As I’m driving in from Providence and the buildings roll past my window, I crack open the glass and let the wind wash away all of the ink that paints me as a little city girl. With the skyline in my billowing hair and the unbreakable musical tradition of Frank Sinatra bursting through the radio, I become a big city woman. I leave behind my life as a college student without a summer internship who is 300 pages behind on her readings, and I become a New Yorker. It’s not easy to make such a quick transformation, to dispel all the little city habits and characteristics. If you want to be like me, a small city girl who can pass as a big city girl, you must remember Nadia’s Three-Part Wisdom to Not Seem Like a Faux Yorker.
Become a Subway Surfer
This first point is not intended to be a lesson about how to ride the subway. I have no idea how to ride the subway. To me, train maps are aesthetically-pleasing squiggles named after letters (and sometimes numbers?) spread across the shape of Manhattan. While New Yorkers and most people with common sense look at the grid covered in lines and see directions, I read them like an abstract painting. We don’t have a subway in Providence, we have the RIPTA. In high school, I took the Route 1 bus to Classical during the school year and took the Route 60 bus to Newport on many summer days. For two dollars, I could ride the bus out of my own little concrete jungle and, in a short hour and a half, arrive at the Newport Visitor Center (another quick hour walk away from Second Beach). The RIPTA allowed my friends and me to escape our small city to the sparkly Atlantic in double the time it would take to drive.
Although the travel time was long (roundtrip was a five-hour commitment), our days on the RIPTA allowed us to meet strangers, bond as friends, and bask in the cool air conditioning we lacked in our houses. Growing up in the little city, in the Ocean State, I only had to know two bus routes and never had to read bending rainbow-colored lines. All this to say, if you are from a small city such as myself, always ride the subway with a real New Yorker or someone with the patience to understand the map. Anytime I visit New York, whether it be to visit my boyfriend or some of my closest friends, I let them guide me through the underground world, never admitting to them or myself that I don’t know if we are headed east, south, west, north, or, God forbid, to New Jersey (if the subway even goes there). If you can latch onto someone with basic map reading skills, no one will ever suspect you are from a small apple.
Acquire Your C.C.C. (Cheap Cute Coat)
Before your departure for New York, purchase a cheap jacket from your nearest thrift store (mine was Savers). This will be your going-out coat in the city. When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, my friends and I went out to a crowded club with no coat rack or coat check. Coats were laid out across the entire room, pushed up against the wall, and shoved under tables or in narrow corners. I threw my four-dollar leather jacket over a banister and didn’t think about it till it was time to leave. When I went to retrieve it, it was as good as new or, at least, as good as used. My friends weren’t as fortunate; they brought their warmest, nicest, thickest puffer coats, five of which we would never see again. Whoever stole their coats had seen mine, did the math, and left it. Although it was a little demeaning that the thief had seen my jacket and deemed it unprofitable, I was somewhat warm under my cheap coat and didn’t have to roam the streets of NYC in 15-degree weather at 3 a.m. in a tank top like the rest of my friends.
Drink Coffee As Frequently as You Breathe Air
I love walking on Providence’s uprooted pavements and judging the old architecture on our ancient streets. I love meeting a variety of dogs and watching the seasons sprinkle surprising temperatures into the air. But walks are never very long in Providence—in a state where every border is reachable in under an hour drive, there is only so much walking one can do.
In contrast, New York City has an endless amount of walking. Everyone walks everywhere. But there, getting exhausted after a brief stroll is like admitting you don’t know how to ride the subway; it’s the quickest way to blow your cover as a small city gal. Easily, steps can reach twenty to thirty thousand steps a day—a distance that is lethal to my little city girl stamina. So if you have weak knees like myself and a fifteen-block energy limit, coffee is your best friend. Feel free to treat yourself to a coffee stop through every neighborhood you traverse. And because coffee is the price of literal gold in New York, order the absolute cheapest thing on the menu, which usually is a shot of espresso. It pours energy into my veins and spirit into my sleepy legs; it silences all complaints about my sensitive feet and adds a jitter to my step. Coffee is the key to this city.
Caution: You won’t sleep at night, but you will never be mistaken for a small city citizen.
However, I’m not ashamed of being a small city girl. On the contrary. I’m the proudest Providencian you’ll meet. There is no other city I’d rather have scribbled on my birth certificate. While I am happy to provide these tips to help my fellow little city dwellers blend into a metropolis like New York City, I believe that we should not be ashamed of our differences. I love my city, not the town that many New Yorkers mistake it for, but my city. Yet, when I’m in New York, the city that winks in songs, shines with lights, and rumbles with emotion, I want people to know that little city girls can take on the world.