How to be in New York

If you’ve never done it before, it’s time to visit New York City—the number one tourist destination in the world, according to several unreliable Internet sites. You will have fun in New York City, especially if you have lots and lots of money. Guidebooks about New York abound. They will tell you all the amazing things to see and do. But that is not enough. You also must know how to be when you’re in the Big Apple. So here is a rough guide of how to be in New York City without annoying anyone, offending anyone or accidentally joining a gang.

Let’s start with the face. In New York City, you are not allowed to smile in public. You are allowed to be happy, but don’t let any happiness shine through the expression on your face. New Yorkers have an unspoken connection in their collective depression and if you smile, you imply that your life is easy and pleasant. It will not be appreciated. Act as though every day of your life is torture. Pretend you’ve never heard music or seen a bright color. Let your chin drop and your cheeks sag. Let no soul be visible through your eyes. Even if you’ve just won the lottery, received a promotion or saw that famous person you like, when you’re in the presence of New Yorkers, set your face to somewhere along the scale of neutral to abject sadness.

Now the body. Try not to be too fat or big-boned. Space is limited in New York City. If your body is large, people will roll their eyes at you when you step on a crowded subway or walk through Times Square. To train for your vacation to New York, walk 10 miles a day for at least 6 months before your arrival. This will have the double benefit of making you less fat and also preparing you for the excessive walking you must do to make the most of your NYC trip.

OK! You have the smallest body and the most morose expression imaginable. What is next? Movements. When you’re walking through the streets, you are not permitted to swing your arms. This may seem unnatural at first. Normal people swing their arms whilst walking. However, if you swing your arms on the crowded streets of New York, you are bound to inadvertently swing your hand into a stranger’s genitals. This is frowned upon by 97 percent of New Yorkers, and you don’t want to meet the 3 percent who are into it. Pay particular attention to the no arm-swinging rule when you are ascending a staircase or escalator. During these crucial times, your errant fist may punch an old woman or child in the face and send them hurtling backwards to their deaths. Again, this is frowned upon by most New Yorkers.

Think of the pedestrian flow of traffic on New York City sidewalks as a river with a strong, angry current. When you are exiting a building to join the flow, those who are already in the current have the right of way. You must wait until a space opens up in which you may join the river. Keep in mind that you must then travel at the speed of the sidewalk. If you slow down—or worse—stop in the human river, you will drown under the disapproving glares of New Yorkers.

So, you’ve heard New Yorkers are rude, but you want to talk to one and find out for yourself? When it comes to conversation with a New Yorker, think of yourself as a child in the presence of Queen Victoria. Do not speak until you are spoken to. In the rare event that a New Yorker engages in a conversation with you, there are several things to keep in mind. It’s not polite to ask how much money they make, how much their rent is or whether they are a man or a woman. Don’t mention baseball, unless the person’s affiliation is obvious through their sartorial choices. Acceptable topics of conversation are how bad the subway service is, how hot it is (May through September), how cold it is (October through April), how rainy it is, how cute that dog is, how big that rat is, how smelly the Port Authority bus terminal is and how gross New Jersey is.

Now you know what to do with your face and your body. You know what to talk about with New Yorkers. You know how to walk at the speed of foot traffic without swinging your arms. But where are you walking? Do you know? Possibly not. But don’t let anyone in on this. If you appear to be lost, you will look lame and no one will think you are cool. Walk boldly in the direction you are facing. If you end up not where you meant to go, don’t worry. The place you ended up is where you are supposed to be now. Enjoy the view, but remember not to smile about it.

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