Tag Archives: tourists

I saw a bunch of tourists having trouble crossing the street

I was in Midtown Manhattan the other day on a lunch break and I wanted some food from a place a few blocks away. I was crossing East 54rd Street, and there was this family of out-of-towners waiting at the corner, stuck. It looked they wanted to cross the street, but they couldn’t get their feet off of the sidewalk. While they hesitated, cars and cabs kept making the right turn from 3rd Avenue onto 54th.


As I got closer to the family, the mom looked toward me, clearly frustrated, and said, “You’d think these cars would let us cross!” And I was walking pretty fast. I’m tall, so I have a naturally long stride, but it’s also New York, so everybody walks kind of fast. I didn’t even break my pace, but I turned to look at the lady as I stepped into the intersection, telling her, “You just have to walk. You just have to go for it. The cars will stop.”

I kept going, I made it across the street all while the lady stood there holding hands with her family, that distressed look on her face, me on one of the street and her on the other, both of us now separated by a whole line of cabs already continuing their endless stream of right turns. This whole interaction took maybe ten seconds, and once I was safely across the street, I turned forward and marched on.

But I couldn’t help but thinking about this lady and her family, were they on vacation? How long were they planning their trip to the city? Now that they were here, were they having fun? Sure, it’s a lot of filling in the blanks based on the fraction of a moment that we were in each other’s lives, but there was something there, there was us, there was a street, there were pained facial expressions.

I spent the rest of my walk imagining that family making it back to their hotel room later in the evening, they’d be exhausted, all of that walking around, nobody behaving in traffic like they do back home. How many times had she stopped random pedestrians to complain about cars? Was she giving that same confused/pissed off look to every single driver that didn’t stop and wave her along with a smile?

In my head she went back home to wherever she was from, her friends and extended family members would ask stuff like, “So how was your vacation? How was New York?” and not wanting to give the impression that they had a bad time, she’d lie, “It was OK, but everyone is in such a hurry. Everyone is so rude!”

And yeah, I’m in my head here, but this isn’t that uncommon of a thing to imagine, right? New Yorkers have a reputation of being rude. On season five of True Blood, this guy’s about to get killed, so he starts crying, hysterical, he’s like, “I never got to go to New York, to see the Big Apple,” and Eric the vampire says, “New York smells like pee and everyone is rude.”

Are New Yorkers rude? I don’t think so. I’m going to fault the tourists in this situation, that lady and her family. I’m presuming that they took this vacation and found themselves on the streets unfamiliar with the pace of everyday life. Unable to cross the street on account of traffic not coming to a halt simply because they were waiting on the corner, they reached out for a little sympathy from a fellow pedestrian.

But I didn’t give any. Imagine if every single driver stopped at every corner where a group of people happened to be waiting for a light. Cars wouldn’t be able to move an inch. Traffic would remain at a permanent standstill. There are more people than cars, and with heavy foot traffic, the lights are necessary to keep people in line as much as they’re there to regulate the cars.

I try to reverse the situation in my head. I picture me going on vacation to some small town somewhere. I’m driving along and as I’m about to round a corner, I see a family waiting to cross the street. If I just kept going, like if I aggressively made that turn without their consideration, they could look at me, they could give me that, “What the hell?” face, and I’d clearly be in the wrong. But I wouldn’t do that, because I’m not rude, I’m not an asshole.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t travel to other places and walk around acting like the whole world is New York. People from out of town should come to New York and be prepared for things to be different than the way they are back home. It’s not rude. In fact, I think if anybody is rude, it’s the person that travels around and acts as if every social code and rule is somehow universally based on how people get along from where they’re from.

I’m being way too judgmental here myself. I hate it when New Yorkers talk down to everyone else, like we’re so enlightened. As a waiter, I can safely say that a good chunk of New Yorkers are indeed rude. In fact, a lot of them are assholes. At least when they’re hungry. Does this just contradict everything that I just wrote down? Whatever, I’m probably being a huge asshole myself. Yeah, I just reread this whole thing, definitely, big-time asshole. Still, I’m right about the street crossing thing.


