Five Lessons from a Seasoned (Western) New Yorker

If you’ve been following my 23-goals, you’ll know that I agreed to visit my friend Rae in New York City during my week of “yes.” We did a ton of incredible activities, so instead of trying to paint the narrative of my visit, I’ve decided to break my NYC adventure into the lessons that I’ve learned.

Lesson #1: Good things come to those who drive aggressively | Here’s the deal: I grew up in New York, but it was rural, Western NY. Because of this, I learned how to drive politely. However, in NYC I’ve learned that polite driving is about as useful as a window that faces a brick wall (i.e., not very useful). With this in mind, I’ve realized that sometimes you have to drive like a deranged mother on her way to a 75% off sale at Nordstrom Rack if you want to get anywhere quickly.

This was not easy for me at first, but I’ve quickly grown accustomed to shooting angry looks at nearby drivers while nudging my car into a space that initially looks like it might be able to accommodate a Hot Wheels car. It was a frightening concept when I first started doing it, but I now think that I may need to give this new driving technique a try when I go back to Ohio, the state of blissfully apathetic drivers.

Lesson #2: Ew. Don’t touch that. | My primary mode of transportation was the good ol’ subway, and similar to the Subway chain of restaurants, I always walked away feeling dirty. Sure, it is a fantastic way to zip around the city, but I was far too trusting of the seats and railings at first.

I found after a particularly long ride that pretty much every visible surface of the subway was covered with a grime that left my hands feeling as if I soaked them in a cocktail of honey, lint, and general human filth. I walked away from the experience with the knowledge that it is better to avoid touching anything on NYC public transportation and a newfound appreciation for running water, soap, and Purell purchased in bulk.

Lesson #3: It’s difficult knowing how long to stare at a famous landmark | I had a blast seeing iconic NYC sites during my visit, but I walked away from each experience faced with a mild dilemma. I never knew how long I should stand in front of a tourist trap taking in the view.

For instance, I went with Rae to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza, and after a few moments spent staring at what I consider to be the fattest tree I’ve ever seen, we both looked at each other and asked if we had been there long enough. Thankfully, Rae was on the same page as me and didn’t mind leaving early, but I don’t know what I would have done if I had been with someone who tries to take in every minute detail of each landmark.

I am definitely of the mindset that less is best. I like to see the landmark, ooh and ahh for a moment or two, take my photo, and head out. I have never seen the point in prolonging the stay (mainly because it’s not like the landmark will morph before my eyes), but I sometimes feel guilty for not staying longer. I guess in hindsight, I’ve just learned to stay as long as I need to imprint the sight on my mind and then head on to the next thing.

Lesson #4: This city is teeming with energy | Who needs caffeine when you have the energy of the city that never sleeps permeating you? Ok, so I still did need caffeine during my visit, but I really did feel an intense energy throughout my stay. There is something about the fast pace that inspired me to move faster and think quicker, and I thoroughly appreciated this.

Even though I tend to have an Energizer Bunny approach to life in Ohio, I saw myself being even more attuned to the surrounding energy in the city. I hope to continue this even when I head back to the Midwest.

Lesson #5: Some of the nicest people in the NYC work in Swedish coffee shops| I had a chance to see a visiting friend from Delaware on Friday, and we decided to stop at an ultra trendy Swedish coffee shop on our way to Battery Park. Once inside, two buoyantly happy baristas greeted us and asked what we would like to drink. I was so surprised that I wasn’t being treated like a piece of wafting garbage that I didn’t respond to their initial question.

I had grown so accustomed to ordering from indifferent baristas all throughout my stay that I was genuinely unnerved when I interacted with people who seemed delighted to serve me. Once I recovered from the initial shock, I ordered my drink and watched in awe as the two baristas continued joking and then proceeded to ring me up as a customer rather than an incredible inconvenience.

I guess if I could sum the experience into a lesson, it would be that I can’t paint with such a broad brush. It is easy to assume that everyone in NYC will treat customers with the care of a Frontier Airlines employee throwing checked baggage into a plane, but thinking that way is a disservice to all of the genuinely helpful people in the city.

So those are the lessons that I learned during my recent visit to New York City. And as an added bonus to the expansion of city living knowledge and the completed of my goal to go out of my way to visit a friend, I also made a vast amount of memories. These included 2 a.m. talks about life, people watching on the subway, and two of the best bagels I have ever eaten in my entire life.

Shoutout to Rae for being willing to host my overly energetic self and for making it such an exceptional time. It certainly cemented the fact that my week of saying “yes” produced some amazing memories. And as I left the city, I couldn’t help but wonder if I will somehow end up living in a similar place in the future, but that is a topic for another blog post. In the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas.

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