25 January 2008

In some ways I do pity tourists

I usually hate them. They are the slow walkers that I must elbow through to walk at even a normal human pace, or to get into my apartment building, or into a store. Never mind trying my usual breakneck speed on Broadway. People'd be getting whiplash left and right. There are some moments that I feel for them, a bit. Such as when they try so hard to do things that only regular New Yorkers can pull off successfully, like public transportation. Cabs, particularly. They don't know how to hail cabs. They can't tell which ones are open, and even if they could they wouldn't know how to get it to pick them up.

I walk by a couple of hotels on my work walk. There's one on Broome at the corner of Bowery where I constantly see tourists coming and going. Many seem to be European, though there are the odd Midwesterners here and there. Such as the ones I saw last night, standing on the corner, trying in vain to hail a cab. There was about eight of them, all adults. The first I noticed of them as I approached the crossing at Bowery was the bearded one with his hand out in the air yelling "Taxayyyy!". Ah, bless. He was trying so hard. But honest to god, when have you ever been in a moving car, probably with the radio on, not to mention the sounds of the road outside, and heard someone outside yelling? Where does this ever work? And the whistling? Do they get this from television? That's the only place I've ever seen it work. Why do they do this on television and mis-lead the poor tourists?

Every cab that drove by they were sure it was "the one", or "ones", rather, as they were a large group that would require splitting up. "You guys take that one", they said to each other, as if anyone was going to get into the cab with the off duty lights on, or no lights on at all. They had so much faith that each of these off duty or full cabs would stop for them, and seemed so surprised and hurt when they just kept driving by.

I wanted to help them, but knew it would never stick. In their few days in the big city they would never get that "Off Duty" lights mean that the cab is off duty, that no lights mean the cab has a fare in it, that the numbered lights mean the cab is available. How did I learn these things? Trial and error? Watching friends do it? Sometimes I feel bad when I successfully, easily hail a cab when I see someone else struggling, but then I feel like a superior, evil New Yorker. Hey, someone's gotta embody the stereotype, might as well be me.

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