Even though I’m on vacation right now, I’m still committing myself to sitting down to write something every day. But it’s really hard to concentrate because it’s so beautiful outside and I don’t want to be at my computer trying to figure out what to write about. It’s hard enough doing this at my kitchen table back in New York, where I’m almost completely desensitized to the world around me. I’m able to, sometimes anyway, completely clear my mind from all distractions, open up my imagination to topics such as, what would it be like to wait tables in space? Or, do I really believe in the magical properties of crystals?

But here it’s like super hard, for all of the obvious reasons. There’s this ridiculous beach outside. I’m sitting in my hotel room in a bathing suit trying to just belt out a blog post, just one short piece, just something. I didn’t get any writing done yesterday, because we were traveling. It was one of those get-up-at-six-in-the-morning days so we could catch our flight. That’s great, but of course my brain wouldn’t let me fall asleep until two in the morning the night before.

When we finally made it to our hotel yesterday afternoon, all I had the energy to do was sit on the beach and drink Mai Thais until my body couldn’t keep its eyes open, some time around seven PM. I woke up this morning at nine, but my wife had to pry me out of the bed. I can’t believe I used to pull all-nighters like this once a week when I was in college. And it was nothing. I’d spend all day totally goofing around, realizing that I had way too much work due the next day, but I’d shrug it off, head to the library, and stay up all night getting my assignments done. What happened to me? At what point did I turn into this guy that becomes a zombie the one time a year he only sleeps for three hours before a flight?

By the way, it’s funny because, I wrote this whole blog post a while back about Delta Airlines, how they wronged me in the past, how I swore I’d never fly with them again. Guess which airline had the cheapest flights to Puerto Rico? Guess who flew Delta Airlines? Whatever, I flew in protest.

This morning we got up, we had the hotel breakfast, and then we camped out on the beach, my wife lying out in the tropical sun, absorbing its golden rays and bronzing herself like a pro. Me, I was committed to the shade like a cockroach, religiously reapplying sunscreen every twenty minutes. I’ll still burn, but it was worth it, to be able to sit outside. I got to read, something I really don’t let myself find enough time for.

We’re only on our first full day of vacation here, but if I had to find one thing to complain about, it’s that there are way too many vacationers here complaining. We’re at a total American beach destination, and yeah, I work in the service industry, so I guess I’ve sort of fine-tuned myself to automatically detect the frequencies of others’ discontent, but I’m really shocked by how so many Americans can come to a beautiful tropical island and just find everything to complain about.

We went out to dinner to some seafood restaurant in Old San Juan. Everything was as perfect as you’d imagine an amazing seafood restaurant to be. We had ceviche, we had whole red snapper, we had these fried fish balls. Man, everything was just f’n unbelievably delicious. The only thing that put a damper on our good time was these two ladies at the table next to us complaining the entire meal, to each other, to every single staff member that came over. It was beyond ridiculous. They ate an entire dish and then complained that it wasn’t enough, arguing over the bill for an hour after they finished their last bite. Our waitress wound up buying us a round of drinks after they left because we had to sit next to that vortex of negativity the entire time. What a bunch of entitled brats.

And then today at the beach, there was this couple complaining, loudly, to everybody around them about how long it was taking for the hotel staff to get them a beach umbrella. Just get one yourself if you want it that bad. It was one of these scenes where the woman was walking around in every which way, grabbing anybody that wore anything remotely resembling a uniform, “Excuse me? Can we have an umbrella? Everybody else is getting umbrellas. Oh my God. We need an umbrella,” to the point where like three employees eventually came over with three different umbrellas, the second and third one realizing that they had all been contracted to repeat the same job, muttering to themselves in Spanish the absurdity of this lady’s demands.

