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The Marker Of A Resident
You want people to think you’ve been here a long time, like they have. You want them to think you know how to say all the street names, and which transfer to take to get to Union Square, and where to find the real local-cheap-authentic slice of pizza. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
To start, take a neighborhood walk. Wear a neutral, casually cool outfit that’s appropriate for the weather. Choose a destination roughly ten blocks away. Choosing a destination is crucial, so that as you’re walking, people are not made suspicious by your apparent aimlessness. Set a moderate pace for your walk, and begin by observing other people’s feet. Are they shuffling, or striding? Make small adjustments to match your surroundings. Start to observe their arms in quick glances. Are they on their phones? Waving to others? Carrying bags? Make small adjustments to match your surroundings. When comfortable, observe faces. If eye contact feels encouraged, try it with a brief smile, followed by a smooth shift in attention. It is possible that people will want to exchange words as you pass. Prepare a casual response to this handful of potential phrases: “Good morning” “How ya doin?” “Spare a dollar?” It should be noted that almost everybody who passes you is likely to initiate an exchange if on your walk you happen to be carrying a couch. Appropriate responses include: “No we’re good, thank you”, “Oh just another half a block, we’ve got it”, “Haha, yeah.”
Once you feel assimilated to walking culture, you can graduate to the subway. Choose a destination three to five miles away - that should take thirty or forty minutes. Use the internet to study your route, memorizing the walk to your nearest station, as well as the train, direction, and stop you need to get off at. Once confident in your route, don an outfit that you feel mysterious yet protected in, and embark. Wear headphones for this journey, but don’t listen to anything - you’ll want to be free of distraction in order to read signs and make swift decisions as you move through the tunnels. Stopping to get your bearings is a dead giveaway. Once settled on the train, remain very still and observe the rest of the car by turning your eyes, but not your head. Are people’s legs crossed or spread? Do they lean forward or back? Are they on their phones? Make small adjustments to match your surroundings. At each stop the train makes, look at the platform signs through the windows to determine where you are. Watching the digital board inside the train is a dead giveaway. Only move to leave after the doors have opened at your stop. Don’t worry about which exit to take, just choose the nearest staircase and ascend. Once on the street you can pretend to be texting someone you’re meeting up with while you google the remaining walking directions to your destination.
So you’re here. And you have a couch and a library card, and no return plane ticket, so that must mean you’re home. At the very least you’re a resident. Your job is observer. Your job is mime. You’re better at the second one. You know how to tell people both of the streets you live on. You sit sometimes at the park near your apartment. You know how to walk to your friend’s house.
You’re numb and you feel sad about that. But that sad isn’t actually sad - it’s numb. You miss the days when you could cry and mean it. Your joy is calm. Your happiness is matter of fact. You’re somewhere new, which is, at this point, an old feeling. You’re surprised at how familiar you find yourself. For the first time, that comforts you.
Moving was hard, or at the very least time consuming. Mondays might be the new Saturdays? Stay tuned :)