I spent the past week visiting my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s a medium-sized city known for it’s closely-knit, slightly more Appalachian than advertised community. There is a general attitude of friendliness that permeates even the grumpiest of rednecks. Often, a trip home is a welcome refreshment from New York City, but is quick to grow stale.
Yesterday, I was meeting with my sister and niece at a bookstore. I arrived almost 20 minutes early and decided to get coffee at the cafe next door. Two women were ahead of me in line for my medium soy iced latte. No one involved was in a particular rush. Customers were making small talk with the barista about a sign announcing the imminent Donut Day.
Though I could be counted among those in no particular hurry, I found myself growing impatient with every second the woman in front of me spent digging through her Polyurethane purse in search of a possible gift card. The whole scenario began and ended in the space of five minutes, and yet before it was over I had mentally huffed myself ragged.
I returned to the bookstore, stood in front of a display showcasing coloring books for adults, and reflected on the fact that I had officially become someone I would mock.
When did this happen, I wonder? How did I transform into a bitchy Manhattan werewolf without realizing it? Is this the official indoctrination into becoming a real New Yorker? Being an insufferable wombat of a human?
I have since returned to New York, and I am now sitting at a cafe on the Lower East Side, surrounded by others who all surely received their coffee in a timely manner, albeit without much discussion of the fact that today is now officially Donut Day.
Perhaps at one time I would have been delighted to fit in among this crowd, all typing aggressively on Mac Books or looking down at Instagram with heads tilted to take a bite of a croissant held in the other hand. To sit unnoticed among the calm, cool, Zara-wearing population is not a task mastered without time and practice.
Yet, today I feel like standing up and screaming, if only to be an individual among individuals. I resent the affected manner in which I drink my coffee and cross my legs. I wish I didn’t know the words to the Bon Iver song currently playing, and yet I am mentally singing along. How cruel that two other people in here are wearing the same shoes as me.
I never thought I’d hear myself publicly declare that I no longer wish to be a New Yorker. But upon further consideration, if it means retaining the capacity to breathe, I am content to remain a stranger in a strange land.