For someone who gets on a plane to compete with a pilot it remains a startling un-revelation why it took me so long to make it to the other side of the pond. The other side of the pond, that is, once I had made the initial jump to the other side of the… rock?
Slowly as my travel repertoire grew to expand and include other countries, alongside grew a fear of visiting the US of A, an impending looming scare that the more I see the rest of the world the lesser my probability of making it there would be and my reasons for explaining this lack would proportionately fall.
And so I did the only thing we humans know when confronted with a menacing issue that looks us right in the eyes – I distracted myself with everything else I possibly could. I managed to inoculate myself so well to the fact that when the opportunity finally presented itself, I remained resolute in my mind that it would never materialise. The only time I felt myself smile all the way inside is when I cleared immigrations at JFK.
And so, with all this information, an education that had been imparted and absorbed over three decades almost, did I set forth into the city of New York.
Manhattan. To see it outside of a cocktail glass. For one, it was big. It is terribly big. But only I seemed to notice it. The others walked by as if they didn’t notice the general expanse of the roads and the buildings, the cars and the coaches. In fact, they barely noticed me.
I didn’t know where to start, in a way I knew the city and yet, I had not the faintest idea how to go about navigating it. I had 3 days and I had told myself that I would do every site that had possibly featured in a Woody Allen film or that Frank Sinatra had sang about. Something like that. I walked more than 15 kilometres a day – what’s that in miles? – and the marches only left me feeling rejuvenated.
Tipping was one aspect that I never quite understood. What kind of a discretionary gratuity is considered obligatorily mandatory!? Ooh the inherent contradictions therein. Why does a standard rate of tipping of almost 15% apply across all forms of service and why must, if it change, only be for a higher 20%. Worst yet, why must we the outsiders who have a culturally different outlook to tipping get judged (or even admonished) for tipping any lesser? I was so scared to be followed out by an irate server or being abused and trailed by a taxi-driver that I tipped unwillingly yet generously if only to avoid any nasty confrontation. At no point was the service that exceptional or the airport drop that, I don’t even know the superlative adjective for airport drops if there ever was one – comforting? reassuring? – that one should feel the compelling need to drop a hefty 20% as tip.
Anyways, what can I say, I am an outsider. But at least I probably left a significant part of the service personnel in the ‘you ess of A’ believing that they were graced by the scion of a small princely Indian state who hands out dollars like toys from Ronald McDonald!
24-hour food... From Copiola to Gray’s Papaya, there is a certain convoluted charm, a gratuitous guilt in having food when you are not supposed to. In a city that veritably never sleeps, this is one pleasure that you cannot afford to overlook.
That myth about New Yorkers’ being crazy rushed and not having time is partially true. They are indeed crazy rushed. Where else in the world the subway trains would have an express line that skips stops along the way. (Oh wait, Bombay!) but the other part, about them not caring or bothering to help, that’s untrue. People stopped and shared information with me, even googled it for me and that is a more than I expect from the denizens of any metropolitan, web savvy or not.
NYC truly doesn’t sleep so the subway runs all night as do food places and bars. Choose your bedtime wisely. Also, choose your route home wisely – there are no points for narrating a lamentable tale about how you got mugged in some blind alley just because you decided to be brave and leg it.
Without further ado then, here are the few things that I gathered about this marvellous country. Some are places to visit, some, things to notice. Either ways, read it, and then, if you can, add to it.