The Ying-Yang of Giving Tourists Directions in New York

This is how I describe Manhattan in 2016 — take 10 million people, give or take a million, and give half of them strollers, dogs and rolling suitcases.

I have a love/hate relationship with tourists and foreign travelers visiting New York. I love that people come far and wide to fulfill their lifelong dream of visiting. I hate the dopey tourist families from the Midwest who have no clue how a major city operates.

With that in mind, I had polar opposites interactions with tourists this past Saturday. One encounter made me feel good that I was able to help, the other I was said to myself, “What do you want from me?”

I was coming out of Stumptown Coffee in West Village because I love expensive coffee made by hipster baristas who secretly judge me getting a flat white. A young couple in broken English asked me where to find Bleaker Street. W.V. can get a little dopey in getting around since it doesn’t follow a grid pattern. I couldn’t tell where they were from, my guess was Poland, Romania or some other Easter European country.

I smiled and said, “Sure, where are looking to go on Bleeker?”

“Magnolia. We love Sex and the City.”

Awwwww. I wanted to adopt them. I gave them simple directions — left on Christopher, right on Bleecker, it will be on the right hand side. Then, I proceeded to walk them to Christopher Street to get them started. They were so happy and grateful. I didn’t want to ruin their good mood and tell them Magnolia’s cupcakes suck and it’s overrated, but hopefully I made their visit better.

Two hours later, I’m on Avenue C in Alphabet City when an older Asian couple in their 50s walk towards me with a map. “We want to go to No. 14” Not, “Hello”, not “Excuse me, kind sir.” Gotcha, I will help them.

No. 14 on the map is Canal and Lafayette near Chinatown. Gotcha. Now, it’s going to be a walk from Alphabet City. “Okay, all you have to do head south, make right on East Broadway and that turns into Canal,” I say as I point south. The man then points north. I continue to point south, but he insists on pointing north.

I take a pen out and draw on the map where we are on the map. Still, it took a few laps around idiot island to tell them where to start. At this point, I’ve offered as much help as I can. The only other thing I could do is carjack a taxi, shove them in the car and drive them to No. 14.

I leave them to start their journey, and see them go the wrong way. I should have sent them to Magnolia Bakery, but I felt I let them down. Then, I saw them go up to another complete stranger to show them the map. I guess my directions to go south can’t be trusted.

The lesson to be learned here — wear your headphones and pretend not to hear anybody.

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