Nobody can possibly tell it better than this Scott Adams blog.
I rarely take the subway, maybe once a month or so, therefore I never got to really practice the art of MetroCard swiping. About half of the time I need a second try, and sometimes a third.
I came to NYC for job interview in late 2000, with J for her office visit after she got her job here. We stayed in a midtown hotel and I needed to go to 21st St, so I probably took the V train, which stops at 23rd St. After a looong ride between stops I saw the sign for 23rd and got off. The station felt a bit strange and different from the midtown one I entered, but what did I know.
When I got above ground, the strange feeling grew much stronger. The streets looked very different from midtown. There’s hardly any tall buildings around.
Nor people in clean clothes.
Then I saw a familiar skyline in the distance. Wow, Manhattan is really huge, I thought.
But wait, if I see midtown in one direction, I should see downtown buildings in the opposite direction, right?
I looked around. There were no tall buildings in any other direction. Nor people in clean clothes.
What the foosball underwater clockmaker kitchen…
In the end I got to the interview 15 minutes late. Now I wish I were late more and didn’t get the job, but that’s another story.
Since we moved to the area, I’ve studied the Map enough that I won’t mistake uptown/downtown or Queens/Brooklyn again, but I still get confused from time to time about local and express trains, and weekday/weekend/holiday schedules.
I’d safely bet that the average IQ of New Yorkers is at least 15 points above the rest of the country just because of the subway. Adding in stuff like spotting a non-off-duty taxi 5 blocks away and alternate side parking, New Yorkers have got to be the smartest people in the world to just survive in the City.