The Cab, The Cockroach, and The Crying Girl

According to Ted Mosby and Co, there are three things that make a person a true New Yorker. One: Steal a cab from someone who needs it more than you. Two: Cry on the subway and not give a damn what anyone thinks. Three: Kill a cockroach with your bare hands. Two weeks ago, after two years of living here, I officially achieved my New Yorker trifecta. HIMYM, Steal-a-cab, Subway-Wars 2012: Steal a Cab – We’ve all done it, maybe inadvertently — it’s hard to hail a cab in Manhattan and not accidentally steal it. But one cold winter night sometime after the nor’easter that followed Hurricane Sandy, I was in midtown on the West Side trying to get back to my downtown East Side apartment as quickly as possible. I stuck out an arm and tried to get a cab to stop for me. Yellow chariot after yellow chariot zoomed past, full of passengers basking in the warmth of heating vents. Finally, as the light at the end of the block switched to red, I spotted the lighted numbers of a vacant cab just behind the frontlines of the traffic. A group of girls (or, to use the technical term, biddies) was clustered at the middle of the block, dressed incredibly inappropriately for the weather. They seemed to have a tentative agreement with the cab driver, shaking their bangled wrists in the air as the bare legs quivered atop stiletto heels. Perhaps the weather had me in a mood, perhaps it was my distaste for biddies who dress inappropriately for the climate, but I (slightly spitefully) hustled ahead of the group to the corner by the light, stuck out my hand, and intercepted the cab before it got to them. I probably should have felt bad. However, I was warm and they were obnoxious. So my regrets were minimal. HIMYM, Cockroach, Subway-wars 2013: Kill a Cockroach – My first apartment in New York was a pre-war fifth floor walk up, and, being old, unrenovated, and not that well taken care of, as the shoeboxes of Alphabet City are wont to be, it had some bugs. Before I even moved in, one of my roommates took it upon herself to roach-proof the place. But one spring day in 2013, I trekked up the stairs to find a vile, scaly brown creature hanging out on the wall near the door to my apartment. Its antennae twitched, mocking me. Thanking the insect gods that the demon was in the hall and not my flat itself, I skirted the offensive six-legged creature and raced into the apartment. There comes a moment in everyone’s life where you learn what you are made of—lover or fighter, fight or flight. I set down my things, took a deep breath, and decided that I was a warrior, destined to take down the New York Hell Beast known as the cockroach. I re-opened the door to find the vermin still lurking, summoned all my smiting power, smacked down the roach, and drenched it in some sort of magical, roommate-provided powder to make sure my smitage had done the trick. Dead roaches tell no tales. HIMYM, Crying, Subway-Wars 2014: Cry on the Subway – It’s hard to make an impression on New York City Public Transit. With the amount of crazy shit that goes down on the MTA, the bar for “pull out your earbuds, take your nose out of your book, and acknowledge your fellow human(s)” is set pretty damn high. Some highlights from my personal subway experience include epic arguments, getting trapped in the L train during what was basically a police chase, and clutching my iPhone in euphoria as I watched Kentucky win the 2014 NCAA Regional Final against Michigan, on a buzzer beating shot, while riding the B38 bus. But until two weeks ago, I had not cried on any form of public transit. Now I am a fairly easy cryer, so the fact that this remained the missing piece of the trifecta for so long is something of a minor miracle. Then a couple weeks ago, a particularly bad day turned into a particularly bad evening. A stupid mistake on the register and an unjust chastising at work were the first straws, I hadn’t heard from any of the full-time jobs I applied for in the past month, and finally another patron shushing me at my favorite bar broke the proverbial camel’s back. As soon as I sat down on the bus, everything hit me like a giant wave of WHAT AM I DOING HERE, and I couldn’t hold it in. (I know, I know, technically Ted’s trifecta requires crying on the subway, but some of us live in Brooklyn, so I’ve decided any MTA-operated mode of transportation is legit.) It was a surreal moment, but as I looked around I realized not only did none of my fellow passengers care, but neither did I. I picked up my phone with a sort of strangled laugh, and texted Zelda to tell her what happened. Proving that we are officially on the same wavelength, she replied, “Hey I think that officially makes you a New Yorker!” (This was immediately followed by a hearty agreement that we would rather forever remain Southerners, Kentuckians, and Louisvillians. Once again, same page.)

***

While the New Yorker Trifecta does come to us courtesy of a sitcom, it makes sense to me that these are the three things that determine whether or not you are a true inhabitant of this city, a citizen rather than just another nomad passing through. The cab stealing means you have the ruthlessness to make it, while the cockroach killing means you can deal with every literal and metaphorical pest this place can throw your way. The crying I haven’t quite figured out yet. Maybe it’s a reminder that we’re all human; we’ve all got emotions, even New Yorkers. Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the level of crazy you will tolerate on public transit without giving it a second glance. Or maybe it’s a measure of the self-confidence that cause New Yorkers to be described by the rest of the world as cocky. Sure, we have feelings, every bit as mushy as the rest of the globe. But we don’t give a fuck what you think about it.

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