Hello, New York. It's time we talked.
Earlier today, I was running in one of your beautiful parks, listening to some very upbeat music created by one of your talented natives, Lady Gaga. I turned the volume up as I entered the park because I knew that upon entering on that Tuesday morning that I was safe from traffic. I ran up the park's entrance and dutifully made my way to the pedestrian's lane, running in a diagonal to get to my designated feet-only zone.
Suddenly, a group of your worst inhabitants that you allow within your borders, your wretched group of spandex-wearing cyclists -- who for whatever reason were biking en masse in the middle of the day on a Tuesday because they don't have real jobs -- whizzed by me and startled me right out of my earbuds. Their leader, a tactless male with questionably low amounts of hair on his legs, screamed, "Heads up!" right into my ear.
Before I could understand what was going on or move out of anyone's way, this leader turned around in his cerulean blue shorts that left little to the imagination and asked me the question that many of your citizens often ask of me after almost running me over: "What the f*ck is wrong with you?"
Now, I know what you're thinking dear New York, and let me defend myself. I do in fact have the very thick skin required to live here, and I believe mine is thicker than most of your inhabitants. When cabs try to tell me their credit card machine is broken and I have to pay cash, I show them my phone, which is already dialing 311 to report them. I've threatened my landlord into fixing just about anything from faulty staircases to poltergeists, and I have successfully seen to it that the builders of Barclay Stadium stop leaving their pvc pipes in front of my house by telling all of the construction workers that my good friend Jay-Z will have them shut down if they don't properly store their materials (we're not friends; I just wear sunglasses when I say this to the workers). I have dealt with bartenders using my credit card to buy Chinese food, the cashiers at Chipotle getting my order wrong at lunch hour, and I may be the only person in New York who has actually received a jay-walking ticket -- which I paid in full. My sweet, mild-mannered family, all still oblivious to the harshness of this world because they choose to live in California, have long ago accepted that New York has made me a huge, huge bitch and have asked me to help negotiate their phone bill overcharges on several occasions.
So yes, I can handle a crowded subway and I can make it out alive after a night of going out in the Meatpacking District, but New York, my mind, body and soul cannot handle someone in shorts made from very clingy material asking me from a moving bike what the f*ck is wrong with me, and I can't handle it from someone yelling it from a car window or a Central Park horse carriage. I just can't.
After your bikers harassed me, I rushed onto the freshly mowed grass of the island divider in Prospect Park before anyone or anything else could terrorize me. I stared after the dust that had risen from the villainous be'spandexed crew. How dare they take my enjoyment of this public property away from me. I had the urge to fight. "Hey!" I yelled after them, even though they were long gone. "I'm walkin' here!" Even in my best Brooklyn, it was useless. When someone asks you what the f*ck is wrong with you from a moving vehicle, you will not get to give an answer.
What, I asked myself, the f*ck is wrong with me? Why didn't I answer him immediately? Why didn't I speed up and tackle him and then tell him what he so desperately needed to know that he put himself in danger to ask? Why am I so upset at something I can't do anything about? Why does moving back to California (where no one asks questions, people simply make statements all the time) sound really good right now? It took several minutes for the small voice inside of me to tell me that I'll never be able to answer this man who asked me what the f*ck is wrong with me, but most of all, he didn't actually care to know the answer.
Let me just say, there is nothing the f*ck wrong with me. In fact, I'm the f*ck right. I eat my vegetables and I don't beg for money on the subway, which means I obey the law. Speaking of law, I've been convicted of one crime in my life and that was jay-walking, which, okay, maybe I was doing again in this situation but since when is jay-walking a crime in a PARK? Furthermore, why was this even an issue? This gang was so greedy for speed that they couldn't take half a second to bike around me? New York, when I say I was jogging, I must be clear that I was going maybe, maybe 1.5 miles an hour. It is very easy to avoid me.
Oh my gosh New York, there is something the f*ck wrong with me. I'm slow.
I thought of all the times someone had yelled at me after almost running me over. Last week it was the crane that was carrying away the PVC pipes. The week before it was when someone tripped over my pinky toe on the escalator when they were running up and I was taking each step two feet at a time. And last month it was my boyfriend from a moving Q train, after I failed to get back onto the train while standing to the side to let off a group of noisy high school students. Yes sir, New York City, I am slower than a grandma on a hot day on in front of Max Brenner.
Being slow in you, New York, makes you a terrible person to share the city with, but if terrible people like those reckless members of the Tour De France re-creation group that tried to ruin me can live in your town, then I sure can live here too. New York, you are a town full of great souls that have one thing that is really terrible about them. For me, that thing is being slow, which is way better than being an a**hole on a bike.
Lying there on that grassy island, I knew I had to find a way to put myself back on top of my New York ecosystem. There had to be someone out there more terrible than me in the flow of your city walls. I picked my limp, sad body up and trudged toward the pedestrian lane and continued my run.
As I began to sweat in the cold April sun of Brooklyn, my confidence returned. I noticed the park's new arsenal of NYPD golf carts and hopped about them like a pro. I breezed past the slower joggers with tired dogs and weight belts. Then, at the Nethermead, I saw a woman pushing two strollers -- an anomaly even for Park Slope. Her strollers were swerving every which way and she was walking ever so slowly as if she had nowhere to be and no work-from-home job to get back to. I slowed my jog as I became closer to her and began to feel bad for her having to deal with those -- What the hell is this? Did she just stop? She stopped in the middle of the pedestrian lane? What is she thinking? She's putting the entire park in danger, not to mention the possible children that might be in those strollers? What the f*ck is wrong with her? I knew what had to be done, and there was no time to run around her.
"Out of my way, lady!" I screamed as I pushed past her, jumping over her stroller (which had a child in it) and scaring the daylights out of her. I sprinted forward, my mother's Lululemon pants (that I borrowed and promise to give back soon) flapping in the wind. It felt great to run freely at the speed of a jaguar (maybe a jaguar who was raised in captivity?) and it felt great to call someone "Lady" and mean it in the way people say it when they want someone to get the f*ck out of the way.
"Hey," she said as I ran toward the park's exit. "I'm walkin' here!" What a loon. She wasn't even walking. All was right in the ecosystem.
And so New York, get ready for me. I'm tough, I'm smart, and your people will have plenty of time to run me over if you want to, because I'm not going any faster for anyone but me.
Follow Sarah Shanfield on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shansar