Jane and I are meeting Bill (friend) and Naveen (future husband) in the West Village. We head to the 50th Street station for either the C or E train. To hedge our best bets in boarding the next train (as they both run along the same line and stop at 14th Street), Jane stands near the stairs that lead to the lower platform for the E train. I peer down the upper track for the lights of the C train. Within minutes I hear Jane yelling, “An E is coming! Run, Desi Girl, Run!” She then races down the steps.
In my three-inch strappy copper sandals I bolt across the upper platform and charge down the stairs. My heels clank and clatter against the concrete. Jane is on the edge of the platform when the E train pulls into the station. By the time I reach her side the train has stopped, the doors open, we board, the doors immediately close and we lurch downtown. “You move fast on those short legs! I was worried you wouldn’t make it,” Jane comments and nods appreciatively. “Mind over Manhattan,” I say.
I am not really sure when it happens. But at some point you fall into rhythm with the City. You haul ass like a hurricane is coming when you see the bus or hear the subway. Because we all know if you miss the bus/train it can take 10 minutes before the next one arrives. So we drop pride like a dirty Kleenex and run like addicts jonesing for transport, darting between the elderly, jumping over puddles and sticking our hands between the closing doors.
In time you concede to over-priced housing, groceries and martinis. You recognize locals from tourists and would prefer having your eyes poked out with a plastic knife than WILLING go into Times Square EVER and especially NOT on a Saturday. You know how many paces it will take to outpace the person ahead of you. You can read a person's body language to determine if they will jaywalk, wait for the light or run across the street in the yellow. You know NOT to feed the pigeons. And you learn the left side of escalators is for walking and the right side is for standing.
You no longer notice or question why a random 500-gallon of hydrogen sits at the northeast corner of 79th Street and Lexington Avenue. You don’t fear kamikaze cabbies. You don’t expect your flight to land into LGA on time, EVER. And when it is timely, you’re mad as sin because the car service won't be there for another 30 minutes. But eventually the smell of sewer gases, urine and souvlaki become normal. While all this is happening, you don’t wonder why you left that small town you still call home.
This is what I meant when I said, if you survive the first year in Manhattan, bravo!
To be cont.