I took a bite out of The Big Apple a few weeks ago. As anyone who has been to New York City can confirm, the sheer number of people on the streets is astounding. Fully half of them work for tour bus companies.
My sister Lib, my kids (ages 19 and 21) and I couldn’t walk ½ a block without being accosted by a hungry cadre of tour bus pitchmen. Two guys from rival companies engaged in mortal combat. for the chance to show us the sights. When last I saw them on the corner of Broadway and 42nd St., the Gray Line guy had the City Sights guy in a chokehold I don’t think he was going to escape.
Zealous salesmen also accosted us in Chinatown, but they were pushing fashion accessories. We came up from the bowels of the subway, squinting into the bright, June sunlight. I had barely cleared the top step when the first little Chinese woman got right up in my personal space: “You want purse? We got Coach, Kate Spade, I get you real cheap. You come with me now?”
Apparently something about my trusty Mickey Mouse fanny-pack was offensive to those living in Chinatown, because by the end of the block I had been accosted by no less than 17 people promising all sorts of designer handbags at low, low prices.
I felt like I was living that scene in Airplane where Robert Stack encounters an endless stream of panhandlers in the airport. At the end he’s practically running, judo-chopping a Hare Krishna dude and gut-punching someone collecting for Jerry’s kids.
It got so my kids walked ½ a block behind Lib and me to avoid being contaminated by the Tourist Taint.
They were way too cool to carry a map. However, they didn’t want to be lost forever in the endless blocks of Chinese restaurant supply stores through which we wandered, so they texted me to find out which way to turn at upcoming corners.
The thing I don’t understand is – the bus people, the handbag people – how did they know I was a tourist? What gave me away?
A side-by-side comparison of me and Carrie Bradshaw, that iconic, albeit fictional New York sophisticate, shows we accessorize the same way.
1) Head black straw-hat foam Statue of Liberty visor
2) Belt black cargo belt Mickey Mouse fanny pack
3) Bag Aubergine leather satchel I Love NY Aqua souvenir tote
4) Feet strappy Jimmy Choo sandals Easy Spirit Funtimers w/Dr.Scholl’s inserts
5) Read Vogue & Cosmo subway map, street map, discount coupons
6) Wear fun & flirty designer outfit fun & flirty K-Mart outfit
I guess New Yorkers have some sort of sixth sense that tells them who is an outsider.
We decided to do the double-decker bus tour after all. You can get on and off again at all the major landmarks. Like I told the kids as they slouched in the back row, shielding their faces with newspapers, native New Yorkers take these all the time. The pitchman said our savings in taxi fares that day would more than pay the $80-per-head ticket price!
And in the end, I couldn’t pass up the chance to own a genuine Kate Spade bag for only $19.95. I didn’t even know she made fanny packs.