New York City - 13 Musings From a First Timer
I recently visited New York City for the first time and yes it was a bit of a culture shock for me - not in a negative way, quite the contrary, just different. It's different for the California native in me. It's remarkable what 3,000 miles can do.
I fell in love with the city immediately. Not just the sprawling buildings but the people too. My first impression of a New Yorker was as soon as I got out of the cab (OK, it was actually Juno - New York City's version of Lyft), which dropped me and my wife off in the wrong place. A very kind doorman must have noticed the confused look on my face and offered to help us find the right address. He walked a block with us until we found it.
Anyways, because it was so different for me, I was inspired to put together a list of all the musings I had while in New York City. I found New York's intricacies very amusing. Enjoy:
1. Yes everyone really does drive around honking at each other. This is the first thing that you notice. As soon as you leave the airport the "horn blowing", as they call it, is prominent. But it was interesting to see that it was just a way of life - yes everyone is in a hurry in a crowded city but it's not like Los Angeles where if you honk at someone you're going to get the the finger back. They just accepted it as a way of life. But not just that, the driving is not for the faint of heart in general. For example, if there's a three lane street with one left turn lane and two going straight, you will have cars from all three lanes making that left and trying to squeeze into one lane simultaneously. If you can fit a car there, someone will try it whether there's a lane or not.
2. Pedestrians will walk across any street at anytime.Red lights don't mean much in the city and neither do crosswalks. But crossing on a red light really stood out to me. When it's clear enough for someone to walk across they will. If someone waits for the green light you know they're a tourist.
3. NYPD in tactical gear and assault rifles guard the popular spots. I noticed a large NYPD presence in most places really. They just set up shop on the sidewalks and keep the peace during peak times. Whenever I was in Times Square or in front of the Empire State Building there was NYPD holding their assault rifles and looking as intimidating as ever. Welcome to the post 9/11 era. I suppose I felt a bit safer with them there.
4. There's no air conditioning in New York City subway stations. It was miserable in most of the stations that I walked into (and I was there in October - I can't imagine what a summer day would be like down there!). The five minutes it took to wait for the next train was a long and uncomfortable wait - then the doors to the train open and you're in heaven.
5. The architecture is amazing. Not just because the city is built vertical instead of horizontal but it's largely made of brick and concrete (no threat of earthquakes) and it's beautifully old. Some of the buildings date back to the 1600's. Before the modern way of cutting corners and saving money took over, buildings used to look awesome. Gothic, Art Deco and Neoclassical among other architectural styles blanket the city.
6. There are doormen everywhere. The art of having someone greet you and open the door for you is still alive and well in Manhattan. It's odd for someone who is used to opening his own doors but kind of cool none the less.
7. Tourists are everywhere. Everything in New York City is a tourist attraction. The city itself is a tourist attraction. Tourism is a major factor in New York's economy. In 2014 New York City travelers spent $62.5 billion. According to the Governor's Office 748,000 jobs were sustained by tourism activity last year.
8. No one is obese (well, at least that I saw). Makes sense for a city that walks everywhere. According to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, New York State has the seventh lowest adult obesity rate in the nation. New York's adult obesity rate is currently 25.5 percent. The rate of overweight residents specifically in Manhattan is just over 42 percent — the lowest of any of New York State’s 62 counties per the New York Times.
9. They have traffic officers directing traffic all over the city. Even at controlled intersections. And by directing traffic I mean when the light turns green they wave the cars on and when it turns red they put a hand up. But I gotta hand it to New York City with job creation. Makes me wonder why that was needed to begin with...wait, no, I get it - I need look no further than California for a lesson as to why we need traffic controllers even when there's traffic lights already there.
10. Diversity. Not just the obvious race and religion amalgamation but the people walking to work in suits (that in itself is peculiar enough for a Californian) and others in jogging outfits. The children walking in a line on a school field trip. The homeless woman sleeping on a park bench. And tourists filling in all the other spaces on the sidewalks. This is all on the same block or same subway car. A city that truly blends together.
11. I found myself saying "when in Rome", a lot.Especially with walking the city streets. Yes, I violated many a red light while crossing streets. Although it felt weird for the first couple of days, I had no problem eventually becoming an honorary New Yorker.
12. Rubber mats on car bumpers. This one cracked me up once I realized what they were for. A lot of cars have these rubber mats on their bumpers so they can squeeze into a tiny parking spot without worrying about bumping the cars in front and behind them. Parking spots are rare and valuable in New York City.
13. Now I know what they modeled Sesame Street after. Just a five minute walk in any neighborhood will leave you feeling nostalgic about the childhood TV show you used to watch. Here's an interesting take on "how to get to Sesame Street".