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Opinion

Midwest girl slowly becoming New York woman

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March 14, 2013

I can feel it in my bones. A change in how I feel about New York. I think my tourist phase is almost over.

I think I am becoming a New Yorker. Maybe. A true New Yorker would probably scoff at me before pushing past to successfully swipe his or her MetroCard correctly the first time.
Last weekend I really noticed a familiarity with the city that I have not previously felt. Maybe these little things I have noticed are trivial and silly, but when I compare myself to who I was seven weeks ago to who I am right now, I can not help but feel amazed.

For example: public transportation. I am from a suburb of St. Paul, so I never had a reason to take any form of public transportation. I never even took a bus to school after kindergarten. Whenever my family traveled, we rented a car, so my experience with taxis was limited as well.

The very first day I arrived in New York, I took a taxi and thought I was going to be sick. The driver drove way too fast, weaving in and out of traffic, demanding I tell him where he needed to go. All I had was an address.

He asked me why I was going to Queens College and I told him it was both my first time traveling by myself, and being in New York. He mellowed out after that and made sure I got my bags inside my apartment building before taking off.

The day after that, I used the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the first time, alone. I got on several wrong buses and watched every street and stop to make sure I would not mess up. I was constantly connected to my HopStop app, a GPS for public transportation.

Now, I hop on and off buses and trains without a single glance. I no longer use HopStop and I do not watch the stops go by. I remember watching other passengers seemingly just know when their stops arrived and I was incredulous. I was convinced I would never become comfortable with public transportation, but now I dread coming back to the Midwest and needing to drive everywhere, although buying groceries will be infinitely more convenient and less exhausting.

I also feel more comfortable with walking in Manhattan. If you do not know, there are five boroughs in New York City: Staten Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. I live in Queens (as in “King of Queens” and “The Nanny”) and Manhattan is the borough most people think of when they think New York City.

Every borough is split into neighborhoods, which are like little towns in their own rights. For example, I live in Flushing in Queens, the characters of “Gossip Girl” lived in the Upper East Side in Manhattan and the characters of “Friends” lived in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Each neighborhood is characteristically different and offers a different flavor or experience. Confused yet?

It has taken me this long to understand where each neighborhood is located, at least in Queens and Manhattan. Brooklyn is an animal I have yet to properly familiarize myself with and I have not even been to the Bronx or Staten Island.

Last weekend I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Chinatown, and I was completely able to navigate myself around, almost completely without maps. I know what trains run where and I can remember the street names of where I need to go. That is another thing I never learned in the Midwest. When navigating in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I feel like I always just used landmarks to tell people where to go, or I used my GPS to guide me. That’s not good enough in New York City.

I am not cynical about New York City. I was afraid I would get bored or too comfortable here, but I still act like a tourist whenever I see the Empire State Building lit up at night (which is every night because I can see it from my apartment building) or whenever we accidentally stumble into Times Square (which is probably the biggest tourist trap in America). I take pictures of buildings and taxis and designer clothes, and I cry at museums when I see a particularly important piece of art.

I hope I stay that way. However, I am learning to love New York City as someone who lives here. I gripe about the crowded trains after work hours and I get impatient with slow-moving pedestrians. There is one habit I’ve picked up here that truly shows assimilation, and I’m ashamed of it.

I say soda instead of pop. The horror, I know.

Amanda White is a junior majoring in journalism. She appreciates good books, good style, and good conversation.