The Grown-up World

on 15 October 2009

The last time I was in New York I was much younger. Still an adult (in my early 20s) but not quite an adult...you know. Still reliant on my sister to get us around, content to go where she decided and to see what she deemed necessary. Before that I had been when I was 17 and I was with my parents and my older sister and her family. So I have never really been to New York in a situation where I had to make the decisions and get myself around town.

It was weird.

The other element to this comparative exercise is that both of those earlier visits were pre-9/11. The are glossed over with a golden light. In truth, I remember very little. I know that on the first visit the World Cup was being held there and the hockey team...not the Knicks, or the Jets or the Yankees or the Mets the other ones...the RANGERS! (and yes, I had to ask Chris what their name was...) had just won the Stanely Cup. I remember this because there was a ticker-take parade and I had never seen anything like it. I remember Jeff got us all sandwiches from Carnegie Deli that were so big they wouldn't fit in your mouth...I remember the statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But that's it. I think maybe we took the subway. I can't remember if we walked all over, I don't remember shopping or anything specific. After that, in my 20s I remember the Natural History museum. They were having an exhibit on Native North Americans and it was very good. But again, I don't really remember anything else, other than being with my sister. I never felt indecisive, I never looked at a map, I never felt unsure or nervous about anything.

Now? Well, it's just different when you're the grown-up. And well, we live in a different world now.

Now there are mandatory bag checks in almost all public places. There are metal detectors almost everywhere. There are police and mean looking security gaurds everywhere. And no one, NO ONE questions any of this. No one feels like it's an imposition, people wait patiently in the long security lines, people happily strip off shoes, belts, scarves, hats, bags, headphones, and empty pockets every where you go. It's this extraordinary apathy, this acceptance that this is simply the world in which we live now. What is depressing is that no one seems to remember that other time. That time before when we could just walk in to a building, when security gaurds smiled and a woman could carry tampons in her bag without everyone else visiting a building knowing about it.

The planning part was puzzling but also fun. Chris would get up and get dressed for the conference and I lounged in bed with my guidebook and my map and plotted my day based on the sights I wanted to see and the routes I would take to get there. Up and dressed. Game face on. Long strides and a quick pace. Act like you know what you're doing and no one will question you.

Except to ask you for directions, which I got on my second day there. I smiled and told the woman exactly how to get to where she was headed.

The difficulty factor was raised by trying to mesh my agenda with Chris' and our determination to spend time together. And then there are the limitations of certain museums or sights. The Ukrainian museum was only open 1-5pm Wednesday through Saturday, and since Chris wasn't interested in seeing it, it was quickly axed. Ground Zero and the Jewish Heritage museum were sort of in the same area so I saw the museum and Chris met me at Ground Zero. Ellis Island would take the most time so we went the first day before the conference started. And then there was the pull of the group and the need to network...which, when it wasn't actively complicating things, it was making us feel twinges of guilt for NOT being with the group.

Friday, the only day I got lost, I was bemoaning the loss of my youth and the blessing of having a wonderful and smart older sister to tell me where to go and what to do and how to get there and don't be DUMB. But once I found my feet again, I realized that while it has it's own difficulty, it's still better to be the adult and be free to go and to do and to decide than otherwise.

I wish I could say the same for the world in which we live. I wish I could say that I think we're in a better place, a safer place now than we once were, but...I can't help feeling that something good has gone.

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