I attribute much of my professional and personal success to the fact that I’m a native New Yorker. No other breed of human being could perpetually live in a state of being on the brink of a nervous breakdown while still accomplishing six things at the same time. Tell a person from Iowa he has a presentation meeting at 10am, then, only a half hour later, another one fifteen blocks away, and see if he makes it. New Yorkers don’t even look at you funny in that situation. They think “Great! I’ll have time to grab a fifth cup of coffee before my 10:30!” Is this a healthy way to live? Absolutely not. Keep this in mind the next time our zoo accidentally loses a poisonous cobra, or the G train stops running entirely because we flat-out forgot about it, and in response, we just shrug and grab more coffee.
Now we’re full-on into “Springtime For New York City” mode, my third favorite time of year after the “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” holiday period, and “All The Assholes Are In the Hamptons For The Next Three Weeks So We Can Actually Get a Table At Balthazaar!” season. But, with the city’s perfect temperatures and myriad of exceptional cultural offerings come something else — the greatest threat to the average New Yorker’s well-being: tourists. (Also, cicadas, but I haven’t figured out a strategy for dealing with them that goes beyond flailing my arms and screaming “AHHHHH!!! GET AWAY!!! GET AWAY!!!!”)
Listen, tourists, we love you. We honestly do. We love showing you exactly why this is the greatest city in the world and wherever you come from absolutely sucks in comparison. We love how you gawk at us from double-decker buses and take our pictures as if we’re exceptionally good-looking safari animals. And most of all, we love your money, and encourage you to spend as much of it here as you can. Hell, whenever you’re back at home and feel wistful of your epic week in New York City, just mail us checks and fall asleep knowing that you’re keeping the magic you left behind alive.
So why the animosity? You see, in order to make enough money to survive, we New Yorkers need to conduct our lives at a speed that would kill most human beings; our city needs to run like a well oiled machine. When tourists who don’t operate at this speed throw themselves into the middle of the machine, they fuck the entire thing up for everybody. People miss their trains or can’t catch a cab; they’re late for meetings or don’t get home in time to kiss their kids goodnight. If you have ever just stopped short in the middle of a sidewalk to check a map only to find yourself mysteriously punched in the back of the head, this is why. And yes, you deserved it.
In my 32 years of living here, I’ve accumulated what must be a million solid tips for anyone visiting New York City. Don’t eat in Times Square is one of them. In fact, try to skip everything in Times Square entirely. There are no Italians in Little Italy anymore, so you shouldn’t go down there expecting to see any (and you probably should never go up to anyone and ask “Where does the mafia hang out?”). Meat from a halal street cart will most likely cause you to crap yourself, but it’s totally worth it, so save this for your last day. Still, there is one tip that I will single out as the Golden Rule of New York City. If they posted this up at the airport, it would pretty much solve every problem we have with tourists — outside of fanny packs.
The rules of the road from wherever you live are exactly the same as the rules of the sidewalk here.
Picture each sidewalk as a two-way highway. Somewhere to be, and quick? Stay in the center lane and keep moving. Have a big group? Move single file and tailgate each other. See something interesting you’d like to check out? Pull the fuck over to the right and get out of my way, because if you stop short in the middle of the street, I swear to God I WILL steamroll your ass and leave you bleeding on the pavement of Bleecker Street, clutching your crumpled Fodor’s guide and muttering “But all I wanted was to see Chobani Soho!”
If you’re lost or have a question, use the same law to find someone who will actually help. Look to the sides of the sidewalk, where there are people who are walking at a slower pace, enjoying the day, in no rush to be anywhere just yet. See someone gunning it down the lane holding a briefcase and looking at their phone? Do not attempt to stop this person and ask them stupid questions. If you were at the NASCAR whatever-they-call-it and needed to pee, would you jump on the track to ask one of the drivers where the restroom was? Or would you ask the guy who’s walking around selling squirrel jerky?
Following this one simple rule will not only keep you safe and spit-free, but can also open you up to tons of insider information that New Yorkers just love to give to people who are nice to them. Like how you can see the original Winnie-the-Pooh in the public library and you don’t have to pay. Or how the best pizza isn’t at Grimaldi’s, but actually at Totonno’s in Coney Island. Or how you should take off your fanny pack immediately, because the sight of it makes us want to rip it off of you and burn it. Your pants have pockets. Use those.