Ah, New York City. There is a slight chill. The city is full of Midwesterners, all wearing white Reeboks, all staring straight upward.
My wife and I have just stepped out of our cab, after leaving LaGuardia Third World International Airport. Our cab driver was a nice man who drove upwards of 75 mph with only one finger on the wheel, and that was just on the sidewalks.
Right now, my wife and I are walking to our hotel. Because that’s all you do in New York City, really. You walk. You walk for miles, until the blisters on your feet become the size of U.S. Congresspersons.
Right now, we are stuck walking in a massive clot of people moving like a herd of bison. We are trekking onward, hauling our luggage, dodging cabs.
Even so, my wife is thrilled to be in this town. It is her first time visiting. So she is taking cellphone pictures by the gazillions.
My wife finds important photographic moments wherever she glances. So far, she has taken pictures of our cab’s interior, my half-eaten airport bagel, the plane’s lavatory, and a middle-aged woman walking down the street dressed like a giant marital aid.
I also have this feeling the locals can tell we’re out-of-towners. We have that look about us. I met a cashier in a coffee shop, for example, when I was trying to order a large iced tea.
My tea arrived. “There’s something wrong with my iced tea, ma’am,” I said.
“It’s not sweet.”
“So add some sugar.”
“I can’t add granulated sugar to cold tea.”
“Because I love the Lord.”
Then the cashier asked if I was from Alabama. I was so impressed this lady guessed where we were from.
“That’s amazing,” I said. “How on earth could you tell where we’re from?”
“Honestly?” she said, leaning in to whisper. “It’s your teeth.”
I’ve never been so offended. I paid good money for these teeth.
Something else about New York. Everyone is always trying to sell you something.
On our stroll to the hotel, we’ve encountered salespeople outside shops, standing on sidewalks, beckoning us to buy knock-off handbags, burner cellphones, instant credit cards, imitation Rolexes, or T-shirts that read, “FuhggedAboutIt.”
Earlier, I was approached by a man in shaggy clothes with a scraggly beard, rattling a tin cup. “Got any change?” the bearded man asked.
I dug into my pocket and tossed change into the man’s cup.
The man replied, “Thanks, brother. Can you make change for a hundred?”
If I’m being honest, I’ve never been a fan of New York City. It’s big. It’s loud. It’s an adrenal experience. It’s overwhelming.
The first time I visited, I was 19. I had a mild panic attack while crossing the street in Times Square. I was a hayseed who had never seen a city so big. My friends took me to urgent care. The doctor had a pronounced Bronx accent. He asked what my symptoms were.
“My heart’s racing,” I said, “I’m clammy all over, I can’t get a full breath, I’m trembling, and I feel like I’m going to puke.”
The doctor patted my thigh and said, “Those aren’t symptoms, kid. That’s New York.”
Another time, when I visited, I rode the subway. It was late. I was approached by a man who looked liked a rough customer. He showed me a big knife and said he was going to mug me.
If you can believe it, at that exact moment, a Catholic priest showed up—don’t tell me God isn’t watching. Sadly, I didn’t stand a chance against the two of them.
And so, as we made our way into the hotel lobby, my wife and I were exhausted from our long walk across the Big Applecore.
Out hotel clerk was a snippy woman and, if I had to guess, in serious need of fiber supplementation.
“Checking in?” she asked.
“Don’t call me ma’am.”
“I find it demeaning.”
“What should I call you, then?”
“Don’t call me anything. I don’t want to bear your children, pal. I’m just checking you in. I don’t need a pet name.”
So I gave her the biggest smile I could. Because that is what my mama taught me to do in the presence of rudeness.
The clerk looked at me, as I was grinning dumbly. She leveled her gaze on my mouth.
“Let me guess,” she said. “Alabama?”
Ah, New York.
Lisa - February 9, 2023 6:39 am
Same tea experience. My husband orders sweet tea. They bring him HOT tea with sugar packets. He corrected his order to SWEET ICED tea. She asked what flavor Snapple he wanted. 😱 That was his last foray into the world of iced tea in NYC.
