Apr 162012
Authors: Allison Sylte

I know it sounds insane, but there’s just something I love about airports.

It comes down to the fact that everyone has a story, from the power-walking businessman trying to make his next international flight to the stressed-out family arguing in the terminal, from the in-love couple in Hawaiian shirts to the homeless-looking man with serious B.O. It’s the fact that you perpetually hear countless languages, that you’re rubbing elbows with people you simply wouldn’t meet in the confines of your own community.

And more than anything, it’s about the pace of life, that notion that everyone you see has some sort of distinct purpose, this distinct goal that they’re trying to carry out as they lug their carry-on bags across the sterile, linoleum floors, all while chugging a $6 cup of bad coffee.

This weekend, for this exact same reason, I fell madly in love with New York City.

NYC is like a giant airport without the terrible food and stale air, a diverse cesspool of perpetual motion and purpose, a place where you can hear Korean, Chinese, Arabic, English, Texan (hey, I consider it its own unique language), Spanish and French all on the same subway car. It’s a place where, no matter how fast you walk, you’ll get passed by a businesswoman in five-inch heels, and later get cat-called by a man trying to sell you a fake Gucci purse.

It’s a place where everyone you see possesses some sort of story, where no matter how smart you are, there’s someone smarter and more driven. It’s a place where you can eat a bagel in Queens, take the subway to Grand Central Terminal, go to Times Square and Central Park, and then enjoy a drink with friends in the East Village, all in one day.

It’s exhausting, it’s stressful, and more than anything, it’s invigorating. It felt too varied to settle into a routine, too exhausting to settle into complacency.

I’m lucky in that I’ve gotten to travel quite a bit. I’ve spent countless hours driving across the cornfields of the midwest to visit family in famous Menomonie, Wisc., and I went with 150 band kids on a whirlwind tour across Austria and the Czech Republic while I was in high school.

If you asked me what my favorite city in the world is a few days ago, my response probably would have been Salt Lake City or Branson, depending on my mood.

But that has changed.

Nowhere has captured my imagination like New York did this weekend. I’ve never seen such a concentration of diverse people, never felt so small and insignificant, and never experienced such a major sense of culture shock as I have while trying to navigate the subway system and avoid getting murdered by a cab car while a friend and I walked, slightly drunk, from the East Village back to Times Square (which, in retrospect, was a long-ass walk).

The perpetual cycle of college life has settled me into a routine, an existence where I see, more or less, the same people, and do the exact same thing, every day. I love Colorado, but it doesn’t have the sheer energy, and sheer diversity, of even a single New York City subway car.

There’s a reason why Jay-Z and Alicia Keys didn’t write a song about Fort Collins, and there’s a reason why the Glee kids want to get the hell out of Ohio. New York is a place with history, a place with diversity, and a place that continuously provides jarring culture shock, all amidst a soundtrack of perpetually honking car horns and street musicians.

Every city, and every person, in the world could maybe learn a little something from the energy, purpose and sheer spectrum of the world inside of New York City.

What struck me most was how the people of New York don’t settle for complacency, how diversity is something that’s actually tangible (and not simply something in a weird press release from the university). It’s how they have a sense of urgency and purpose, how they power-walk everywhere and yes, have more than a little bit of swagger.

The people of New York City are all one in eight million, and they act like it. That’s what makes the city vibrant. And even though we live in a city with a population smaller than the number of tourists milling through Times Square right now, it doesn’t mean that we can’t possess that same sense of identity and vibrancy as one of the greatest cities in the world.

But maybe, at the end of the day, we can’t actually be New York. After all, there’s a reason why Frank Sinatra sings songs about it, and little orphan Annie belted out “N-Y-C” to Daddy Warbucks.

But even settling for being like an airport would be a good start.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @AllisonSylte.

 Posted by at 4:27 pm

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