I recently returned from a trip to New York City. It was an amazing experience, an opportunity I could not pass up. I was invited to be one of the chaperones on the Oakdale High School Drama trip to NYC.
It was a jam packed five days filled with sightseeing, Broadway shows and non-stop movement. Simply put the chance of a lifetime to travel across the country with an amazing group of students and adults with many shared interests.
This was my first ‘pleasure’ trip to NYC so my goggles were a bit marred and extremely delighted to learn a number of things.
While it is significantly larger than my native city of San Francisco and public transit (taxi’s, buses, subways) are utilized even more - the vibe is very similar. I did not find it intimidating and oddly enough felt right at home.
I love the hustle and bustle of city streets. The ‘busy-ness’ and purpose people seem to possess as they navigate the city streets, it’s exhilarating.
Matter of fact, I enjoyed myself so much I actually sent an e-mail to Mayor Bloomberg. Yes, I know people probably don’t do this anymore. After all the mayor is not what makes a city great, but they are the first we turn to when things go belly up. Since I did not have the energy and determination to individually e-mail each and every one of our stops, this seemed the best route.
While on this trip, I experienced a number of eye opening experiences as a parent and a tourist.
Admittedly, I counted down the days prior to leaving. The excitement of traveling to the East Coast, coupled with not cutting someone else’s food, only worrying about what I would wear each day and not answering incessant questions on random things non-stop - had me giddy.
My children turn five and eight this week, so chaperoning a group of teens from the drama department seemed like a walk in the park. One problem and epic fail on my part, I had forgotten (from my teen years) that teens know everything, are intimidated by nothing and find adults to be plain and simply … boring.
All kidding aside and minus a few hiccups, all 40 of them were amazing and enjoyed themselves. While I’m fairly certain many of them still hear me barking ‘Share the stairs’ (as they headed to or from the subway) in their sleep, all in all it was a fantastic trip.
The sharing of public space was just one of my many eye opening moments during our time in the city. As a ‘city’ kid we are trained, conditioned, just raised to keep to the right. ‘Keep to the right’ of an escalator, staircase, sidewalk anything.
It keeps foot traffic flowing and it’s honestly something I have taken for granted my whole life until this NYC trip.
It was not until the last day, as our tour guide shared this wisdom with our group that the proverbial light went off in my head. We are from a town that rarely finds large groups of people on the sidewalk at any given time. Many of these kids probably only use the sidewalk to travel from car to school, or car to restaurant, soccer practice … well, you get the picture.
Not only that, but where in town do we have stairs that would ever prepare them for my ‘Share the Stairs’ craziness?
So, I was clueless and they were tolerant. It’s just that simple, but a valuable lesson for both all the same.
We covered a lot of ground in the five short days we were there (see story, photos on Page B1) and during that time I made a few simple observations worth sharing.
The ocean does not have the same familiar smell as the bay in San Francisco. There is no ‘fishy-ness’ lingering in the air as you get close to or float on the water. This could be partially do to the humidity or something more scientific, but interesting nonetheless.
The city as a whole has a variety of smells, some more pungent than others. Oddly as a whole the streets are remarkably clean, but the smell reminds you of what is below.
The people of New York City are not rude. They are direct, fast paced and conducting business. For some this might be construed as ‘rude,’ personally I found it refreshing. It seems to be the one place left on the map where ‘fast food’ is still ‘fast.’
‘Dressing for the theatre’ is an antiquated notion, when you have theatre houses in more abundance than movie theatres.
This is not disrespect for the theatre, but rather an acceptance of its normality.
Not all taxi drivers are rude or pushy. While we did not ride in the much famous ‘Cash Cab,’ we did ride eight blocks with a great cabbie. He was a proud dad, once in the jewelry business, now driving a cab to put his kids through school. He hated his job, but was very kind.
As for the ‘City that Never Sleeps,’ it does. Especially during the week, when foot traffic is slow and it doesn’t pay to keep the doors open. Businesses close earlier than what may be posted. It’s just smart business.
As for my most fond memory: it would have to be, hands down, Ground Zero. It saddened me that many of our kids did not grasp the gravity of where we were. They were in kindergarten on that fateful day in September 2001, how could they know?
I shared with a few of them, that the events of that day changed life as we know it … forever. It was an innocent day that took a tragic turn all in one instance, much like the day we were there.
Standing on that sidewalk, looking to where the towers stood brought tears. Hearing Todd Beamer’s voice (an acquaintance of a mutual friend) as he tried to reach his wife while he was aboard United Airlines Flight 93. Phone calls from my friends and family checking on the whereabouts of my children’s father who had just left for Japan (with the United States Navy). That day he called to say he was fine, but would not be in touch for a while. ‘Things were changing.’… And they did.
But the City, she is a strong resilient place. A place many continue to flock in pursuit of dreams, jobs or just enjoyment. As a passer by who found such enjoyment, I am grateful for the opportunity.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.