Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How To Trick New Yorkers Into Interacting With You

How To Trick New Yorkers Into Interacting With You
Brent Rose

You know, it's all too well told: for being one of the world's most densely populated cities, New York is also one of the loneliest cities. It's hard to make new friends here, hard to date, but on a far more basic level, it's hard just to make contact. It's hard to get someone to look you in the eye, in fact, newcomers to the city are often instructed to avoid eye-contact for safety reasons, and it becomes ingrained.

New Yorkers are crafty, despite the way they talk, and are highly adept at avoiding basic human interaction (the kind that people in other locales may take for granted). If you want to make contact with a New Yorker, you will have to trick them. Here is a handy guide that will list several of the ways to get past the wily New Yorker's defense system.

1. Be a Hot Chick
Here's a test. If you read my introduction and found yourself thinking, "What is he talking about? It's not at all hard to get New Yorkers to interact with you!" then, congratulations, you are a Hot Chick. If you were reading that and thinking, "Yeah, I totally feel you," then you are everybody else in this world. If you are a Hot Chick, you don't need to waste your time reading this guide, unless you are interested in anthropology/sociology, because this information will be of no use to you. HC's do not have this problem that everybody else in New York has. In fact, they generally have the opposite "Would everybody just leave me the fuck alone!?" problem. HC's -- please note that you will get precious little sympathy from the rest of us poor, lonely fucks. In fact, if you're one of the HC's that's always saying things to non-HC women about the constant unwanted attention you're getting from all the men of the world, know that you are making them feel ugly, regardless of whether that's your intention (which will certainly be the subject for discussion later on when all the non-HC's get together and bitch about your passive-aggressiveness) and you need to stop. Okay, so, if you're not a Hot Chick, read on.

2. Ask For Directions

I hesitate to recommend this course of action; it will work, but there are caveats. New Yorkers, on the whole, are very forthcoming with directions. In fact, it's just about the only thing they're forthcoming with. Here's the catch: you run the risk of looking like a total idiot. They'll look at you, but it won't be the kind of look you want (unless you've gotten reeeeeally desperate). You ask, "Which way is Uptown?" in the Financial District, and you might escape with merely a look of dismissal, or perhaps sympathy. You go into a bar in Bed-Stuy and ask where the nearest Polo Ralph Lauren is, and you might just get your ass kicked. Asking someone on the subway if this train goes to so-and-so is generally safe, but you will generally be assumed to be a tourist.

3. Share an Uncommon Experience
This is most effective in enclosed spaces like subway cars or elevators. It could be anything, really. What you're hoping for is "weird without being horrible". For example: a really good (or, even better, a really bad) subway musician is a great thing to bond over, as is a cute little kid doing something cute (as cute little kids are wont to do). Examples of negative things include someone throwing up and/or defecating. If you have the impulse to say, "Wow, that guy's not getting enough fiber," you may want to squelch it. Subway conductors with indecipherable accents and/or speech impediments are a goldmine. Or the other day I was riding my bike with a bunch of other people and some moron said, "I didn't think there were so many Communists in the world." We all shared a good laugh, me and my comrades.

4. Carry Something Out of the Ordinary
While Sharing an Uncommon Experience is great, it places a heavy burden on luck. Carrying Something Strange, on the other hand, is entirely within your control. I first discovered this when I'd just got my surfboard and getting home involved multiple train rides and a brief walk down 42nd St with it tucked under my arm. Nobody would bat an eye in L.A., but in NYC surfboards are oddities. Runner up would be the bonsai tree I was given last week. I couldn't believe all the curious looks I got from people, and when I smiled, generally, they smiled back. A bouquet of flowers isn't bad, either. You must, however, pick your object carefully. A knife, gun, double-headed dildo, econo-sized tube of ointment, and/or feral badger will almost certainly garner the wrong kind of attention.

5. Other Options
Dressing like an officious geek worked extremely well for me yesterday. I was all nerded up for a show I was on my way to shoot, and these kids on the subway were giggling and saying, "You ask him… no, you ask him?" I said, "Ask me what?" They said, "Do you know if the driving age in New York is sixteen?" I said, I didn't know, because I'm from California and I'm old. I said it used to be sixteen in CA, but now I think it's eighteen. Then someone from behind tapped me on the shoulder, "You're from California? What part?" Berkeley. So then we talk about California. Then the woman next to me says, "Excuse me, my daughter is thinking about going to Berkeley…" and on and on it went. It caught me very much off-guard, especially because I really just wanted to look at my lines, but suffice to say, I will be dressing like an officious jag-off more frequently in the future. The "officious" element is key, though, I believe, because it looks like you know stuff. I don't know why.

The latter two people in the above story exercised another good principal:

6. Something In Common
This one is fraught with hazards, but it can pay off. If you see someone with a shirt that announces that they are from Buttfuck, Nowhere, and you, too, happen to be from Buttfuck, Nowhere, congratulations, this just might work. If, however, she's wearing a shirt that says "Brooklyn", and you say, "Oh wow, I live in Brooklyn," while you're on a train in Brooklyn, then you will almost certainly be labeled a Rapist. Yankees hats, likewise, are no good (in fact, Yankees hats are no good anywhere on the planet). You're missing the point. Perhaps this section could be better titled "Something Uncommon In Common". You're both eating Laffy-Taffy, and it's not Halloween. You both have the same ring-tone by The Devinyls (note: the latest hit from Young Jeezy is not going to work). Or hey, you're both albinos! Awesome! Yeah, fuck sunlight, indeed.

7. Final Thoughts
New York is a cesspool of compressed humanity. Merely existing in this place takes way more energy (and a different kind of energy) than it does to exist in other places. By seeking and being open to the unexpected connections, however, you can find small but crucial pockets of energy, like springs in the desert, and it will help you make it through the day. Give as much as you take, and you won't upset the balance. Give more, and you'll get more, then you'll be helping to correct the imbalance already in place here. So, next time somebody's beating off on the subway, turn to your fellow riders, sigh, and say, "Oh, he's going to sleep like an angel tonight."

Just don't expect the Hot Chick to laugh.

-BR 6/5/07

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