NEW YORK — The biggest clue that New Yorkers were going a little royalty-crazy was when someone stopped Tony Packwood on a city bus after hearing his British accent to ask him if he was here to see the queen.
"Why would I come here to see the queen?" he marveled Monday at the British food shop where he works in Manhattan.
Customers coming to Carry on Tea & Sympathy have been asking about Queen Elizabeth II's upcoming trip to New York City, her first in 34 years. Though her visit is scheduled to last just five hours, her arrival Tuesday morning has sent some anglophiles aflutter.
"The Americans seem to be a lot more psyched than the English," said Packwood, a Liverpool native, surrounded by shelves of specialty teas, Cadbury chocolates and ornate tea pots. A British-flag tea cozy and a mosaic depicting the queen hang nearby.
"We're kind of brought up with it – it's not that big an event. But you guys love it," he said. "We see her every day on our money."
Some New York residents were hoping to catch a glimpse of the 84-year-old monarch, who will be visiting ground zero for the first time and making her first address in over half a century to the U.N. General Assembly.
The New York stop comes after a visit to Canada, where the queen was wrapping up a nine-day trip with a tour of the headquarters of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion and a dinner with the prime minister.
Law student Joey Pegram, of Brooklyn, said she wished she could see the queen – just like she did when the monarch's grandson Prince Harry was in New York to play a charity polo match. Pegram said she arrived hours before the match, and ended up with a front-row view when the prince took a tumble from his horse.
A love of British royalty was a staple at her American home growing up, the 24-year-old said. Her mother's deep admiration of Princess Diana and her charitable works made an impression on Pegram.
"There's like a one-in-a-million chance to be born with that," Pegram said Monday. "Some people use it to do good, and some people use it to make scandal. And when people use their lot to do good, it makes me feel warm inside, I guess."
Next door, at the Tea & Sympathy restaurant attached to the shop, staffers said they too were excited for the queen's visit.
"I do have a lot of respect for the queen. I think she's quite cool," said waitress Natasha Kaser, originally from Thakeham Village in West Sussex.
Kaser did admit that most of her knowledge of the royal family came from what she called "trashy magazines."
"I love photos of when she was young," Kaser said. "She was so beautiful."
The queen's speech at the United Nations could remind some people of those younger times. She was 31 years old when she last addressed the U.N. in 1957 – four years after she was crowned queen and a little more than a decade after the organization officially came into existence.
This time, she was expected to appeal for world unity and peace. A former aide said that although the speech will contain some of her thoughts, it will have been penned with government officials.
Accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, the queen also was to lay a wreath at the former site of the World Trade Center to pay tribute to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks. She also was to open the British Garden of Remembrance in nearby Hanover Square to honor the 67 British citizens killed on 9/11.
The somber itinerary seems unlikely to dampen the excitement among her admirers.
Stephanie Heitman, a Tea & Sympathy waitress originally from Colchester, England, said she hopes to get permission from her boss to sneak out to try to catch a glimpse of the queen.
Her suggestion for an addition to the monarch's itinerary make it clear that the 27-year-old's years living in New York have rubbed off on her.
"She should go to a baseball game," Heitman said. "She should go support the Mets."