Author Archives: kaybriajohnson

Encountering Strangers

In my opinion most people of New York are not as friendly as other people, which is why it took so much courage for me to approach a stranger with such random questions. When I actually went out to approach people I had a difficult time choosing whom I would talk to. Some people may be having a bad day and might come off as “crabby” or maybe someone would talk entirely too much.


So, I was riding to 169th Street Station after visiting my family from back home one night and there was a man standing next to me in the subway car. He had on dusty Timberland boots with blue pants and a black jacket. He also wore a dusty black pack back over one shoulder. I turned to him and politely spoke to him and we engaged in a conversation. I discovered that he was on his way home to family. So, I asked him how was his Thanksgiving and he replied “ohh..It was pretty good.” but he really seemed unsure. We continued to talk about New York and we even talk about St. John’s University. Throughout the conversation his tone did change at times. After a while I sat down and I quickly glanced over and the train was passing through a station and I hear “36th street, 36th street, 36th street, 36th street….oh no I can’t see it anymore” and more random babbling. I looked up again and it was the man I was talking to then I figured that this man was a sort of crazy; it just got weirder from that point on. I only approached him because he was a complete stranger and that’s what the assignment was about. I assumed he was a worker because I saw a stigma symbol – dusty work boots and blue pants. I guess since I thought that he might be employed I didn’t think that he would be crazy.


The second person I talked to is not a stranger at all but I never really had a “deep” conversation with him per se. He is a close friend of my two roommates and he came to our room one day. We were all talking about random things and I asked him “what was the bravest thing you’ve ever done”? He replied with a smile and told me about the time he was in the food court of a mall and he ran across the food court to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking. I was very surprised at his response because my virtual social identity of him was that he wasn’t really brave or intelligent enough to do anything out of the ordinary.

The third person I encountered was a stranger in Montgoris Dining Hall on Campus. I walked up to and employee who works in the office. I asked her “why do all the employees get mad when we try to take food out of here”? She gave me the longest explanation. I also asked her “why did she work here and how did she get the job”? She told me that she went to school for management and St. John’s had an open opportunity so she took it. I didn’t think that she went to school; I thought she probably got lucky and landed a job randomly at St. John’s.  But her actual social identity was that she was an educated employee. 


Negotiating Public Space

I’ve observed the social norms that take place while walking on the sidewalks in the city. I am from a metropolitan area (D.C.) where people ride subways, buses and usually walk every where. Early in the morning everything is usually fast pace as everyone is racing to their respective destination whether it be work or visiting an historic area. When I’m walking around D.C. I’ve noticed that I can walk next to my friends, chat and walk at fairly normal pace. But in New York no matter the time of day people always seem to be rushing down the sidewalks. Even couples are racing down the street to where they need to go, not having time to walk and talk.

The other day I was walking with my friend (a native of the city) to the subway from the Apple store in the city. We hadn’t planned anything for the rest of the day, we were just on our way back to campus. As we were walking the distance between us became greater by the second. She was speed-walking down the sidewalks alongside the other “New Yorkers” as I strolled at a good pace…not too fast, not too slow. When I finally caught up to her I asked her why she was walking so fast but she thought about it and didn’t really know. People, like my friend, have no reason to rush but they walk fast because it is social norm in New York. I’m assuming that people walk fast even if they’re not a rush because they’ll seem like a tourist. They could possibly be trying to avoid being rushed by the people who actually need to be somewhere.

Ellis Island

I wasn’t able to attend the Ellis Island trip that was scheduled for the class but I did visit the website for Ellis Island. Obviously, it provides a lot stories about the immigration experiences of families from all over the world. But what I found most interesting was the section titled The Peopling of America. This section contained a time line that showed forces behind immigration and their impact on the immigrant experience from Pre-1790 to the year 2000. It was interesting to learn about the different experiences of people from multiple Empires and the different scientific beliefs about when humans first came to America.

Another feature that I was intrigued by was the passenger search. Unfortunately I am not able to trace back anything from the passenger search. I would probably have to go through a DNA Ancestry Service to discover my “roots”. I would have to do this because my great grandparents were also born in America so it would be harder to search for my ancestry and an accurate genealogy background. (I could obviously ask my grandparents about their grandparents as well though)

I think that if I actually attended the field trip to Ellis Island I wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much because I wouldn’t be able to really figure out much about my family beyond my great-grandparents through the Ellis Island records.

5 Pointz

In late October I visited 5 Pointz with my DNY class. 5 Pointz is an outdoor art exhibit area in Long Island City, New York surrounded by an auto shop and a shrilling subway above. Local and international aerosol artist go to 5 Pointz display their colorful murals alongside the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building. I didn’t expect 5 pointz to have the feel of an Art Center, I thought it would just be a place where teenagers go to paint whenever they felt like painting. But the artists of 5 Pointz are well known amongst the aerosol community and they actually spend money for a place on the wall of this factory building. I would consider 5 Pointz to be an organized recreational area. 

I can honestly say that the 5 Pointz trip has enlightened me even more about the art of graffiti. I learned about the many styles of graffiti and artists of the murals. I was also enlightened about the origin of the styles of graffiti. I’ve learned to look at things a little deeper because many of the small murals were very simple and didn’t have variety of colors but it did mean something more to the artist. I’ve learned that to many people 5 Pointz may be a simple little place but to others it can mean the world. Simple things can have a deeper meaning.