I usually don’t have a problem with talking to random strangers, but I was unsure when it came to this assignment only because it was for the purpose of an assignment. I was unsure if people would take me seriously. Not many New Yorkers are as polite; many ignore you and keep to themselves; which is nothing out of the ordinary or unexpected. You could see the same person at the same time everyday on the train or bus and they would probably ignore you. Or you could strike up conversation with a random person in the middle of the street and they wouldn’t mind one bit. In this big city it is completely unexpected, everyone is so different and although a vast majority keeps to themselves, many are the complete opposite. For the purpose of this project I decided to interview people who came in and out of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
My first encounter was with a young woman who was standing behind me in the line to place orders. She seemed pretty laid back, which is why I aimed for her first. I turned around and asked her what he favorite bagel was. She answered, “I LOOOVE the French Toast bagel!” I wasn’t surprised that she answered me. I told her that was m favorite bagel as well. I then asked her “what do you usually get on it?” She told me she liked a lot of cream cheese on her bagel. I told her I was the absolute opposite and preferred just a tad bit of cream cheese. She then told me I reminded her of her boyfriend because he didn’t like a lot of cream cheese on her bagel. It was then my turn to place my order and I had said “can I have a French toast bagel with-““a little bit of cream cheese, ha-ha.” She had finished my order for me. I don’t think I have ever felt comfortable the way I did with this stranger. I didn’t even know her name and she went about as if we had known each other for ever. Speaking to this young lady made me realize how friendly New Yorkers can be. Not all of us are rude and snotty like some make us out to be. I know there are some of us that act that way maybe when walking in Manhattan and trying to get through a crowd of tourists, because I am the same way. But on a regular relaxed day, I am sure many New Yorkers can be as laid back as this woman.
My second encounter was with a teenage boy. He had sat in the seat next to me along the bar. I turned to him and asked, “Aren’t these the best bagels?” he looked at me with such a confuse face. I immediately thought “this kid thinks I’m crazy.” He answered me hesitantly. “Yeah they’re alright.” He didn’t seem like he was okay with me talking to him, but I continued to regardless. “These are my favorite bagels” I said to him. He then started telling me how he preferred bagels from the bagel smith but they were closed so he settled for this. We engaged in a short conversation about how good bagels are. After all, New Yorkers love bagels. Speaking to him showed that maybe he wasn’t rude or trying to ignore me at first. He was probably unsure how to go about the conversation. Although he seemed to not want to speak to me at first he still had a small conversation with me. Some individuals have small talk with strangers even when they don’t really want too. It happens to my mom all the time while she’s waiting in the like to pay at the super market. Someone always strikes up conversation with her and she feels like she has no way out of it so she just goes along with it. The conversation is usually brought up with someone complaining about how long the line is.
My final encounter was with a young man as I was clearing up my table area. He was standing to the side waiting for me to move. I took the opportunity and asked him, “Want to help me here? Ha-ha” I felt that if I had a more humorous approach he wouldn’t be so annoyed with me. He just laughed. I threw out my garbage and he thanked me and told me to have a nice day. He didn’t seem to want to have any type of conversation. He seemed like he was in a rush to eat and get out. He remained polite instead of just brushing me off.
These encounters made me realize that we encounter strangers each and everyday; whether it be when you say excuse me, or ask someone for directions. There are many ways where we encounter one another. It may not always be asking questions, but a simple conversation can come about with a simple complaint about how long a line is or by discussing your favorite bagel like I did. Encountering strangers is a part of our daily lives.
Negotiating Public Space
As a result of taking this DNY course, I have become more observant about things that go on throughout my daily life as a New Yorker. I never noticed the use of public space prior to this. I think maybe that is due to the fact that the use of public space is just something that comes so naturally, one doesn’t think of it in any way. New York, being the city that NEVER sleeps seems to be one of the places where you’ll see something always occurring whether it be walking to the corner store or just simply taking the train. The concept of public space is one that lingers through each of our minds without realizing it. Whether it be asking yourself: “Should I get on that elevator even if there’s not enough room?” or are planning a public event and plan out “oh how many people can I fit on the tables here?” Public space is always a question. I performed my field observations in two locations; on the L train to the R train and Times Square.
