People are lost in the city all the time. In my first month living here, I’d been asked several times if this street went here or there. They’d ask because someone out there knew these answers. Those people were called New Yorkers. Not me, I was a New New Yorker which is like saying I’m visiting from Kentucky.
Ask me for directions and I was worthless. I couldn’t tell you how to reach the subway entrance, let alone what line or direction to take. Constantly, I’d be reminded that if I didn’t have a map, even to get home, I’d probably have to hunker down with the homeless.
I was so naive that when I moved to New York City I stopped a guy for directions to a bar on the Hudson River. “Which way is the river?” I asked.
As Manhattan is an island between the Hudson and East Rivers, naturally, he looked skeptical like I was joking. “Umm, which one?” He replied.
In my defense, months later, I learned the East River that borders Manhattan’s right side is actually not a river despite its name. Marine scientists know it’s really a tidal strait. So now who’s the fool?
Sometime after this misunderstanding, coincidentally, I went running across the Manhattan Bridge which crosses the East “River.” This is perfect for someone who doesn’t know his way around. The bridge is a single path for about a mile, and as it has no turns, there is no way to get lost.
I reached the end and was about to turn back when another runner approached me.
“Excuse me,” he said.
If he wanted money, I didn’t have any. If he wanted me to sign a petition, I wasn’t a resident yet. If he wanted directions, forget it. I removed my headphones, to be courteous, but knew I’d be no help.
“Is this the Manhattan Bridge?” He asked.
Anyone who lives in the city knows the two most prominent passageways between Manhattan and Brooklyn are the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. The distinctions between the two are obvious. Brooklyn Bridge is iconic stone, Manhattan Bridge is all metal. Yes, they both cross the East River, but their entrances are a mile apart. Confusing the two would be like confusing Superman for Wonder Woman.
I squinted back at him like he was playing a joke. Instead, he returned an equally confused gaze.
And then I knew he was serious.
“Yes!” I said in a thunderous voice. “This,” I hollered even louder, and turned, raising both my arms toward the bridge like Jesus blessing bread. “This is the Manhattan Bridge!”
And for that brief moment, I could have been mistaken for a real New Yorker.