Ed - February 9, 2023 6:41 am
Years ago when my brother checked in a hotel in New York, the check-in clerk leaned over to see if he was wearing shoes and said oh you do wear shoes in Alabama
Kristina Lennon - February 9, 2023 7:19 am
I hate New York…everything about it, I despise. If I can’t make it here…I’ll definitely will NOT make it there!
Donnie Lepper - February 9, 2023 8:14 am
Hey Sean, I just read, “My Father” and it was truly a good one! One thing I can remember while riding was my Mother carrying a picnic lunch. We would stop at a roadside table. These concrete tables and benches beside the roads! This was before Jacks and KFC! My brother and I would take turns riding in the hat rack of the Chevy. Man, those days!
Billie - February 9, 2023 8:16 am
Years ago, on a visit there, we were asked by our waitress where we were from. “Why,” I asked, thinking it was our accent. At the time, we were living in Midwest but were born and raised in North Florida. She replied, “Cause you’re too polite.”🥰
Debbie g - February 9, 2023 8:25 am
My experience in NYC was very good A homeless young couple. Actually walked my daughter and I to the correct train A man on the subway. With Only one leg offered me his seat Out taxis driver did fly. But he was very kind. He was trying to make enough money to get his wife in the US
So I hope you meet some of the same people I met.
And I’m from TN 🙂
Love to all pass it on in NYC and
Have FUN 😀😀💕
Linda Hubbard - February 9, 2023 10:10 am
Melissa Brown - February 9, 2023 10:51 am
Sorry, you have had bad experiences in NYC. I love it especially at Christmas – Rockafellow Center and Radio City Music Hall. And of course the Broadway Shows – they are just wonderful !!! So many odd and unusual places to eat. One place we took our young son to was underground. You took a space ship like vehicle underground and then you found yourself in a place like the surface of Mars – everything was red and the waitresses were dressed in tinfoil like suits. There was a young fellow standing in the road dressed only in his tidy whites and cowboy boots playing the guitar. We stayed in a hotel in Times Square and there were so many interesting things and people. I have been 3 times to NYC and would like to go again to see the Macy’s Christmas Parade. Go back again during Christmas – l promise you will have a great time. 🥰
Leigh Amiot - February 9, 2023 11:27 am
Occasionally, my late mother would say, “I ain’t lost nothin’ in Atlanta, Georgia.” She went there just a few times out of necessity and described stressful driving conditions—in the 1960s. I share her sentiment about large cities. One of my sons who lives out west encouraged me to ride to work with him and explore downtown Denver for the day. Kids have a way of pushing one way out of their comfort zone. It was a memorable experience, the highlight seeing Impressionist art at the Denver Museum. The low light was getting on the wrong bus and being close to tears (in my 50s) wondering if I’d find my way back to the convention center where my son worked.
Thanks for the vicarious trip to New York as this is the only way I intend to go there.
Dicki - February 9, 2023 12:12 pm
May I suggest you visit the Statue of Liberty, if you have not been. It’s amazing.
Helen De Prima - February 9, 2023 12:23 pm
Sad to say, I agree! I have never visited NYC when bags of garbage didn’t line the sidewalks, especially nasty in summertime. I’m sure there are nice people there but they’re all too rushed to demonstrate their niceness. My favorite view of Manhattan in from the train, leaving.
Bill Woodward - February 9, 2023 1:12 pm
Oh come on Sean . You can do better than that . You remind me of a friend who visited Venice. When I asked how did you like Venice ( one of the most charming places on earth ) he said the water was dirty . We have had nothing but great experiences when we visited New York City over the last 70 years. I’ve been to Alabama . You don’t want to hear my story !
Trent - February 9, 2023 1:20 pm
Jr. Said it best in “If Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie” – just send me to Hell or New York City it would be about the same to me.” Had the misfortune to have business there in mid late nineties leading up to The Attack – I’d walk Central Park and the streets and Gomer Pyle’d them rascals with the biggest smiles and good mornings and y’all’s possible. Folks’ mouths just went slack or they growled LOL. They literally don’t know any better. To think an entire lifetime without Joy.