The L train has to be one of the most hectic train lines. I observed the train throughout my journey from Bedford Avenue to 14th St-Union Square. It was approximately 8:45 when I got onto the train, at this time the train is fairly empty since it is no longer rush hour. I sat in one of the seats that are at the end of the cart. I made my observations from this spot throughout the ten minute ride. There were about thirty people on board the train cart upon departure from Bedford Avenue station, most of them standing leaving a few empty seats. The next stop was 1st Avenue in Manhattan; a couple entered the train and stood standing against the doors even though there were a few seats available. The next stop was 3rd avenue; no one entered the train and no one that was already on the train sat down. The next stop was the stop I got off on, 14th st. I exited the train and saw a number of people standing waiting for the L train to head back into Brooklyn. I saw an elderly woman sitting on one of the benches and next to her she had put her purse on the bench. I then walked up stairs and saw a group performing their music with a large crowd around them. Others were rushing to get to wherever they needed to go. Upon entering the R train, everyone was crowded over each other to get on and rushed for a seat. The train wasn’t so crowded as it would usually be during rush hour, but all the seats were taken and it was fairly packed. The train continued to get packed as it passed 23rd, 28th, 34th, and upon arrival at times square a majority of the people on the cart exited.
Times Square is another public space where so much goes on. After exiting the train station I saw many people in crowds walking in many directions. I also noticed a few hopeless people sitting on the sidewalks. Many people were standing around taking pictures; others were pushing and shoving to get to where they wanted to go.
Through my observations I can conclude that social norms are negotiated in many ways among individuals in the public space. Many individuals benefit from public by using it as their own stage, like when I observed the group perform in Union Square. Many feel the need to dominate public space for their own needs and comfort like when the elderly woman I observed used the bench to place her bag. There were also individuals who used public space as their place to just “chill” like when I observed the individuals who stood around Times Square to take pictures. Although this is what I observed, individuals in New York each have their own characteristics with how they go about negotiating public space.
I was disturbed while watching the Stop and Frisk video in class. Mainly because I felt that there was complete racism involved towards Blacks and Hispanics. I don’t recall a white person being stopped an frisked at all during the video. I understand the purpose of stop and frisk, but it makes no sense and doesn’t seem to be quite effective if the police are only stopping Blacks and Hispanics. not every Black or Hispanic is the same. Despite my understanding of stop and frisk i disagree with it entirely. it is not fair to those who are being harassed for absolute no reason just because their appearance is a certain way. Maybe is could be effective if it were done completely at RANDOM not everyone who’s Hispanic or Black or looks a certain way. there should be no profiling involved.
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I felt that people should have been more grateful to have to only worry about a long commute to work than complain about because there were definitely so many others who had gone through worse because of the hurricane. I myself have learned to complain a lot less about silly little things because i know i should be grateful for what I have and that my family, my house and everything is alright.
I was moved by many things on the Ellis Island trip. First being the ferry ride, I have a great fear of boats, and the ride that had lasted only about 25 minutes was the worst. I could only imagine how people felt being on board a ship for weeks to travel to America. It couldn’t have been an easy voyage, having to travel with hundreds of other people crammed on a ship. Hoping you will make it to your destination and wondering what lies ahead. Also the ships weren’t as advances as ships are today, it must have been hard travelling through bad weather. Many people could have gotten sick, causing them to not be able to enter into America once they got here.
Another thing that I was moved by on the island was the room where you could see the belongings of different families that traveled to America. You could see the diversity in each and every single different person simply on the items they carried. The photographs, toys, religious items, and kitchen items. You could see the cultural differences in the clothing worn, the different languages, and the religion. People from the entire world who are different in so many ways have traveled here all for one thing, the same thing. To better themselves, their lives, and the lives of their future generations.
One last thing that really did moved me was a room that had a test to see if you were allowed out of the island and into America or not. I personally failed the test for not being married and not having a job. I could not even imagine how someone would feel traveling for so long to only be rejected and told that they had to return home. All that traveling and hard work for nothing, to have to return home for something as simple as not being married. It’s a terrible thing to know people went through this every day. To know that many people who dreamed of finally being free, could not be free simply because they were not good enough to enter the country based on Americas idea of being good enough or not. I find that ridiculous as well. At that time America was sure to have many people who did not work or were not married. What would the difference be to let someone from a different country enter and live here if they weren’t married or did not have a job? What’s to say they wouldn’t find a job, or that a woman wouldn’t find a husband to support her?
This trip really has opened up my mind about how things were for people in the past, it has also made me think more about how everyone is really an immigrant born here or not. Everyone has ancestors who have traveled from all around the world. Yet, today there is still racism. African Americans were brought here on slave ships, yet they’re treated by many like they want them out. Yet we are the ones who brought them here in the first place. People traveled here for freedom, and to live happily. It seems that people forget the reason they are here today. No one ever really seems to ask them self, what if so and so never immigrated here. I believe some lives wouldn’t be as easy as they are now. Regardless if ones ancestors came to America through Ellis Island or immigrated at a later time, we are all immigrants, and can never forget were we come from. We can never forget what got us here today.