Spring has finally sprung in New York. Rip off the roof and stay in bed!
Yes, I know that the first day of spring was technically on March 20th, but it has been unseasonably cool in the Big Apple until earlier this week when the temperature actually hit the high 70s. Sure, it’s back to the 50s this weekend, but whatever.
The warm weather brings smiles to the faces of the most jaded New Yorkers. It also brings the tourists. They’re easy to spot as they walk around the streets of Manhattan in capri pants and really white sneakers (and that’s just the men) gazing up at the tall buildings and filling the air with a UN assembly’s worth of accents and languages. Although I have been known to get annoyed from time to time at the throngs of visitors who take over my urban island this time of year, I must admit that I secretly love tourists. I appreciate anyone who wants to come to New York City to explore the sights. And since I’m an avid traveler myself (I just got back from Dubai and Istanbul), I like to follow the “do unto others” philosophy, as I always appreciate being treated well by the natives of the lands I visit.
I live near The Dakota, the iconic residential building in Manhattan’s upper west side outside of which John Lennon was shot 33 years ago. Double decker tour buses line up outside the building, sending hoards of visitors to check it out along with Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic which are located across the street in Central Park. And my office building is at the top end of Times Square and there’s actually a Broadway Theater in the ground floor. (Current production: Cinderella.) I can’t sneak out for a Chipotle burrito bowl without weaving through hundreds of excited folks finding their way to the Museum of Modern Art or queuing up for discount theater tickets at TKTS.
I don’t know if it’s because of my corn-fed midwestern roots or if it’s because I don’t shy away from making eye contact with strangers, but I am one of those people who gets stopped a lot by out-of-towners who are looking for directions. I take it upon myself to be a one-man welcome wagon on behalf of my fair city. In fact, I carry around a laminated multi-fold Streetwise Manhattan map in my man-bag at all times. If someone asks me for directions, I whip out the map, show them where to go, then give them the map as a friendly gesture. (Then I immediately buy another map so I can give it to the next person who asks.) My hope is that they’ll go back to Duluth or Dublin or wherever they’re from and tell their friends how helpful and friendly New Yorkers are.
Seeing all these folks navigating NYC for the first time makes me think of the many movies in which the main characters do that very thing. The humor stems from the “fish out of water” — who aren’t used to the wacky ways of Gotham — getting into mischief at various iconic landmarks. Hilarity ensues. Here are just a few examples, most of which are, curiously, from the 1980s:
Fish out of water: Joshua (Tom Hanks)
Key New York landmark: FAO Schwarz
Big Business (1988)
Fish out of water: Sadie and Rose (Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin)
Key New York landmark: The Plaza Hotel
Coming to America (1988)
Fish out of water: Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy)
Key New York landmark: Madison Square Garden
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Fish out of water: Mick (Paul Hogan)
Key New York landmark: Columbus Circle Subway Platform
Fish out of water: Giselle (Amy Adams)
Key New York landmark: Times Square
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Fish out of water: Kevin (Macaulay Culkin)
Key New York landmark: Central Park
The Out-of-Towners (1999)
Fish out of water: Henry and Nancy (Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn)
Key New York landmark: Grand Central Station
Fish out of water (literally): Madison (Daryl Hannah)
Key New York landmark: Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
You get the idea.
The next time you see a tourist struggling with getting around your home town, think of these movies and lend a hand. Hopefully they’ll go home and sing the praises of your friendliness.
Coming to America