Saturday, March 20, 2010

10 Things Tourists Should Not Do in New York (Updated!)

Books, websites, blogs, magazines ... all manner of media wish to counsel the hapless tourist on best practices for enjoying Manhattan (okay, and Brooklyn too. Fine). But what about best practices for not gumming up the works and upsetting the locals?

Last night at dinner in one of those little places tourists rarely find (the Half King), my two friends and I started talking about the things tourists should not do in New York. The one of us who works near Chelsea Market said she can't stand the way tourists clog up that place's walkways. I usually try to help people with maps find whatever it is they're looking for, or steer them away from bad restaurants, but I kept my counsel (NY does not heart Pollyannas), and instead proposed we develop a list! A list, added my other friend, to be distributed at all major airports in the New York metropolitan area.

Somehow, our list never really grew past variations on the theme of "keep moving -- New York is about forward motion, people!" -- but I still think it's a fertile plot to till, so here we go. Oh, and, uh -- yes, I know. Tourism is big business in New York, and many thousands of locals make a beautiful dollar on our cherished visitors. Yes. I know. And when I am a tourist I hope I'll have the good sense to follow these wise rules myself.

Tourists of New York! We the locals urge the following:

1. Do not pause at the top of the subway stairs to consult your map. We are behind you and we want to keep going.

2. Do not attempt to pay your bills in Euros. True -- some places accept them, but we are not your banana republic. Not yet.

3. Do not walk four abreast down our sidewalks. You are wider than we, and you block the normal flow of traffic.

4. When on our sidewalks, kindly stay to the right. Our taxis drive on the right in this city, and we walk on the right too. We don’t think it's funny when you force us to do that stupid little right-left-right dance -- we just want you and your overstuffed satchels out of our way.

5. Gawk safely. We know you have to stop to admire our tall buildings, but please do not pause in vehicular or pedestrian traffic to do so. People may get injured. People like you.

6. Do not wait 20 minutes in line to buy an overpriced cupcake just because you saw that same twee bakery on a TV show.  The cupcake is not that good. Honest. And it'll spoil your appetite for dinner in one of our many fine restaurants.

7. When on the subway with your tourist friends, please don't yell at each other about all the stuff you did and plan to do. And definitely don't sit on facing benches and converse loudly across the car.  Notwithstanding metal on metal at jet decibel levels, we like our trains quiet, OK? (This tip courtesy of Xine.  Thanks!)

8.  There is no 8 yet. I'm not going to sit here all evening listening to "Metal Box," covered in grit from my four-hour ride around Manhattan, dreaming up more ways to complain about how tourists make things slow -- not when I know the livid city is full of xenophobes hungry to wax wroth.

So you go, New York. Tell us what to tell the tourists. Apart from "Thanks for spending your money here!" I'll add the best ones to the list and, who knows? Maybe someday, Governor Paterson will help get this useful document to the right people.

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