“Excuse me, how do I get to the subway from here?”
As a student living in New York City, there is a moment when it all becomes real; when you realize that this city is your city; when you can answer that question; when you can give a stranger on the street directions.
We’ve all been asked the general question of “do you know where this street is?” or “where is the nearest…?” And for the first year or so in New York City, we have trouble answering it. But then there is that one stranger on the street, on that beautiful spring day, who makes you lift up your head and stop: “If you continue to head west on this street (Waverly Place), the ACE will be on your right hand side.” Then it hits you. For a whole year you have been trying to find your way in this big city, and finally you know where you are, how you got there, and that it is where you belong.
We all have different ways of remembering how to get to certain places. I know I am heading towards campus when I see Stuyvesant Square on my right hand side as I walk down Second Avenue. I know I am near the Lucille Lortel Theater when I see Fat Cat, Dunkin Donuts, and the 1 Train. I know I am heading uptown on First Avenue when I see the AMC Loews movie theater on my right. These are all places that I have encountered throughout my time in New York City that have allowed me to understand where I am and where I need to be.
Despite these personal images that we all have of the places we frequent the most, we can still give basic directions that are understandable to a tourist or stranger. As a New Yorker, we are required to know how to get certain places – even if we have never been there before. Luckily, if we cannot seem to figure it out, there are useful IPhone Apps (HopStop) and Subway Maps that can help us reconfigure ourselves in any new location and lead us to where we need to go next.
This large map, filled with several lines of different colors (blue, green orange, red, yellow, etc.) all intertwining and merging, that we see nearly every day and use as a personal guide to this huge city, allows us to orient ourselves and in some ways makes us feel safe – like there is always a way to get to where you need to go.
I remember being a freshman at NYU and asking the same questions that I hear so often on the street today. In what seems like no time at all, I have made this city my home and understand how to get where I need to go. But, there is still so much I have not encountered. When I graduate from NYU and move to a new part of New York City and work at a different theater company, I will find new places and landmarks that will help me understand where I am. But, until then, there is always the colorful map to help me find my way.