Confession: I did what no one who claims to be a New Yorker is supposed to do. I went to the place we all hate on the evening of its most abhorrent state: I went to Times Square on New Year’s. Now, if you don’t live in New York you might think Times Square to be this very bright, magical place to take awesome jumping pictures. And okay, it still is. But if you’re a New Yorker, Times Square means one thing: tourists. And before you think that’s a rude thing to say I’d like to point out that for New Yorkers, we live and work in this city. It’s not a theme park or vacation and we actually see the Empire State Building daily. And when we have places to go, the last thing you need is a crowd of people staring upwards and strolling at -1mph. The emotional response is similar to sitting in traffic because everyone’s driving distractedly 15 mph under the speed limit.
I think you get the point.
We arrived into the square with almost 2 million other people. (No exaggeration here.) We were bundled up with about 16 layers of clothes (some exaggeration here) and we were feeling pretty optimistic. About twenty minutes in one of us said, “Guys. This is not that bad. We can totally do this!” The police individually check every single person that enters the square starting that morning and then place everyone into different pens. Yes, pens. They don’t even try to disguise that we we all be treated like livestock for the remainder of the day. We got comfortable in our spot and talked about how much energy we have and how it so wasn’t cold at all.
Fast forward six hours later. “This is it. This is how I’m going to die.” Now, nothing exactly happened in those six hours. Which was the problem. Nothing happened and the energy drained, the cold seemed through and “over it” was the best way to describe what we all were beginning to feel. I was explaining to a friend what the experience was like:
It’s like watching your favorite movie, except a 12-hour version of it. Except the movie theater you’re in is 40 degrees. And you don’t have access to a bathroom no matter how much you’d need one. And you can’t eat real food. Or drink water, because of the lack of bathroom access. Also there are no chairs and you have to stand. For 12 hours. And your view of the movie is restricted. And the theater has about 2 million people crammed into it. Also, none of them like you. And instead of it being your favorite movie it’s actually a series of bad music videos from overplayed songs on the radio mixed with commercials. Mostly commercials.
So yeah, I basically willingly stood all day and night in a New Yorkers nightmare. But, what actually made the whole thing worth it was remembering the teenage version of myself that put that event down on a bucket list. I dreamed of someday living in this city and standing in a storm of confetti in the crossroads of the world to usher in the New Year. Although reality is never what we expect, I realized thinking about how the dream was becoming a reality changed my perspective.
Despite how ridiculously miserable it should’ve been, we had so much fun. We kept reminding ourselves we were accomplishing a major bucket list goal. That we were in the place that everyone else watches on tv this evening every year. We acted like kids feeling oh so cool when were spotted and even interviewed on almost every major television network. We freaked out when they passed out party hats and giant balloons. We chatted with the friendly police officers and shocked every reporter when we told them we were actually from New York, and yes we know how crazy it is that we joined the tourists for this. We bonded with strangers that we suffered and partied with. And had another crazy, magical New York moment.
I wondered how many little difficult situations in life might have been different had I remembered what my younger self would’ve thought. I wonder if it would overshadow the mundane parts of life, knowing that in little ways, I’m gifted with things I’ve always wanted. I complain about having a lot to work on, writing about Broadway shows and seeing them regularly, but oh my goodness, my teenage self would be freaking out if I told her this would be her life someday soon. And if I told her I’d see the ball drop in Times Square, she would probably be the only one that would’ve fully supported that crazy decision.
By: Rachel Goddard