When I was a child, I had an unconventional English teacher John. John likes to say: “life is like a shit sandwich. The more you eat, the less is left.” If life is a shit sandwich, then New York is the “Subway”—the biggest sandwich store on earth.
Lots of shit happened in my 5 days tour in NYC. To begin with, when I first arrived New York, I discovered my sublease room had a disgusting bathroom. It was a bathroom shared by three students but cared by none. There was grease on the floor, the shower curtain curls and sticks to anything that touches it (including human body).
The shit meter heightened when we started to use the metro. The smell and dirtiness of the underground system reminds me in which city I am. I’m always surprised how adventurous Americans can be to advance technologies and change business models, but at the same time be so careless to details and administrations. Americans can build the most complicated financial transaction system on the ground of lower Manhattan, but they can’t keep a safe and clean metro system under. Dust everywhere and the water never plumbs fluently. I used to be ashamed of the dirtiness of my own bathroom, but my pride was restored in New York. In comparison, my bathroom is not the dirtiest in the world.
The shit meter peaked at Time Square station. I need to change trains at Time Square Station so I walked to the elevator between the platforms. The elevator door opened. I stepped one foot in. And I stepped back and run. There was shit in the elevator. Human shit. Squeezed, already-stepped-on, aged human shit. The smell of the shit infiltrated the station, and pedestrians who were rushing to join the New Year count down at Time Square.
Of course there were good memories in New York. I even felt like Carie in Sex and the City as I type Carie-like lines: “Is it harder to find a New York metro station with a clean elevator? Or is it harder to find a New York man who can keep his shit in his bathroom?” New York is such a grand city that throws all kinds of pretty and ugly things into your face.
Perhaps the most memorable stop was at where World Trade Centers once stood. The place is now called Ground Zero. Where skyscrapers used to stand is now hallow. But memories prevailed and new meanings implanted. Looking at the now-empty scene behind the fence, I couldn’t help reexamining the purpose and priority of my life. And I thought that was the perfect way to start my new year.
As the new year begins, I hope everyone can start from Ground Zero, and step out of any old shit. I would also revise John’s favorite line: “Life is like a sandwich. If you eat enough, eventually you’ll enjoy it.”