Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hear it to believe it

You just have to love a place where you can hear conversations like the ones below, which are some of my favourites from

Conductor: Due to train traffic ahead, this train will be going local to Roosevelt. Local to Roosevelt.
Three-year-old kid: Fuck!
(Overheard on the F train)

Chick: Yeah, I've been dating my new boyfriend for two years now. About to make the big move into Brooklyn. Really exciting, except Brooklyn's so scary. We saw some neighborhoods that I really don't think I could walk around in late at night.
Dude: Yeah, but the East Village can be like that, too. The other day, there was this couple having a fight over their crack pipe. There were children present! But then they saw the kids and took it somewhere else.
Chick: Yeah, there were some people smoking crack at my birthday party, but I just thought they all had really fancy cigarette holders.
(Overheard on L train, between 1st Avenue & Bedford)

Girl: This popcorn is soft. I hate soft popcorn.
Guy: I know, I hate soft-core, too. It's such a tease.
Girl: No, no. I was talking about the popcorn -- it's soft. But I agree: if there is no penetration, it's not worth my time.
(Overheard in the Ziegfeld Theater)

Little boy pointing at mannequins: Bitch!
Mother: Hey! Didn't I tell you not to say that word? It's a bad word!
Little boy: That's not fair! You never yell at Daddy when he says that to you!
(Overheard in Macy's, Herald Square)

TSA employee to people in line: All liquids and gels are prohibited beyond this point. Dispose of them now.
Four-year-old boy to father: Aw, man! Does that mean I have to get rid of my pimp juice?
(Overheard at LaGuardia Airport)

Young boy to another, whispering: I'm gonna knock you off ,and then I'm gonna steal your M&Ms.
(Overheard in FAO Schwartz)

Little boy to little girl while nanny is distracted: I love outdoor shopping, because it's easier to steal things!
(Overheard at 11th & University)

White mom: Which kitty is your favorite?
Little girl holding book of baby animals: The black one!
Mom: The black one? He sure is a cute kitty.
Little girl, loudly: Once you go black, you never go back!
Passing thug, flashing her a thumbs-up: Word!
White mom: I don't care what your father says, we are so moving to Westchester.
(Overheard at Commodore Barry Park, Fort Greene, Brooklyn)

Conductor: Okay everyone, we're going to evacuate the train now. Just stay calm. This isn't the Titanic. I repeat, this is not the Titanic.
(Overheard on Acela, to NYC)

NY-er, as visitor friend hesitates at crosswalk: It is so touristy to be afraid of getting hit by cars.
(Overheard at 34th & Broadway)

Father to young son: The species tourist vulgaris is identified by the fanny pack and the new white sneakers.
(Overheard at 45th & Broadway)

Tourist: Excuse me. where's the Golden Gate Bridge?
Cop, puzzled at first, then nonchalantly pointing north: Just keep walking that way, you can't miss it.
(Overheard in Times Square)

Hot girl on cell: She moved to Oklahoma? People don't go to Oklahoma -- people are from Oklahoma!
(Overheard at 72nd & Columbus)

Old woman #1: How many times have you beaten the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas?
Old woman #2: I'm not sure. Maybe three or four times...
(Overheard on the A train)

Tourist dad with family, bumping into another tourist family: Excuse us! Thank you!
Other family's tourist dad: Ugh! Rude New Yorkers!
Nearby cop, to both: You do realize you're both tourists, right?
(Overheard on 48th & 5th Avenue)

Upper East Side trophy wife #1, in black dress: ... And the dress was only twenty-six hundred dollars!
Upper East Side trophy wife #2: Wow, that's fabulous!
(Overheard in David Burke & Donatella Restaurant)

Mom: Do you think they use dildos?
Dad, indicating 20-something daughter: I don't know. Why don't we ask our resident expert?
(Overheard on 116th & Broadway)

Receptionist: I'm sorry, Mr. Jones is out of the country... He went to Florida.
(Overheard at Hunter College)

Chick #1: I just felt sad, so I slept with him.
Chick #2: But... he's gay.
Chick #1: But he's a good kisser.
(Overheard on the 1 train)

There is something sad, endearing, funny, scary and yet fascinating about these exchanges and I'm not convinced they could have been overheard in any other cities in the world ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The age of innocence?

I went to a "Big Sister Big Brother" training session last night and only wish I had attended it earlier in the programme, as it gave me some terrifying context into what my little sister's life is like.

My childhood was clearly so sheltered & idyllic that I didn't even conceive of the kind of things that the children we are mentoring are exposed to or are experiencing first hand.

Sure they are going through the same upheavals we all did as young teenagers - peer as well parental pressure, the desire to fit in, feeling uncomfortable about how they look, worrying about grades ...

But this is New York City and they face a lot of other, darker problems I never confronted as a child. Gangs - not just as a victim of them but also the pressure to actually be in one. Crime - the police raid their schools regularly, weapons are commonly carried and it is likely that they have seen someone being stabbed at some point. Drugs and alcohol - pot is passe and mixing up cocaine and amphetamines is all the rage apparently. And even sex - I was shocked to hear that the city had to eradicate the very popular "rainbow game" that girls as young as 10 were playing in all the schools: they would wear bracelets of different colours, each representing a sexual act and if a boy snapped one of them, they would have to perform that act on him.

Our "Littles" (we're the "Bigs") all come from inner city schools and receive benefits. This means that they live on or below the poverty line, which is a shocking $17,000 a year for a family of 3! I can't conceive of anyone being able to survive, let alone live, in one of the most expensive cities in the world on just $17,000, when this figure barely covers half of my rent for the year.

This leaves me with a moral dilemma ... How can I possibly justify my rather shallow lifestyle - centered around working, going out, traveling and dealing with boy troubles - when someone much younger and more vulnerable than me is going through trials I will never experience in my entire life? The guilt is something all the Bigs go through but it doesn't make it any easier to cope with.

I am more determined than ever before to make a difference for my Little, to be there for her and to be as much of a positive role model as I can be. Our last session was a vast improvement on the previous two as she is starting to feel more comfortable around me, and me around her.

There is a certain irony in the fact that it is taking a child to make me grow up a little at last ...