Mostly, I’ve given up being helpful. I have stopped trying to guide the lost, with their noses iPhone-glued on street corners, wondering which way the blue dot is trending, because their answer is usually a “no, I’m fine” growl. Me and my machine, we've got it covered. Also men, of course, feel very threatened by a stranger who might suggest their sense of direction is wussy. So I stopped. For the most part.
But I live in Greenwich Village, where the streets start to go wonky, where West Fourth Street crosses West 11th Street, where Bleeker Street runs north-south before heading off east-west. And where Eighth Avenue abruptly changes to Hudson Street. Not to mention the Meat Packing District (no meat, lots of packing), the High Line, and (very soon) The Whitney. Lots to look for. Lots to get lost in. So—if someone evinces a particular shade of bewilderment, I’ll pop in. My usual phrase “Are you lost or are you having fun?” works fine if the tourists are from the USA. French and Germans think I’m crazy. Brits are more gentle, but generally just move away and adjust their maps. Mostly these days I move around them, their faces bathed in gray screen-glare.
But I am, as anyone will tell you, a gregarious sort. I like people, generally. I speak out. I have friends of years standing whom I met on the subway, just by starting up a conversation. So when I’m going uptown for an al fresco lunch with my writing and college chum Rhoda—we’re going to eat outside at Pier One, on the river at about West 68th Street, under the soothing traffic thrum of the elevated West Side Highway—and I’m on the express going from Times Square to 72nd Street, and the 15-year-old son in the SF Giants shirt is trying to decipher the map while his father, in the LA Dodgers shirt, looks on, naturally I lean across the aisle and say, “Where are you headed?”
“Oh,” says Dad, “we’re going to Wall Street.” And I get to be the one they will remember, I hope, as the friendly New Yorker who tells them how lucky they are to be headed to 72nd Street where there’s a free transfer downtown, and I’m getting off there, and will show them. And then we talk about the Giants (a solid maybe at this point in the season) and the Mets (not so much, but the two are playing a game tonight); and I can tell them about the AA Farm Teams, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. And they head on their way.
And the weather is fine, breezy, warm, clouds, sun in and out. And my munster cheese sandwich on rye with lettuce and tomato is really just right, along with the iced tea. And the conversation is good, down there, near the water, way below all the Trump Excess West Side apartments, under the traffic. And I helped some people get un-lost and find their way downtown. And though I haven’t written a word, it is a good day.