The City that Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. Call it what you may: New York is the city of all cities. It is the little island covered in tall skyscrapers, bright lights, and busy streets. It is remembered for King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. It is known for the intricate web of tunnels and stations that exists underground. It is noted for infamous carts that sell water for $4 a bottle, crowding the tourist areas.
In order to be a successful New York City tourist, there are certain things you must do to cement yourself firmly into the delightful category that native New Yorkers embrace on a daily basis.
First, as you walk down the block, come upon something you “must see.” Whether it’s a store, sign, statue, or window, spot it and immediately stop short. If executed correctly, this will cause fast-paced New Yorkers to slam into you (or, if they are blessed with good reflexes, maneuver around you, barely avoiding a full-on body check). Should you cause a human collision, make sure the pedestrian’s earbuds get yanked out and files, books, and any laptops get spilled gracefully onto the sidewalk. New Yorkers just love having the contents of their bags spread out on the cement. Do not forget to give them a confused and innocent look as they clean up the mess and walk away grumbling words of love and compassion.
Next, have no knowledge of how to use a MetroCard. Possibly go even further and have no idea that a MetroCard exists. When you board an MTA City Bus, either insert the MetroCard in a multitude of incorrect orientations, or, if you plan to take the “What is a MetroCard?” approach, have a lengthy conversation with the driver about how to purchase one while effectively putting the bus behind schedule. Either way, the native New Yorkers, who could easily complete the task in their sleep, will be kept waiting for the bus to start moving again so they can maybe get to work on time.
Make sure to take those five perfect pictures that can only be captured in the middle of a very busy intersection. Be sure to take the pictures when the light is green for the throngs of cars, buses, and bikes that will be speeding around you from every direction as you stand there, smack in the middle of it all, with your lens raised.
Also, make sure to give your $1,000 Canon camera to a random person when you and the rest of your group want a picture together. With a sweet smile on your face, approach someone who looks determined and already in a rush. Hold out the camera and ask them to take your picture. Really, who would ever want to steal such an expensive camera? It’s not like there’s any profit to be made. Seriously, what kind of future would it ever have on eBay?
Try to travel with obnoxiously large and/or overstuffed luggage. This ensures that you will run over the toes of New Yorkers who happen to be in your path. When traveling on the subway, rush through the crowded station dragging your bags haphazardly behind you, not caring who they hit or what they knock over in the process. Stop for nothing. Stop for no one. Once you reach the train, try to shove your way into the already packed car. As you do, push and jostle any commuters you can, making sure that as many as possible are left on the platform waiting for the next train.
If you follow these rules on your trip to Manhattan, you will truly grace native New Yorkers with your presence. You will experience how willing they are to disrupt their schedule in order to direct you to the next landmark, even though you will probably end up going the wrong way anyway and have to find another New Yorker to help. All in all, you will be the perfect tourist. Should you not incorporate these aspects into your daily tourist behavior, you may leave wondering if you really got everything possible out of your trip to the city of glittering lights.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.