Joe - February 9, 2023 1:27 pm
Reminds me of my first time visiting the big apple back in the late 80’s for a trade show at the Javier’s where I had the temerity to hold the door for a woman approaching at the same time as myself. Of course I had no idea of anything concerning “women’s lib” so I just used the southern gentleman’s manners I’d been taught and received a verbal cussing like one I hadn’t had since basic training probably. I was astounded and flabbergasted as I stood there listening to her call me everything but a Son of God because I had opened that door for her. She finished with me still standing there holding that door with my mouth open in shock. But! As she took her first step to enter that door my wits returned and I let it go and it swung to in front of her and she walked face first into it. And I got my second cussing that morning. Only this one with a smile on my face.
CBL - February 9, 2023 1:35 pm
I love New York AND the South, and their varied respective inhabitants. 🙂
Joann - February 9, 2023 1:39 pm
I was there with my granddaughter 3 weeks ago, but except for the fake Uber driver who scammed us for a $50 ride that was only about 5 blocks, everyone was helpful, if not Alabama friendly. There were some exceptionally friendly people dressed as cartoon characters in Times Square who wanted to hug everyone. Yikes! Isn’t Covid still a thing??? Seriously, we had a great time and if you are still there, I highly recommend taking a tour of “Secrets of Grand Central Terminal.” It was both educational and entertaining–and eat the crab rolls in the food court there.
charles - February 9, 2023 1:59 pm
And my Granddaughter wants to go ! crazy world we share, even here in Alabama
David in California - February 9, 2023 2:06 pm
Champ837 - February 9, 2023 2:14 pm
Now, that was cute!
Te - February 9, 2023 2:54 pm
Let’s face it: the North has a different mindset. When that many people are packed into a location too small to hold them, you get rude people. There’s a story about a test done with rats and a maze. You put too many rats in the maze, and they start killing each other. That’s NYC. (Probably Chicago, too.) Which explains a lot. To survive, they are rude, pushy, suspicious and just about any other adjective. Add illegals and homeless, and a recent headline made me laugh: “Iran Threatens to Nuke NYC – Have they see NYC lately?” Or Chicago. Everybody who can (and a lot who really can’t) are leaving. Before you know it, NYC will be exactly like the one in Kurt Russell’s film, Escape from New York: a walled ghetto for criminals and their victims. Sean, honey, whatever possessed you to go to NYC?
David Britnell - February 9, 2023 3:01 pm
I visited NYC this past fall and there is a LOT to see and do. It has now been scratched off my bucket list and I don’t have any plans to ever return.
Ann Davis - February 9, 2023 3:50 pm
I just have to say – what a hoot! I’ve been to New York – and you are so right about everything you said – right down to people guessing that I was from Alabama- and I take that as a compliment! 🙂
Stacey Wallace - February 9, 2023 3:52 pm
Be careful in New York, Sean. We want you and Jamie safely back in Alabama. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.
Patricia Gibson - February 9, 2023 3:57 pm
I love New York and a New York City cab ride is a definite experience ! I hope y’all have a great time❤️
LIN ARNOLD - February 9, 2023 4:05 pm
I’ve been to NYC once, and that was one time too many!!
Back in the early ’80’s, four of us from my office were there for a weeklong business conference. It was the longest week of my life!! I have never been subjected to so many completely rude people in my life!! And that was just the hotel staff! One of the four of us was born and raised in the North Georgia mountains. He was a big, burly kind of guy with longish hair and a full beard. And he had an accent as strong as Scarlett O’Hara’s. All of us were made fun of for the entire week we were there.
I finally found a single hotel employee, a bellhop, that would actually help us. He was a black man from the Caribbean somewhere. And he knew all the great “hole in the wall” restaurants that were within walking distance. When we gave him $100 when we were loading the cab to go back to the airport, he insisted that we didn’t need to do that. In good Southern fashion, I gave him a big hug and told him that he was the only New Yorker we had met all week that desired a tip.
Nope … never again!! Been there, done that … NEVER AGAIN!!!
