Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Today seems like an appropriate day to review my two visits to New York, and compare and contrast.

Interestingly, both visits were made in the company of my best friend, sometimes known as Muppy.

The two visits, 14 years apart, had in common a ride on the carousel in Central Park, and a visit to Tavern on the Green, although on the first trip, we only had coffee, because we were very, very poor, and on the second visit, we splurged and had lunch.

On the first visit, in 1989, the city seemed proud of being designated the attitude capital of the world. The hotel desk clerks, taxi drivers and airline agents seemed to be the only exceptions, and I expect their job descriptions included not getting snarky with the customers. I have a vague memory of a public relations campaign going on with the taxi drivers, in which the phrase "May I help you?" figured prominently.  But other than that, people were generally rude and mouthy, and unrepentant.

And on the ride into the city from the Newark airport, the twin towers dominated the skyline.

Fast forward to 2003, and a similar ride from the same airport. On that July day, 9/11 became fully real to me when I saw with my own eyes the gap in the skyline.

We made an early start the next morning, and the first thing on our agenda was, of course, the pilgrimage down to Ground Zero. I think we had a printed Google map and not much else. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but we wound up going into a hotel, not our own, via the rear entrance, and we must have looked mystified, because the nice uniformed man at the podium (bellman? concierge?) immediately took us in hand, although we had not gotten to the point of asking for help. He gave us a map, pointed out the location of the nearest subway station, told us what stop to get off at, and then gave us his card, saying, "If you get lost, call me."

And we weren't even guests at his hotel; we came in off the street, and he saw us come in off the street.

After that, I can't even tell you how many times we had only to pop out of a subway station and look around, trying to get our bearings, before someone would approach us, within seconds, and ask if we needed help finding our way.

Even the street vendors accosting the tourists and hawking their swag in the blocks surrounding the big hole in the ground, although they were just as aggressive, somehow were much nicer about taking "no" for an answer.

What a difference 14 years makes.


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