Monday, September 07, 2009

Faking It In Brooklyn

There are a million baby strollers in Brooklyn. Maybe it's the day off. Maybe it's the nice weather. Maybe I'm actually seeing the same baby stroller handed off from person to person a million different times as I pass idly by. It's like there's a baby stroller marathon, and nobody's in a huge rush to win it. You can't tell who's in first, or where the finish line is. You just know that you're kind of in the way.

Which leads me to the bigger point: every time I've been in NYC, I behave without hesitation. Even if I don't know where I'm going, I don't stop. I don't stop often anyway, an offshoot of my OCD-driven energies. But really, I'm an outsider, a visitor, and don't want to be caught. Like there's a local gestapo that pops out from bodegas to laugh at the tourist who needs a second to figure out which way is up.

I operate with the concealed caution of Someone Not From Here, and believe any hesitation will give me away. As I write this, I'm sitting in a Park Slope coffeehouse, looking up from my laptop obsessively, expecting to be found out. He's not one of us, they would rightly say. Should I buy a glass of wine? Can I borrow some Proust? What's the secret handshake, already? I look up and fully expect accusing glances, crook eyes, conspiring hushed tones. I expect a cold reception.

But instead I see someone smiling, or smiling at me, or looking around with the same innocuous vacant stare I have; or people otherwise occupied with enjoying their Labor Day.

And maybe some of them are like me, covert operatives from Elsewhere, semi-successfully faking it. And maybe some of them used to be, and stopped needing to fake it. Or maybe--best of all--nobody cares.

And for a high-energy place, that's a relaxing thought.

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