|Navigating New York City can be tough if you’re directionally challenged.|
I thought I was relatively skilled when it comes to directions, that is, until I moved to New York City. It didn’t take long to figure out that Gotham is a different beast when trying to get around. With five different boroughs, as well as neighborhoods within those boroughs, not every transplant can navigate the city perfectly right off the bat. Even after living here for four years, at times I still feel directionally challenged and have to pull over on the sidewalk to sort myself out, depending on the area.
Sure, I know the Upper East Side like the back of my hand, but if I venture too far north, south, west, or to another borough? That’s a different story. Here’s an idea of what I and other directionally challenged locals face.
I leave the house extra early.
I’m somewhat OCD when it comes to being on time. So I like to leave my apartment early enough to leave room for getting lost.
I often take the wrong subway exit.
It was bad enough when I first figured out the subway has multiple entrances that don’t always have trains going in both directions. (The first time I rode the train, I almost ended up in the Bronx when I was trying to get to Union Square.) But once I arrive at my destination, I usually end up taking the farthest exit from the street I’m trying to get to.
I don’t know where to go after exiting the subway.
Once I’m out of the station, I don’t always know which way to walk. It’s especially frustrating when I walk down a long avenue block, only to realize I’ve gone the wrong way, and need to go back.
|The NYC subway is confusing to some.|
I’m dependent on Manhattan’s grid system.
I always say I avoid going to Brooklyn or Queens because I can’t be bothered with the commute. That’s somewhat true, but it’s also because I can’t navigate those boroughs nearly as well as Manhattan’s trusty grid system – although once I get below East First or south of 14th on the west side, the streets change from numbers to names, and it gets tricky again.
I can’t even consider living in Stuy Town.
My friend Bekki lived in Stuy Town and asked me to mail off a package for her when she was on vacation in Dubai, and I was staying at her place babysitting her cat (guess who got the better end of that deal?). I circled the Oval twice –– the Oval is a large communal area of Stuy Town –– and ended up trying to deliver the package at the security office. The security guards pointed me in the direction of the actual mail location, which was nice of them, but it still took me another 15 minutes to find it… even though it was only a five-minute walk from her building.
I can’t go to Chinatown alone.
No matter how badly I want to go to the Golden Unicorn for dim sum, there’s not a chance in hell I’ll be walking around Chinatown without a friend. I have no idea how those streets work.
|Chinatown streets aren’t on the typical New York City grid.|
I have trouble navigating after dark.
Some places in the city just look completely different at night or during the day. I can find the Backroom, a hidden NYC speakeasy, with no trouble during a night out. But once the sun comes up, it seems to disappear. It’s like Brigadoon.
I call friends to the rescue.
The first time I went to visit my friend Rae at her apartment in Brooklyn, I got lost and ended up finding a policeman to stand next to until she came to get me. The same thing happened in Spanish Harlem.
I rely on HopStop and Google Maps.
No, I don’t walk around NYC completely dazed and confused 24/7. As long as my phone is charged, HopStop and Google make it a lot easier to figure out where I am.
I hail a cab when all else fails.
The beauty about traveling around NYC is that nobody can really be lost. There’s always a subway station or bus stop nearby, not to mention the help of smartphones. And if all else fails and I’m too exhausted to figure out where I’m going myself, I hail a cab.
Do you have any tips for the directionally challenged? Share in the comments!