If there's one thing I've learnt in the last two days it's that New York City waits for no one, especially not 'out-of-towners'. There's really no need to make an effort to be extra friendly or 'give way' out of politeness. If such gestures are appreciated at all, it's a silent understanding between New Yorkers, and I'm not quite sure I'm on that wavelength yet.
Don't get me wrong; It's not that New York is an unfriendly place, just a 'tough' one. There's some truth in that late nineties Bazz Lurman lyric "live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard': New Yorker's are diligent, self sufficient and above all independent. Saying that, they are seemingly happy to help, as long as you listen to their advice. Ask for directions once and you'll get them but ask twise and you're on your own.
My first encounter of Rule no. 1: Pay Attention, occurred on the subway on my very first day. After asking for directions to Houston Street from an attendant behind a glass panelled information box, I was given my instructions and off I went. Unfortunately I had not been watching the balance on my metro card and was denied entry through the barrier. After holding everyone up and realising I had become one of those annoying tourists I rant about so often in London who always seem so vexed as to why a simple piece of machinery has rejected their ticket, I retreated back to my informer to ask if there was a way to reach my destination on foot (remember, money is of the essence, time, in this case is not). The response was short but cutting and totally unforgiving: 'I already told you how to get there' she replied with blunt nonchalance and sashayed off.
Feeling rather stunned at such abrupt rudeness (or so it would be described in England) I scurried out onto the street and proceeded to my destination, now ardent on reaching it on my own. Reach it I did and the reward was a lovely room in Greenwich Village in which I shall be living for the remainder of my time in Manhattan.
So it really is true what they say about the 'New York Minute': think fast, act faster and pay attention. Keep up or risk falling behind along with those dreaded 'out-of-towners'. Furthermore, try and do it all on your own, that way you'll look like you fit in, even if you have absolutely no idea why you've just stepped onto Firth Avenue from Madison and somehow by-passed 4th?!
*4th Avenue doesn't actually exist, as there are three additional avenues between 3rd and 5th. It doesn't make a lot of sense but right now neither do a lot of things about this city!