Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Subway Connections

New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly. And it's true, we don't have much patience for small talk in line at the grocery or on the train. But one thing we will go out of our way to do is insure that those who need accurate directions some where get them. We are very proud of our city and if we can help you find your way around it easier we are all too happy to do so.

This phenomenon is especially true on the subway. The system can be daunting with its different colored lines, uptown, downtown, Queens bound, Bronx bound, express, local and all manner of other terms completely foreign to tourists. I have witnessed (and even played a role in) a simple question from a tourist that will inspire a debate between three New Yorkers on which is the best route to take to said destination. We make sure they get off at the correct stop wish them well and shout the rest of the directions as they exit the train. "Remember, you want the number 1 train. Don't get on the 2 or you'll end up in Brooklyn!" On the way home today, I once again witnessed what great pains New Yorkers will go to to make sure someone has the correct information.

A freshly scrubbed young man in a dress shirt and tie asked a middle aged Latino woman on the B train as it was stopped at the 59th Street station if that train went to Times Square. Perhaps because of her limited grasp of English she gave the boy a vague smile and seemed to indicate that he should try the uptown A train across the platform. Before anyone could correct her the doors closed in the boy's face. This prompted a barrage of rapid fire Spanish from the woman's three companions that I imagine translated to something like "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU, YOU KNOW THAT TRAIN DOESN'T GO TO TIMES SQUARE, NOW THAT KID WILL END UP IN THE BRONX OR HARLEM OR WHO KNOWS WHERE AND PROBABLY NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN, AY DIOS MIO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!"

Following this all three women started banging on the windows of the train to try and get the young man's attention. With a combination of sign language, Spanish and English all three indicated that the boy should go upstairs and across to the downtown platform. The kid was oblivious. Unsure, he hesitated before stepping on the uptown A train which was just about to leave the station. From there he seemed to wander in search of someone else who might give him the right directions. I have no doubt he found them.



At 7:21 PM, Blogger Y | O | Y said...

This is one of the times I racially profile. If I'm lost, I always look for a 50-ish black woman with a pleasant face. They haven't failed me yet!

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

We have always found New Yorkers to be very friendly and, as you say, especially when directions are needed. Several times when Brad and I have come to a halt at a street corner (as pedestrians) and are looking at a map, people have stopped and asked if we needed help finding someplace. The same thing happened to us on the Moscow subway - people asking us, in English, if they could help us find something. It's good that this desire to help strangers is generally a part of most people's makeup.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Anon Blond said...

I've found the same thing to be true in New York too. As a Brit, I've often had to ask directions on the subway, and I get not one, but about five people trying to help me all at once.

I'd like to think we were as helpful in London, but somehow I doubt it!

At 10:27 PM, Blogger libhom said...

I guess I'm not a true New Yorker. I'm so sick of people asking directions wherever in the world I go that I usually ignore them.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Maddog said...

This post is spot on. I always say the this to people who mention that on the streets New Yorkers are always pushy and rude.

When you are driving to work in the morning and you get behind granny doing 45 on the freeway it probably pisses you off and makes you grumpy. Well that's how I feel when I get behind a school group of 40 kids taking pictures of Time Square. I just want to get from the subway to work and do it as fast as I can.

Of course if a single one of those student turned and asked hot to get downtown, I'd be happy to stop and point them in the right direction.


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