Sunday, August 01, 2010

Poor Tourists!

New Yorkers, we love to dump on tourists. They don't know how to walk, dress or eat. Couldn't tell a tourist trap if it bit them in the ass, etc, etc.
But what happens when tourists come to see you and you have to shpatzir them around town? You become sort of a tourist yourself. Let me tell you a little story:
On Thursday I met my friend Esther and her lovely 13 year old son, Benjamin, who were visiting from Mexico. They wanted to see the Meatpacking district. We went up to the High Line, had shaved ice and a popsicle from People's Pops (note to shaved ice hipster guy: you need to get some lessons from the Mexican or Latin masters of the craft -- not enough precious Bartlett pear syrup).
As we made our way back to Soho, we are walking, yes, three deep on a narrow sidewalk in Washington St.. A middle aged lady wearing a wide brimmed hat with a bow, starring in her own private Easter Parade, is coming towards us. In situations where tourists take up the entire sidewalk, usually I command "excuse me" and barrel through. I have an invisible semi-automatic rifle pointed at them. That's all. This person could have done the same, particularly as she was not behind us, but had plenty of time to approach us from the front. Instead, she mumbled at us to get out of her way, we don't even speak English and suggested we go back to where we came from. She was actually surprised when I reared my ugly head and screamed at her to shut the fuck up and chill the fuck out, and what the fuck is wrong with her, I fucking live here, you stupid fuck, etc, (remnants of the Middle Eastern fighting spirit, perhaps). She was slightly taken aback at being addressed in such a classic New York fashion by someone she deemed to be a clueless tourist. In truth, I wanted to run after her and knock that stupid hat off her head, plus a couple of teeth. But that would have been a bit de trop. Was she originally from Arizona? I found her xenophobic sentiments quite out of character for a citizen of this town.

One of the quintessential humbling experiences of locals hosting tourists, is eating out.
How is a tourist supposed to know that going to a restaurant in New York requires planning and execution of military precision? Not only arriving at the restaurant on time (to Mexican tourists, the concept of the entire party must be there to be seated is like astrophysics: unfathomable), but also ordering within three seconds of getting the menu, and being expected to know what's a ramp, what's sous vide and what's heirloom whatevs. One feels like a benign shepherd, steering the poor innocent creatures towards more adventurous choices, discreetly rolling our eyes and begging mercy from the waiter. A couple more minutes, no, they don't have fried rice here...
This in no way reflects my experience with Esther and Benjamin, who are urbane, sophisticated and as cool as cucumbers, as are most of the tourists that come to see me, mind you.
Once in a while it helps to see New York City with the eyes of a tourist. It also helps to have the manners of a New Yorker.

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