A Frosted Smiley Face


You would think that 25 hours of travel would take it out of you and drive you mental but surprisingly it was manageable. By the end of the ordeal I found I was a tad restless but I’ve struggled more in a car ride. Whether it was due to a lack of crying children or becoming a slightly seasoned traveller, I’m just glad I didn’t have a breakdown. Upon landing all I could think of is how bad you can smell after sitting and not showering for a day straight. Maybe that’s just me but I smelt like a city dumpster. As we exit the plane I shuffle along quite stiff, consciously hugging my arms to my torso attempting to imprison the stench. As I approach US customs I become increasingly anxious, aware of the horror stories from US borders. As a US citizen I feel there shouldn’t be a problem but a country as paranoid as America you never know. But as expected I pass through without a hassle and even get a pleasant greeting and a welcome home. I grab my trusty blue backpack from the carousel and hoist it out of there. I approach the sky train that will take me into the city and quickly disembowel my bag hunting for a jacket. It always feels strange to board a plane in shorts, go to sleep, and then suddenly need to wear your entire wardrobe. Now wearing two jackets I board the train and make my way towards my hostel. The first thing I begin noticing is how few Americans I’ve encountered. The plane, airport, and now this train exclusively occupied by multitudes of races, languages, and cultures. Wandering the city has only further proven that thought. For a country as xenophobic and intolerant as the US, New York is still a melting pot of culture making an extremely exciting city to travel. I make my way to the hostel. Once I’ve arrive I toss my bag into my room, ask a few questions, and impatiently take off as soon as I can to explore. I decide to head off into Manhattan first to attempt to get a SIM which before the night’s end, thought this would be a complete failure, mainly due to a very small attention span. The city is bustling as expected but there is a sparkle of humanity in it I didn’t expect. Unlike movies not everyone is a programmed robot but rather just people smiling, wandering, socialising and going about their days. The subways aren’t filled with unobservant self absorbed citizens but quite pleasant passengers and of course the occasional loony who mimes obscenities and mutters of a corrupt society in a jack in the box. Lunatics aside though I was surprisingly shocked by how welcoming New York was. It is very working class and grim however but not to the point one doesn’t feel welcome. I quickly wandered into Time Square, by pure accident, suddenly blinded by TV screens and bright billboards forced to look at the ground as I walk. Everyone walking in every direction with such purpose I feel as though I can’t stand still for even a moment. On the way back I begin to relax as the night draws close, people heading home, and the never sleeping New York begins to settle down. As I enjoy becoming more and more lost, as I do, I am met by the most pleasant and unexpected sight. Being constantly worried of the rude, unwelcoming and dirty NYC that media constantly feeds you I observe a Police Cruiser casually drive by. At first it’s nothing of interest as there are two on every city block. But then it catches my eye. The passenger restrained in the back seat. He’s an obscenely large man of a brutish physicality with a beard to match. He smiles at me as he raises his handcuffed hands and draws a smiley face on the frosted window of the car. Then as he and his art begin to pass, he waves a heartfelt goodbye. The scene I feel symbolised my first impression of New York after all I’ve heard. While media sees New York as crude, filthy and rough I feel it’s more about the attitude you have. Even while on escort to the police station this behemoth of a man is positive and friendly not at all what he appears to be. New York is no more than a frosted smiley face on the back of a police car. That man unbeknownst to him changed my view of New York quite significantly. Less than 24 hours and I’ve already made my first friend, I’d say it’s going well.


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