Negotiating Public Space
Public space is something we all think about whether it is subconsciously or consciously. We make decisions about public space all the time, should we get on this bus or wait for the next one? Should we squeeze into the elevator or wait till it comes back around. All these decisions deal with public space. For this assignment I decided to watch two places, the Q46 bus and the D’Angelo Center at St. John’s University.
When I was on the Q46 going to school one morning, I noticed that the bus wasn’t packed, but people were still standing. There were a couple of seats towards the window, but no one wanted to sit. Furthermore when the bus driver told everyone to step to the rear of the bus I noticed no one moved until the person closest to the back moved over then everyone moved over one by one. This told me a lot about the people on the bus. For one thing the people who wouldn’t move to the seat towards the window, made me assume that they either didn’t like sitting next to anyone or they simply didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting out of the inside seat. This situation also made me assumes that the people standing didn’t want to talk to anyone around them or ask someone to get up; everyone kept to them selves. I felt like everyone didn’t care about his or her surroundings and just wanted to get to where ever they were going as soon as possible (which is pretty common living in New York City, because “time is money”).
However when I got to school I decided to observe DAC (D’Angelo Center). DAC was crowded because it was common hour but what I noticed was completely different then what I observed on the bus. If there was an empty chair next to someone others went and sat down or asked if they can sit in the seat. Everyone was standing close to each other, making conversation and just being friendly to everyone, even if they didn’t know them. When someone sneezed everyone said bless you, whether they were in their own conversation or simply just around him. I realized that even though DAC was more crowded, the students here were genuinely friendly and if you didn’t want to be friendly, you can sit alone and no one would bother you. The vibe I got from this environment was much more pleasant than the vibe I got from the bus.
This assignment helped me realize that no matter where you are public space depends on the people around you. If everyone is in a rush and frustrated than everyone around them will be grumpy and not want to deal with anyone else. However if everyone is friendly and willing to get out of his or her comfort zone, then public space won’t be an issue. At the end it all depends on your personality, are you always in a rush and wouldn’t mind fitting yourself in a crowded place, if you save time, or are you willing to enjoy your life and not squish yourself into tight packed spaces? This assignment taught me that public space depends on your personality and the character of the people around you.
When I first knew I had to do this assignment, I was annoyed because I had to go out of my way to talk to someone I didn’t know and risk having to be ignored or simply receive a rude remark. I believed that no one would want to talk about their situation after the hurricane; everyone wanted to get back to work and forget about what happened. However when I first started talking to people my views about this assignment changed. I began to enjoy it; I realized many people want someone to talk to.
While I was on a line at the grocery store, I saw a friendly woman behind me who looked like she was willing to open up. So I asked her if she was affected by the hurricane? She immediately started to tell me everything. She was from far Rockaway, right by the ocean; her cars were completely submerged with water. She lost power and didn’t know when she would get it back. She told me how her heater ran on oil, she had over 200 gallons of oil in her basement, and when the flood came the basement was destroyed. The water filled the basement to the ceiling and all the oil tanks ruptured. She lost everything her pictures, her diploma, her cars and had to evacuate because the house wasn’t safe to live in. Luckily for her she had a friend that lived in queens, who wasn’t affected and was staying with them, until the oil was removed from her house. I felt so bad for this women, she lost almost everything but was still thankful for everything she had left; it really opened my eyes and made me rethink my situation.
Fortunately for me the first stranger I met was a sweet heart but the second stranger wasn’t as nice. I was walking my dog around the neighborhood, trying to see what kind of damage was done. There was this one house that had an enormous tree leaning on it. The owner of the house was outside and while I was passing he told me good morning and started to make conversation with me about my dog. I thought to myself he seems friendly let me ask how he has been doing and how was he affected by the hurricane. Once I asked him that question and told him about the assignment, he instantly became annoyed and started to give me rude comments. He told me can’t you see what the hurricane did; I was the only one in this neighborhood who was affected. I instantly told him have a good day and walked back to my house. I was so annoyed he thought he was the only one affected but that’s not true many houses had no power and trees fell on them too. I wanted to tell him why are u complaining cause a tree is leaning on your house at least everyone is safe and u didn’t loose everything.
The second stranger got me so annoyed and made me not wan to continue the assignment but I remembered the woman from the supermarket and decided to continue cause many people do want to share their experience. My third stranger wasn’t really rude but I guess they were in a rush. I was at work and I asked a customer how they were affected by the hurricane. They just took their coffee and said I’m fine and walked away. I wasn’t offended or anything but I just thought it was rude how he said I’m fine and walked away. The least he could have done was say thank you for asking or ask how I was doing. However I excused his behavior and thought maybe he was in a rush. Overall my experience with strangers wasn’t great, but I enjoyed doing this assignment.
This assignment opened my eyes and made me realize that many people were affected much more than I was and yet they were still thankful. The first lady I talked to changed my perspective because she was so thankful she had a friend to stay with and that she was still alive to see her loved ones. This woman gave me hope that there are still friendly people in this world and we should always have a smile on our face, because we are lucky for everything we have. The other two strangers taught me that when approaching people I should be cautious and aware of their body language; if they look like they are in a rush or frustrated by their situation, then don’t bother them. Just say hello give them what they want and leave them to be on their way. Overall this assignment was a good idea and I’m glad I did it.
What does Ellis Island mean to me? To me Ellis Island is a historical landmark. It is a part of American history that will never be forgotten. For many families it was their only way to freedom. To me Ellis Island was a test; a test to see if one can be a citizen. Apparently I failed that test, and couldn’t enter the United States, because I was a single woman. I believe that wasn’t fair because if woman are coming with children, then they can’t work and benefit the country, but if they are alone they can have many more opportunities.
I can’t really relate to Ellis Island because my family came to the United States with their visas and by plane. They passed through customs and were allowed entrance to the land of the free. They didn’t have to be cramped into small rooms, take literacy tests, or go through strict testing in order to determine if they were sick or not. I guess you can say my parents had it easy. The reason they left Egypt was because my dad wanted a better opportunity and wanted us to have the best education. In Egypt if you missed behaved in school the teachers could slap you or smack you with the ruler; they were basically free to do whatever they wanted to you and you couldn’t complain. My father didn’t want us to go through that torture, so he left his family and loved ones behind and came to America to start a new life for our family; we went back after a year to marry my mom then brought her over to America too.
The first time I went to Ellis Island was on the day of this trip. I was amazed at all the treasurers collected from each country. However, I was surprised when I saw all the rooms the people stayed in, they were awful, and all the exams these poor people had to pass or their dream was dead. It saddened me to see how cruel the United States was at that time to people, but then again it was necessary. We couldn’t allow everyone in the country; we couldn’t expose the Americans that were already here to unknown diseases and illnesses. Something that I found amazing was that they made people take literacy tests, but the amazing part was that these tests were passages from the Bible. That completely blew my mind because I found it interesting that they chose the Bible. However it made me wonder what would happen if you couldn’t read the Bible, you were a different religion; would you read the passage in order to have a better future or would you deny to read it and be sent back home?
In conclusion even though I cannot relate to Ellis Island, I still believe it’s a historic landmark that should not be forgotten. I believe that St. John’s should continue to have these trips to Ellis Island because for some students, like me, this could be the first and only chance students can get to go to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is a beautiful landmark that should be preserved forever; it is a symbol of America’s beginning. That is what Ellis Island means to me.
The test was based on passages from the Bible.