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Brock: Visiting the Big Apple

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Last week, my wife and I made our first visit to the East Coast, including New York City. Whoever coined the term “Melting Pot” to describe our county must have been in the Big Apple at the time.

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There were people from all over the world, each speaking a different language that all together seemed more prevalent than English. One thing I discovered in New York was no matter the language, you have to speak it loud enough into your cellphone to annoy everyone within hearing distance.

The one universal language was communicating by honking your horn. Drivers reached out to each other with nonstop honking. Apparently, cabbies can’t read or choose to ignore the warning signs of $300 fines posted everywhere for unnecessary honking. The language of the auto horn is made up of quick, three-to-five horn blasts aimed at each other. I didn’t need a translator to interpret that they weren’t wishing each other a nice day. I’m pretty sure they were conveying “Don’t you dare step out in front of me,” “I’m going to cut you off,” “Don’t cut me off,” and “Lets all race like heck so we can meet at the next stop light two blocks away so we can start this all over again.” What little driving I did in New York City gave me a whole new appreciation of how peaceful driving North Dakota roads is, even with western North Dakota’s boom having increased traffic.

Walking the busy streets wasn’t a whole lot different, minus the horns, and you covered ground faster. Getting trampled for pausing to sightsee or window shop seemed like a real possibility.

Like the law banning honking, there must be one that prohibits making eye contact when approaching other pedestrians, saying hi, good morning or opening a door for someone you don’t know. I never would have imagined, but compared to driving and walking, riding in a crowded subway car was almost relaxing.

New York City has so much to offer and we had such a great time, but we really were fish out of water. The frantic pace took a couple of days to adapt to, and by then it was time to leave.

The system and pace works for the millions of people who live there and, actually, there is order that even a flatlander from the Great Plains could appreciate.

Standing outside of Ground Zero, I now have a better understanding of the fear, heartbreak, chaos, destruction and catastrophic loss of life that occurred on that September day 13 years ago.

I left the city with a greater appreciation of the people from all over the world who make the city home and, together, their heroic response that day and since to rebuild. New Yorkers are extremely proud of their city, of which there is much to be proud.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at hbrock@thedickinsonpress.com.

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