‘You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.’
Even though I’ve lived in New York longer than I have existed anywhere else, I am often mistaken for a tourist. (Maybe it’s my ‘Honest Face’.)
I can be swathed in head-to-toe black, topped off with the intimidating authentic motorcycle jacket I bought at the intimidating authentic motorcycle shop in L.A., and still get asked if I’m enjoying my stay.
Once when I had a freelance gig at Ogilvy, which was then located in Midtown West, I swear I got asked every single day on my way to work if I wanted to ride one of those double-decker tourist buses in Times Square. And it was the same guy who asked me, too. When the gig ended, I kind of missed him.
This stuff happens even when I’m wearing my fiercest no-nonsense ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ face. I’m often asked by real tourists/visitors about this face — why it is that New Yorkers all look so, well, unfriendly. ‘I asked this lady for directions today, and she was really nice!‘ they’ll say with great surprise.
Well. Think about it. In other cities, people get to hide in their cars. Here, when we commute, we’re out there on the street. We’re thinking about what to say in the meeting, or what to fix for supper, or why the heck our husbands didn’t kiss us good-bye. So, naturally, our faces say we don’t want to be messed with. When actually we’re all just big softies underneath. Well, um, maybe not all of us. And maybe not softies.
Before I get carried away, here’s another example (among many, trust me) of my being mistaken for a Visitor From The Hinterland. On this particular occasion, I was walking home from Midtown when a young man came up to me on the corner of Park and 57th. ‘Miss,’ he said, using a pitiful tone of voice. ‘I’m trying to get home to Illinois, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’
Well. I adjusted my don’t-mess-with-me face, and strode on. Fast forward to the next day. Same corner, same young man, same pitiful tone. ‘Miss, I’m trying to get home to Indiana, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’
Me: ‘I thought you lived in Illinois.’
One more thing. I may look like a tourist, but I know how to talk like a New Yorker. It’s something I picked up, oh, about a week after I moved here. You take any normal, benign sentence, like ‘Do you want to have lunch?’, and stick a ‘so’ on the front and an ‘or what?‘ on the end: ‘So, do you want to have lunch, or what?‘
See? It’s fun. Go ahead and try it. Any sentence. ‘Is your boyfriend coming over?’ becomes ‘So, is your boyfriend coming over, or what?‘ ‘Do you like avocados?’ becomes ‘So, do you like avocados, or what?‘
I could do this all day. But it’s time to get a wiggle on. Now where did I put my don’t-mess-with-me face?
New York City. April 2016
37 thoughts on “The Accidental Tourist”
And I thought “so…..” was a millennial thing ???
True. But the ‘or what?’ on the end is the New Yorker clincher. Go ahead; try any sentence. Soon you’ll be slapping taxi hoods like Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy (!)
I love that when I go to India there are some that can tell by my punjabi that I am in fact a tourist!!!! But I can look the part!!!
Hahahaha!!! Glad to hear you too can be an Accidental Tourist, Ritu. Comes in handy sometimes xoxo
It does indeed lol!!!
I have this too!
I think I have one of those country bumpkin faces. People are always happy to approach me for money or chats. I’ve lived in London for longer than my tiny village now, but I still feel like a countryside girl.
Love that this happens in London too (tho not surprised). All I can say is that I’m actually quite pleased to be mistaken for a yokel (instead of a local) — except, of course, when I’m approached for $$$ (!)
When I interned there I was so pleased to find New Yorkers weren’t the jerks all my Midwest friends (who had never visited NYC) told me they were. Love NYC!
So glad you had a positive experience! Maybe New Yorkers are so un-jerklike because a great many of us are from the Midwest (!)
Exactly! And btw, the 2 times tourists asked me directions when I lived there, I felt as if I had graduated and was accepted!
Please tell me you still have the motorcycle jacket!! I also want you to know, I literally said out loud, “Soooo, do you like avocados, or what?” The cat had no reply, just looked at me with his New Yorker face. 😉
Oh yes! I will never ever rid myself of the motorcycle jacket (!) And yes, I’d forgotten that, actually, all cats are Born New Yorkers (!) xoxo
Love the semi-meanacing …or what
So, are you going to start using it, or what?
When I’m a tourist in another state, and I say I’m from Detroit, I always see the same look of shock and concern, mixed with awe, as the person asks, “Isn’t it dangerous there?
Or, if I’m in NY, “So, is it dangerous there, or what?
Hahahahaha!!! Yup. You got that right! Then do you put on your ‘don’t mess with me’ face? xoxoxo
No, I smile sweetly and try to be Detroit’s ambassador of not-dangerous.
I have seen that face though. Everyone on the subway wears it. They stare straight ahead with their face on and pretend they don’t see all the craziness going on around them. Learned survival I suppose. Meanwhile I’m looking all around and enjoying the cheap entertainment.
Love this post. Love your witty style of writing. Never been to the States but feel I am missing out. On my US bucket list is to shop in Walmart – sigh!
Hahahaha!!! Actually, when I used to go back home to the Midwest to visit my parents, someone would invariably ask “who wants to go on a Walmart run?” The Walmart in my small town had, basically, taken the place of Main Street — my Mom would run into all her friends there. Hmmm…I feel a blog post coming on (!) Thanks for the comment, and for the idea, Lucy! Oh, BTW, if you come to the States, remember that there are no Walmarts in NYC (!)
Haha love this! Living in Orlando I get this all the time!
So there’s a Floridian Version of the Accidental Tourist?!? How funny! (Thanks for stopping by!)
So, is this a funny post, or what? That’s funny to be mistaken for a tourist in the city you live in. That’s like someone in Wal-Mart confusing you for an employee and asking you where the garden section is.
Hah! I love that about being mistaken for a Walmart employee. Hasn’t happened to me — yet! As always, thanks ever so for your readership!
I lost touch for a little while and while I reading some of my older posts I came across a few of your comments and thought “I need to get back there!” 🙂
I hear you. Same thing goes for me! ?
I only visited America as a child and would love to go back. I will remember that I may need a ‘don’t mess with me’ face for some parts! I guess its the same in some parts of UK too.
Hi Amanda! Thanks for taking a ‘tour’ to my site. You are right about some parts of the US needing a ‘don’t mess with me’ face. But if you venture into the Heartland, where I am from, you can definitely let down your guard. Happy travels, and thanks for stopping by. xoxo
Very good. I even miss NY reading this.
Thank you, Mark. And NY misses YOU
We are always surprised and pleased to find out someone was actually born and raised in Arizona. When I did visit New York I did have to put on a don’t mess with me face, especially in Grand Central Station. Enjoyed this immensely, Alice.
Thank you ever so, Miss Arizona (!) I’d love to see your don’t-mess-with-me face. Sometimes I walk through Grand Central Station just so I can use mine. xoxo
So, do you want to be my Vice President, or what?
I’m thinking I’ll go for the ‘or what?’ on that one, Mr. Trump (!)
I often hear “Say, you’re not from around here are you?” And when I go home my children say, “Mom, you can’t act like you are still in NYC!” You can’t win!
Ah! Nothing like being a ‘tourist’ wherever you go! (I think you win, Cathy) xoxo
From one Midwest expatriate to another, I say that at this point You might as well wear it as a badge.
Ah, I knew I liked you, Bruce. Now I know why (!) And yes, by this time I have indeed embraced my Inner (and Outer) Midwesterner.