By Taylor Griffin
NEW YORK – First rule when visiting New York City: stand right, walk left. Otherwise, get out of my way.
I’ve officially survived a whole month in New York, and I believe I’ve earned the right to finally express my deepest infuriation: I really hate tourists. Every last I-heart-NY- T-shirt-wearing one of them.
It’s true I don’t technically live here, but I’ve conformed to the day-to-day routine of a typical working New Yorker and thus share a deep sense of loathing for newcomers.
I’ve always had a particularly low threshold for slow-moving people, but the feeling is just heightened in a large city, especially on my way to work. Without fail, Rockefeller Plaza is as congested as a head cold nearly round the clock with tourists stopping mid-walk to snap a photo or check the map. I have a tendency to “walk with purpose,” as in borderline power walking with aggression. Presumably it stems from not having my Mustang here to fuel my ceaseless road rage.
I was disappointed to find that New York traffic does not operate as smoothly or musically as the “Come Together” scene from “Across the Universe.” It’s also become a running joke within the Baylor group that the best way to spot a tourist is a person waddling around with their backpack strapped to their front.
Clearly the aforementioned universal rule of passing doesn’t apply to tourists. In a rush on my way to work one morning, the escalator upwards was flooded with folks also in my predicament and blocked by a few ogling stragglers on the left side of the stairs. A guy behind me yelled, “Learn some etiquette!” following a few harsh expletives. While I’m not usually one to be vocal about my public frustration, I shared the sentiment.
Sunday, however, gave me some perspective. I succumbed to retail therapy in the Madison Avenue area around Grand Central Station, where floods of out-of-towners wheeled their suitcases out of the terminals and into the city air. Between the nearby hotels, restaurants and the People’s Climate March, the place was packed, and my patience was growing thin.
Enraged by my lack of planning, I dodged around the great Suitcase Exodus coming out of Grand Central and sped walked, arms violently swinging, in the direction of Sephora. I kept the minimal obscenities to a low grumble.
Between the huffing and puffing of my frustration, I caught bits of conversation from many of the tourists emerging from the station, gasping at their first ever sight of the city. It was almost like a collective sigh was breathed once each person exited the building, at last entering New York. At one point, two teenage girls in front of me clung to each other’s arms and in between giggles squealed, “We’re here! I can’t believe it!”
I imagined what they would do with the rest of their day exploring the city for the first time, probably hitting up the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or a Broadway show. Instantly, I remembered my earliest glance of the city—Times Square, actually—when I was 15 years old. There’s no way to describe Times Square at night, especially the sensation of meeting it for the first time.
Even after four visits to New York, the city never gets any less brilliant. After watching the crowds of tourists ooh and awe, it made me realize that I will never stop being a tourist myself, whether I’m here for a day or decide to move here permanently.
New York will always offer something new for me to appreciate, which makes me adore it even more. The culture and liveliness gives the impression that anything is attainable here, and this fact in general leaves me awestruck, sometimes literally stopped in my tracks. If that makes me a tourist, by golly, bring forth my fanny pack and subway map.