We New Yorkers are a smug bunch. Not only are we smart, sexy, charming, well dressed, hard working, versatile, and in good shape, we’re modest too! This is why, regardless of where a group may be from, we as New York City tour guides treat them with all of the charm and politeness and engagement that any group of tourists truly deserves, letting them know that our city can be, and in most cases truly is a friendly and welcoming town. And then when they leave we go back to thinking we’re the greatest people in the world and everyone else is at best, second banana.
It was John Updike who once said “Every New Yorker secretly thinks that anyone who lives anywhere else has got to be kidding.”
And that’s why I’ve got to give a shout-out to White County High School, from Cleveland, Georgia for showing me that a high school band from a small, rural town in the South can also be charming, smart, nuanced and a delight to engage and show around town! They might not have got all of my literature and theater references, but guess what? When walking through Central Park they informed me about the different types of word-work they could do with the different types of trees they saw around. I had the book smarts, they had the nature smarts, and it really gave me a sense that we’ve got a good crop of kids growing up all over our country.
I think I was most impressed when one girl on the bus knew the text-book definition of the word “Non sequitur” That was impressive.
So, we had an 8-hour tour through the city together which included an long walk in Central Park, my younger brother Jonah and I were treated to their fantastic band performance at the Central Park Bandshell, some lunch and shopping in Rockefeller Center, a downtown city-bus tour and a visit to the World Trade Center site before it was time to wrap it up in Times Square. So, on the way back to Midtown I’m fielding my last handful of questions and this one comes volleyed from the back of the bus:
“So… Do you like Obama?”
See, it’s Levys’ Unique New York policy to not talk about politics on tour. You never know who you might offend with what. And here I was with the most simple yet at the same times most dangerous little grenade tossed into my lap, and with 50 sets of eyes on me, I couldn’t just redirect the question. So with my voice shrunken to a conciliatory squeak I slowly reply:
“… … Yes?” Some of the parents sneer, some glance away, and for a moment I wonder how many of them are card-carrying members of the Tea Party.
“Arright, listen. New York is a liberal town!” I start finessing the situation immediately “So of course, you’re going to run into Obama supporters here! But my whole take on the thing is… the man’s only been in office for fourteen months. Give him a chance! Let him get his four years in and if in 2012, the country hates him, then he’ll get voted out and you can have the satisfaction of being right! But at least give the man his due until then!” I’m positively sweating by this point. Most of the heads nod with a blend of bitter disagreement and a polite acceptance of the political reality. And then I jump in with the save:
“But I think we can all agree that congress sucks, right?” And suddenly, with smiles and nods, we’re all on the same side again.
We arrive at Times Square, I jump off the bus to accolades of applause, and as I head to the subway, I think about how in 2 and a half years, most of those kids will be eligible to vote… and I feel confident enough that at least this group, regardless of their political leanings are smart enough to weigh in on where this country is headed.
God Bless America!