I was fortunate enough to get an externship this semester in Manhattan. Besides for all the legal knowledge I am gaining, I have learned a lot about the City. I still get lost every time I try to enter or leave, however I am starting to understand the City folk a little better. Coming from Ohio, everything about the City is new. I came from a decent size Ohio suburb surrounded by farms. Now I take Metro North into grand central at peak hours and get herded into the subway, by what I can only describe as a scene straight from City Slickers. However, personal experiences have taught me a few implied “rules” of the city.
- During the morning rush on Metro North, never try to sit in between two people on the three-seat side. I made that mistake my first two days, and I’ll never try it again. If the person is nice they will politely tell you there are more open seats up the car. However, if you get a non-morninger they won’t even budge when you talk to them. “Excuse me sir would you mind if I sit there,” and you’ll end up having to interpret the head down and low groan to mean no. I don’t get what the big deal is. The seats are big enough it shouldn’t be a problem, but it is, so don’t do it.
- When trying to get to the subway, never break someone else’s stride. The stairs down into the subway are always on the opposite side of where you are. All the people that are exiting the subway are moving in the opposite direction, and you have to play frogger and get to the stairs on the other side of them. Every move during this timeframe has to be strategic. I’ve learned to watch the people coming out of the subway and I pick the weakest link. This can either be someone with a rollie bag or someone that just looks like they are struggling. That is the person you have to cut in front of, otherwise you won’t make it in time. If there is no weakest link, you’re going to break someone’s stride and you’re going to get yelled at. People act like they’ve been working for hours on getting up to the perfect walking speed and you just ruined it. Little do they know they are going to regain that walking speed in less than five seconds. However, don’t risk breaking someone’s stride, because they will make you feel like you’ve done something extremely wrong.
- On the subway, stay very close to the door or you won’t make it off at your stop. The morning commute on the subway is equivalent to a human bait bucket; no room to move, everyone is on top of each other, little oxygen to spare, and an extremely weird smell for which you can never locate its origin. I understand everyone has somewhere they need to be, but I don’t understand why people make a point to block you from leaving. Without fail, at your stop the person right in front of you will plant their feet and hold sturdy like they are in the middle of an extremely intense game of red rover. You do need to hold your ground, but there is no need to set your feet and flare yourself like a peacock. In the beginning I would say excuse me and try to lightly push my way through, but I kept getting stuck on the train. So unless you’re willing to blast through the wall of people, that apparently don’t want you to leave, stay very close to the door at all times.
- Even if you don’t want to, you will end up speed walking everywhere. The pace of the City is like nothing I have ever seen before. Everything is moving in fast forward. I am convinced it is not because people in the city actually have somewhere they needed to be five minutes ago, but just because everyone else is moving so fast. The speed is contagious, and literally takes over my body every time. I’ll get done with work, be ready to relax, and have nowhere I need to be, but the moment I step out of my building and see the people moving I switch into pure fight-or-flight. My pupils dilate, my cardio-vascular system leaps into action beating five gallons a minute instead of the normal one, my respiratory system hypes up to allow for more blood flow, endorphins are released, and my natural judgment system is replaced with more primitive responses. Alright that might be a little over exaggerated, however I do feel the need to travel at top speed no matter where I am going or when I need to be there. Even if you don’t want to walk fast, it will end up happening so don’t fight it.
- During the commute, do not talk to people. With millions of people in the City living in close quarters, compared to Ohio at least, it’s amazing how nobody wants to talk to
each other. Everybody travels with headphones in and their heads down. In the beginning I made it my goal to be friendly and try to make people smile, but I quickly learned that was not a good idea. The only people that will end up talking to you, you don’t want to be talking to. Occasionally I will get someone that will look up and give me a smile, but that’s about it. I’ve resorted to silent smiles instead of kind words, and it seems to be working better.
I realize I just made NYC seem extremely rough and unfriendly, however that’s exactly how it is. People have an agenda, and they don’t want anything getting in their way. It just takes a little getting use to.