Thursday, December 31, 2009

A City Wrested

From Thanksgiving Day to January 1st residents of New York City have their city taken away from them. A glut of tourists floods the streets, sidewalks, restaurants, and stores. The already pervasive congestion swells and pushes the patience and sanity of an already impatient and insane population to its breaking point. As anyone who has lived in a city like Washington, D.C., or Venice, Italy, will tell you, few things are more irritating than strangers meandering through your city listless and disoriented. Strangers who stop without warning in the middle of the sidewalk or street to snap a picture of a trash can, homeless person, or street sign with their cell phone. As a resident of New York, you realize there is nothing you can do about it. It is an inevitable spoonful of horrid tasting medicine you must simply shut up about, close your eyes, and swallow. There are simply too many strangers, and (even if you were not already late for something) you simply don’t have time to yell at all of them.

You also realize that the city you live in is utterly dependant on these strangers in some ways. They help keep the doors of the market you buy your lunch in every day open by purchasing food there to take to the park or back to their hotel room. They buy single ride subway tickets at a higher price which keeps the price of your monthly pass down. Simply their desire to visit your city gives it a cache few others share. You come to accept the fact that your city becomes the backdrop to countless photo ops. You accept that the buildings of Rockefeller Center become a Christmas tree stand and outdoor living room to hundreds of thousands of people you don’t know. Yet, you yearn for the quaintness and intimacy of Minneapolis’ Holidazzle Parade or the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

That said, you could not care less that literally a million people crowd into Times Square, stand for hours in the cold, and are sequestered between police barricades to watch a glass ball drop 77 feet. You like that. Perhaps it is because as a resident you don’t inhabit Times Square, ever. Perhaps it is because the amusement factor you get in contemplating what could ever make a person want to do such a thing far outweighs the frustration factor you feel when those same tourists impede on your everyday life. Ultimately, though, it is because you know that when the sun rises hours after that ball drops you will have your city back.

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