could count on his passenger to do it for him.  That’s the kind of bond we have with our cabbies.  And the passenger rose to the occasion magnificently.  And I, the catalyst of the whole thing, stood on the curb cackling silently to myself.

And that, my friends, is why a trip to New York City is not the same as a trip to The Magic Kingdom.

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