Getting Lost in New York City

So you know I’m terrible at directions.

I literally don’t know how to tell this story without seeming completely dumb. Guys, I’m college educated. Well, I was in high school during this specific incident. And we all know how clueless high schoolers are, right? I was also somehow delusional because I had spent time ABROAD on my own (Israel, living on a kibbutz) so I was like, yeah I can get around New York City by myself.

Hint: I could not.

At this point in my life, I was in 11th grade and living in Monsey, which is, as I remember, the worst part of New York full of too many Ultra-Orthodox Jews. God, they had SEPARATE SIDEWALKS for Men and Women in one neighborhood. If they had sidewalks. For some reason there were no sidewalks for a lot of the neighborhood, which is weird for how much walking Jews have to do on holidays and Shabbat.

Anyway. After taking this fun bus from Monsey to Midtown (which had a mechitza, or separation, down the middle between men and women), I was like, sure I can take the bus back to Monsey. It’s on this street. Right near Penn Station. Did I write down the street? Did I pay attention to the exact place where the stop was?

No, guys, I said before, I was a high schooler who was overconfident with her navigational skills.

So, I was free to wander around what New Yorkers call “the greatest city in the world” and what everyone else calls “the city that perpetually smells like pee.” Exhilarating!

I still am in awe of how tall the buildings are there. Like, they’re so tall! It’s so crazy!

Anyway, guys, this was in 2005 when smart phones didn’t exist. I didn’t get a map. Do you think I can read a FREAKING MAP? One time actually my friend kindly tried to help me read a map. It kinda reminded me of that optimism I have with a student who has wholly given up. Who knows, maybe we both learned something that day. Except learning how to read a map.

Anyway, I know that New Yorkers are hella scary because they’re like, always in a rush, but also you can find one of them who is like, helpful and won’t steal your wallet. (This is what they teach us in Denver about The Big City). So I’m like, somewhere in Midtown, and a block away from Penn Station. And I want to do touristy things!

I catch the attention of some poor New Yorker (or maybe not, who knows where they were from) who will then get the most confusing question of their lives. I remember nothing about them. Being observant is not a strong suit I have, which is probably why I’m so bad at directions. Like, legit, if I just read a sign and thought about it, I’m sure I can figure it out.

Anyway, so this nice person stops on the street and I go, “Which direction is the Eiffel Tower?”

Yup. Okay, obviously I forgot the name of The Empire State Building. But like, they both started with an E.

Anyway, the response was the person looking thoroughly confused and walking away.

Which was about the time I was gripped with unrelenting panic and realization. Which is, if I may say so, what most of my teenage years were like.

I don’t recall if I figured out where I wanted to go that day. But I do remember at the end of the day walking around Penn Station desperately trying to find someone who knew where that stupid bus back to Monsey was. Which I never found. I took another bus instead. Turns out there’s a bunch of those in NYC.

English teacher by trade, story writer for fun