Becoming New York: Lessons learned

As I lay in my bunk in our brightly painted orange hostel room, I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief that we have only been in this amazing city for three and a half days. In just 75 hours we have experienced a culture shock none of us could have imagined before setting foot on these streets.  We have seen people, experienced events, and been to places immensely different than our quiet lives back at Whitworth University. And yet, in just 75 hours, this city is taking root in our lives; it is already beginning to bend and shape us. We are becoming New York.

But what exactly does that mean: “Becoming New York”?

It’s a feeling not easily described. This city has a way of engulfing one’s being. Of completely and utterly taking over every small aspect of thought and life. The change in each of us, due to the many lessons we have learned, is quite obvious. The lessons are countless, so we’ll just start with 5:

1. On day one we all stood timidly on street corners waiting for the “walk” signal. We now understand that the red hand for “don’t walk” is really more of a cautionary signal, than a strict rule, and that as long as you stand far enough in the street to see if any cars are coming, you can pretty much cross whenever you want to.

2. We have all experienced at least one subway patron who is a bit out of the ordinary. On day one we may have stared, or moved away. We now understand that if you keep quiet, don’t make eye contact, and shut your mouth, there is a good chance you will be ignored.

3. Some of us have learned that coffee on the East Coast is VERY weak, even at Starbucks…but alcohol is much stronger than your average Spokane cocktail (Note: Alcohol is stronger everywhere BUT “Ha! Comedy Club”) . Both are much more expensive.

4. On day one each of us were somewhat wary of the Subway, confused by the different number and letter lines, and how to navigate each. We have now been to Brooklyn, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, Harlem, Times Square, the South Ferry, and even Queens (which may have been an accident when Mark and I got on the wrong train…Oops!), realizing any mishaps are easily fixable by getting off and hopping on a new train.

5. Between street performers, “free” comedy nights, mascots in Times Square, and overpriced EVERYTHING, we are beginning to know a tourist trap when we see one, and make the conscious decision to either avoid or participate in it.

These may just be subtle differences in our street smarts, attitudes, and choices, but they have made a world of difference between our first day and today. Most of us probably didn’t even notices the changes, because we have subconsciously picked them up from observing what is around us. This is exactly what I mean when I say we are becoming New York. Slowly but surely we are understanding this new world, and choosing our actions based on our new discoveries and insights. Just as we are beginning to blend into the people and city around us, the city and people are beginning to blend in to us.

Just as we become a part of New York, New York becomes a part of us. 

  1. #1 by James McPherson on January 14, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    Nice observations, Katherine. I’m glad that you and the city have taken to each other.

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