Paul Sams - February 9, 2023 4:11 pm
I would guess New York folks are pretty much like any other city. You will encounter some rude people, and you will encounter very nice people. I’m sure with their population, it’s different from Alabama. I haven’t been to New York City, I have been to Chicago. Some of the folks in Chicago had some difficulty understanding some of my southern words. No big deal. When I was once working in Atlanta , I did get an insult that enraged me. A man who I was dealing with asked me where I was from. I said Alabama. When he asked me if I knew which man in my county was my real Daddy, I made him leave my office. I had buried my Mother two weeks earlier, and he had crossed the line. I don’t normally get that angry. I doubt that I would go to New York, I’m not comfortable in crowds. That applies to New York, a crowded Walmart with one register open, or any crowded area. But, I reckon that’s more my problem. However the lack of sweet tea is an insult anywhere!
Debbie Harbin Hining - February 9, 2023 4:18 pm
I’m still laughing… and I read this column ten minutes ago!🤣
Peggy Howell - February 9, 2023 4:19 pm
Carla Walrath - February 9, 2023 4:58 pm
Sean, you stay safe and watch out for Jamie! Big crowds are dangerous no matter where they are. And anyone dazzled by their environment is an easy target. I know y’all are full grown adults and know how to handle yourselves. But I’m a gray haired little old lady who cares about both of you. In all honesty, NYC terrifies me because I’m a small town girl in Texas. But, that said, I’ve never been or lived anywhere I didn’t find good people. I will never forget those New Yorkers who ran TOWARD those burning collapsing towers to save whomever they could. Or that ferry pilot who immediately turned around to go save those people who were in the Hudson River landing of US Airways flight 1549. Different places are simply different. I, myself, prefer wide open spaces. I’ll breathe more easily when y’all let us know y’all are home, safe and sound.
kingswaydaughter - February 9, 2023 5:05 pm
No wonder there was a strong desire and persuasion to ‘Go West’. But like the East, we know have our own cesspools – Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, for example. But I do hear there are beautiful areas of New York State. I have no flavor for the big city – sucks the life out of you.
Sean of the South: New York | The Trussville Tribune - February 9, 2023 5:10 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Ginga Smithfield - February 9, 2023 7:15 pm
I feel your pain, Sean. I’ve been to New York once. I was nineteen, also. My newly acquired husband and I went to the World’s Fair, rode the subway, drove through the Holland Tunnel, etc. The wait staff in every restaurant we went to commented that we were from Georgia. I was never so happy to leave anywhere as I was to leave New York. I am now seventy-nine and haven’t been back to New York since I was nineteen. Just between the two of us, as my Daddy would say, “I haven’t lost a thing in New York!”
Glenda Joiner - February 9, 2023 7:20 pm
Great story. I had a much needed laugh. I wrote a book of short stories in 2019 entitled “Not Alone,” Which cannot compare to your words. In the book is a story of my fist visit to NYC. Your tale was reminiscent of my experience. The kicker for me, I was born in Alabama. Thanks for telling it as you creatively see it.
Linda Moon - February 9, 2023 9:17 pm
Like your wife, I was thrilled to be in that wonderful town. And if I ever get back there, I’ll think about what you wrote here in “New York”!
Branden Paul Troyer - February 9, 2023 9:44 pm
Thanks Sean, you made my day . I read your book stars of the south , Sean of the south and you are my sunshine, and enjoyed them all ! Keep up the good work !
Ashley Uber - February 10, 2023 12:05 am
Hilarious and so true. And you forgot to mention the smells from the street grates and rats the size of…… (you fill in Sean you are better at this!)
Danny - February 10, 2023 3:25 pm
Wow! Thanks, Sean, for reiterating why I’ll never need to go back to NYC. What a dumpground, and I already have one of those I can visit when I have trash.
sarah Jane Knott - February 10, 2023 4:35 pm
Oh my … you nailed it!!!!!
mikec4193 - February 10, 2023 9:46 pm
Hey Sean…I have lived about 4 hours North of New York City since the 1960s…they built the interstate I87 from that city right thru my once quiet town so that attitude you got when you were in NYC is now in my back door yard…to me NYC is a very toxic place…good luck while you are there buddy…keep smiling.
George Robert Leach - February 11, 2023 5:52 am
My older sister was always amazed that New Yorkers could ride on the subway benches without sliding around. It was a very exciting experience to visit.
Peanuts get assaulted in Central Park. Don’t be a peanut!