Country Mouse in the Big Apple.
The pace of life in NYC can only be described as frenetic. No matter the time, day or night, the sidewalks are crowded with people who either have, or are good at pretending to have urgent plans. Everyone has a direction and is headed there at a rate of approximately 100 mph. This constant state of purposeful commotion can be a bit overwhelming for a girl from rural Illinois who still insists on pronouncing the word "washcloth" as though it contains an "r."
I am astounded at the pedestrian traffic--the sheer number of people on the street and how quickly the crowds move. Before I can utter, "Excuse me, I'm sorry," to the person who bumped into me with her briefcase or Macy's bags, she's already twelve blocks away.
Car horns are put to entirely different use in New York City than anywhere else I've traveled. Where I'm from, Podunk Town, IL, population 900 (possibly including dogs), a blast from a car horn generally translates to, "Heyyyy, there stranger! Where have you been hidin? I ain't seen you in a coon's age!" On the mean streets of Chicago, the honking of horns means, "Get out of my way, you jerk! Learn how to drive!" In New York, however, the drivers of taxis and other vehicles begin laying on their horns a hundred yards from the crosswalk as though to say, "I see you crossing against the light and I'm giving you fair warning. If you're still there in the next few seconds and I flatten your ass, you'll have only yourself to blame." It is understood that there is no such thing as stopping for pedestrians. Or even slowing down, really. Because frankly, they should have known better.
During the course of the trip, I chatted up a native New Yorker (because that's what Midwesterners do: we start conversations with random strangers just because they happen to also be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). He claimed that the hundred yard honk is a fairly recent development. He explained, dead pan, mind you, that years ago, there wouldn't have even been an audible warning. Pedestrians would just be expected to get out of the way. Because, hey, taxi cabs are bright yellow, and he shoulda seen me. Therefore, the laying on of the horn is a courtesy that drivers extend to their fellow human beings, the pedestrians. The city has really come together in recent years. There's a lot of love here.
The frenzied pace of life in New York is not limited to the streets. Indoors, everyone is in just as big a hurry. I used to laugh at the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld because it struck me as so absurd. Now I realize that what really makes those scenes so riotously funny is their absolute truth. One does not get in a line at a deli in New York City without having made up her mind about her order. The line moves quickly, just as quickly as the myriad taxis, and neither the cashiers nor your fellow customers have any tolerance for your indecisive bullshit. If you don't know what you want, don't get in the goddamn line! Don't ask stupid questions and don't hesitate. Otherwise, NO SOUP FOR YOU!
New Yorkers seem not to know the meaning of the words "meander" or "mosey." There are rarely benches along the sidewalks. In fact, there are signs posted along the streets that read "No standing at any time." No standing? Wait, what? Yes. No Standing. If you are on the sidewalk, you must be moving, and if you aren't moving, someone will move you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about New York. In fact, I very much loved the city. It's so very foreign, so very different from my own origins, and the difference is exactly what I found exciting. What I loved most about the city was its excitement and its diversity. All shapes, sizes, and colors of people speaking different tongues. The city is a roiling cacophony of humanity. The people in the streets seem so beautiful in their individuality, like intricate, never to be repeated snowflakes. All I could do was stare in delight and wonderment.
And then I heard the blaring of the taxi bearing down on me, and I ran for dear life. :)