Anyway, that’s my only complaint, other people complaining. That and me not being able to concentrate on my writing, because I’m having a fantastic vacation.

Hey look, Canadians!

This morning I was riding my bike to work. I was all hopped up on some weird kind of euphoric energy. It was a mix of a couple of things, coffee, mostly. I always have three cups, and while they always feel great, they don’t always hit me this great, like great, great. Who knows, maybe it depends on how much food I have in my stomach, I have no idea. But I was feeling amazing, like I could do anything.

And so I was riding my bike, it’s below freezing out but I wasn’t bothered. It felt terrific, totally invigorating. Not only was my mood fantastic, but my body also, I imagined it an extension of my ultra-positive state of mind. Sometimes I’ll be riding my bike in the cold and it won’t feel great at all, my body won’t feel totally up to the task, like the morning commute might be a little bit more of a chore than I’d like it to be. But this morning it was a pleasure, a real treat.

I was pedaling away, the bike at its top gear, my legs pumping away, only feeling limited by the gears of the bike itself. I’m pretty sure I had enough energy to bike across the country if I wanted to. As I was flying down Crescent toward the Queensboro Bridge, I saw these people in front of a hotel, they were packing their bags into their car.

As I got closer to the car I see it’s a Quebec license plate. And I was just feeling so happy, so thrilled to be alive, and look, Canadians! And I wanted to share some of my positive energy with the Canadians, but I was going so fast, and so my intentions were hampered by the fact I didn’t really have enough time to, one, register their presence as being a foreign one and, two, think up something nice and clever or happy or funny or whatever to say to them.

So I wound up just screaming out, “Quebec!” and giving them a thumbs-up. But, and I know I keep repeating my words here, but I really was flying, like much faster than traffic. Obviously a car can go faster than a bike. But speed bumps? Traffic lights? I was definitely cruising down Crescent much quicker than any car. So quick that I didn’t even get to look at the Canadians as I shouted out to them their car’s point of origin.

And at that point I said to myself, “All right Rob, better calm it down a notch,” because, seriously, this was almost a good mood bordering on a manic episode. I wanted to make sense of what was going on, with my ebullience (that’s a pretty big word right there, but I’m demonstrating how elevated my mood was, like big-word elevated) with the Canadians. I stopped for a second and hopped off my bike, took out my iPhone and wrote “Quebec” in the little notepad application.

So now here I am, it’s after work, the sun’s down, I’m trying to get some writing done, and I open up the notepad app, and see “Quebec.” And now I’m struggling to put myself back in those happy shoes I was wearing this morning. I’m not in a bad mood, not at all. But I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as euphoric, or ebullient.

And I’m thinking about it from the Canadians’ point of view. How was their morning? Did their bodies respond to their morning coffee in the same way that mine had? Maybe they drank too much, it left them a little jittery. Or maybe not enough and they had a killer tension headache. That always happens to me when I’m away from home. I don’t have my kitchen, my coffee pot, my routine, and so I’m always feeling under caffeinated on the road.

And they were packing up, so, what, New York vacation over? Already? But it must have felt like they just got here, like there was still so much that they didn’t get to see. And did it live up to their expectations? Were they trying a little too hard to tell themselves that they really had a good time?

Getting ready for that long drive back to Quebec. Packing everything away in the car. And then this cyclist flies by and screams, “Quebec!” but he says it like a non-Quebecer, like “Kwa-beck!” instead of the “Keh-bec” that, now that he’s writing it all out, much later in the day, he always imagines Quebecers to say it like that, the second way. And maybe that was it, they were like, “all right, let’s hit the road, we’ve got a long drive, we’ve got to get to a gas station so we can get some gas and some coffee and let’s head back to Canada.”

I don’t know. I hope they had a nice trip. I hope the coffee hit them just right. I hope they got to feel during their stay here as good as I felt this morning, even for just a moment, that joy I got to feel just for my own fleeting moment.