December 2, 2011, New York, NY
I had been warned that one could pick out the tourists quite easily in New York. They would stop in the middle of the sidewalk, their necks spiralling upwards, oblivious to the other pedestrians, as they gazed up and up and up, trying to pinpoint the moment the buildings met the sky.
I was hellbent not to be one of those. So I got off the bus, picked up my suitcase, gave a quick glance to the street signs and moved into the crowds.
The crowds moved and surged, their own living entities and people seemed to keep up a steady pace. It was as if they were on one of those people movers, smoothly moving people from one flat location to another. There was no jarring or bobbing or un-gracefulness. Just the clear shifting of one body past the next.
I had been worried, since LA is the city of driving, and to handle the waters of New York pedestrians seemed like it would be a feat. But there is nothing compared to a heaving college campus at 12pm when the world becomes a flood of students. I could thank Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza and rigours of walking among the masses.
I walked towards Times Square to meet my cousin, carefully dragging along my suitcase, lifting the handle to accommodate the unevenness of the sidewalk. The crowds were getting thicker and I could spot the tourists. Their overly plump necks becoming giraffes as they stretched up and around. They were wearing sweatshirts and fanny packs and things I thought only existed in the movies as stereotypes of people from some far off rural land. They were fat. They were oblivious. They were strangely dressed in shorts and walking shoes in the December cold.
I walked past, still dragging my suitcase, dodging the oncoming missiles of hot dog vendors and businessmen and delivery guys. I dodged more tourists and got entagled with a woman who decided to walk right into my suitcase. I walked and I walked and I walked, the world never really changing in its high rises and neon lights. And then something did.
In the middle of the sidewalk, there was an elderly, somewhat squat woman with her walker. But instead of being dressed for the December weather, she had on a pair of black sequined short shorts and a sweatshirt. I gaped, in awe and in fear. She walked slowly past completely unaware that there was anything unusual for that Friday afternoon. It was in that moment, I knew I had arrived in New York, the naive and unaware tourist.