Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When Push Comes to Shove

Although I've lived in New York for nearly seven years, I still don't necessarily recognize myself as a New Yorker. Raised in the Sunshine State for most my life, I identify myself as more of a transplant than anything else, a Floridian experiencing the city in such a way that is different from native New Yorkers. I grew up a slow grazing beach bum whose wide-eyed awe of the big city still peeks out from under my faux New York exterior. 

I can't help but be swept off my feet and downright romanced by this place; its unapologetic grittiness that is somehow simultaneously enchanting. Having drifted 1200 miles from the lethargic current of the Gulf, I now find myself swallowed up in the most massive, quick-moving city in the world. And yet, I love it all the same. Florida may be the love of my life, where my heart is, but New York is my mistress, pulling my eyes away from the south and demanding my attention. And so I indulge myself, keeping an address within these five boroughs.

Our NYC stroller style
And while I do indeed love this city, I also have to acknowledge the other side of the coin, the one that shows New York's not so charming attributes.  Living up to the stereotype, it should come as no surprise that some New Yorkers can at times come across a bit harsh. I myself would write "friendly" on the top of my list of self-describing adjectives. And I like that about myself. I hold doors for people. I make polite small talk on the elevator. I do my best to remember my please and thank you's. And I notice this quality among many Floridians as well. If you pick up groceries at a Florida Publix, not only will the cashier smile and play peek-a-boo  with your toddler, they'll also walk you to your car and even help you put away your groceries. This is something I love. Not the fact that someone is helping to lessen my load, but that there is an established sense of community there, the desire to bridge the gap between yourself and a stranger. 

At the Key Food on Queens Blvd I'm lucky if the cashier makes eye contact, let alone bags my groceries. The point to all this? In New York I often find myself offended at the distance of others, at their unwillingness to reach out, perpetuating a sort of "every man for himself" mentality. 

Raising a family in New York has tremendous draws though (the culture, the shows, the museums, the never ending list of exciting, engaging things to do with your kids...). The sometimes "Unfriendly Factor" is my only real criticism.

Case and point: on Sunday I took the girls to Central Park to see Mike run the marathon.  We had a fabulous day, enjoying the crisp weather and catching the contagious energy of cheering for the runners on the sidelines. After Daddy got his medal, we exchanged hugs and kisses and then I headed to Penn Station on my own with the kids, hoping to jump on a train back to Queens. 

I'm convinced that all 50,000 marathon runners were leaving the park with us at that moment as I found myself packed and sandwiched in the middle of a jostling crowd. The girls quickly grew anxious (not to mention already being exhausted and hungry). Whining and crying ensued as I hastily searched for a cab. Before I knew it, over an hour had passed and we were still wandering around midtown, nowhere closer to home. Desperation began to settle in.

Then, in the middle of Times Square, I saw it. Well actually Lina saw it ("Mommy, taxi car!" as she calls it). I bolted, all my etiquette flying out the window as I pushed and shoved, nearly running over people who had just run 26 miles. I didn't care. The thought of being stranded in the cold for one more minute with two crying infants was all the motivation I needed.

Settling into the cab, what I should have felt was relief. We were finally going home. Instead I was greeted with an irritated cab driver who was evidentally annoyed with how long I was taking to unload two babies and break down a double stroller. Instead of offering to give me a hand, he groaned from the front seat, telling me to "get in already."

It's taken some time, but I've gradually allowed this city to permeate through, to pierce my friendly surface and to give me the chops to pipe up when I'm being pushed around. That's something I never learned living in Florida. 

The cab driver continued to give me a hard time when we got to Penn, refusing to help me unload the trunk, then becoming even more frustrated when the credit card machine didn't initially read my card.

"Your card no good. You must pay again." 

On the curb, Giada's carseat hung in one hand as Lina dangled from my other hip. I swiftly kicked my diaper bag onto the sidewalk with my foot while prompting a total stranger to lug my stroller from the trunk. Thankfully he complied as the driver chimed in again, this time more persistent.

"Miss, you pay NOW." 

Left with no other alternative, I erupted, firing off an impassioned verbal assault. I wrapped up my rant by letting the cab driver know exactly what I thought of him. 

And just  like that, I'd gone from being the last friendly person in New York, to being just another asshole who yells at cab drivers. Disappointed in myself, I scurried onto the train back to Forest Hills, doing my standard post-confrontation obsessing (replaying over and over  in my head what I should have said and done). But the more I reflected, the more introspective I became, the more it dawned on me that I wasn't out of line at all. New York hasn't turned me into an impatient jerk. It's just made me a little tougher. A little more resilient to the real impatient jerks. But to be on the safe side I vowed to do something nice for a stranger the next day, just to keep the order of things.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this. Nice to see you writing. Your style is just lovely :)