B A H j o u r n a l i s t

Brian Anthony Hernandez

What stood out on my trip to New York? The People

The teenage girl wearing a hijab and thobe sneaked by me as I shivered inside New York’s Port Authority this morning.

Our eyes, however, met precisely when she wrapped her tiny fingers around the handle of my carry-on suitcase, and the calm expression on her face surprised me. She had tried to steal my luggage so nonchalantly that – in confusion – I had almost let her.

Of all the ways I had imagined my possessions getting stolen, this was not one. The wannabe thief didn’t hit or shoot me. She didn’t run away with items in tow. Rather, the nameless girl looked at me like a person trying to induce hypnosis: with peaceful intent. Exhausted from sitting on buses for more than 1,400 miles, I whispered, “That’s mine.” We briefly argued. Observers, who had seen me walk into the station with the suitcase, came to my defense.  She walked away, staring at me until closing elevator doors broke our gaze.

From Lincoln, Neb., where I began my bus trip Monday night, to Brooklyn, N.Y., where the journey ended today, I interacted with and observed the behaviors of people I thought could be supporting characters found in books on The New York Times best-seller list. The nameless girl was just one of many strangers that made The People the most fascinating part of my trip. Other standouts:

  • Chris, the hip-hop dancer from Burbank, Calif., whose life goal was to become the best White hip-hopper to play second fiddle to a pop star in concert –> We both spit shells of seasoned sunflower seeds into a cup wrapped in my left hand on Monday night as we sat beside each other from Omaha, Neb., to Des Moines, Iowa. I told him I’m a fan of “So You Think You Can Dance.” He tried out for Season Four. He had a quirky haircut, a curly mohawk, that would catch judges’ attention, I thought. We watched “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra.” He left before the movie ended. I shook his hand, and he continued on his way to Ames, Iowa, to visit his girlfriend.
  • The woman from Alberta, Canada, with the pink polka-dotted, grey handbag –> Not in that bag was anything to keep her from repeating, “It’s so cold.” When asked about  the outside temperature, she confidently said, “It’s 30 degrees.” Other passengers refuted. I understood. Like other Canadians, she was describing temperatures in Celsius degrees. Thirty degrees Celsius is 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Cultural norms clashed.  She revealed how she’s used only Canadian money and that relatives gave her a significant amount of U.S. dollars for this trip, her first to New York. I wondered whether this was something she should have kept secret, considering she was on a bus full of strangers who – like the nameless girl – could try to steal her belongings.
  • The silent man, who used sign language to answer fellow passengers’ questions but sang when left alone –> At first, we thought he was deaf and could read lips. Then, we heard him sing part of Collective Soul’s “The World I Know.” I looked at the person adjacent to me. Bewildered, we shrugged our shoulders and laughed.
  • The paramedic, who when responding to a passenger who had collapsed in a gas-station parking lot, mistook an important fact about the male victim –> “Who here speaks Spanish? I need a translator,” she yelled several times to onlookers. A bilingual man volunteered to help, but when the victim spoke, the volunteer could not understand. We soon learned the victim spoke Italian, not Spanish.

July 28, 2010 - Posted by | New York, Personal


  1. What an amazing adventure — and you just got to the Big Apple! Keep up the updates.

    Comment by Laura | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. You almost got jacked your first day in the city? Yeah i don’t think that place is for me. i can’t wait to come visit though!

    Comment by Danielle | July 30, 2010 | Reply

    • I’m excited to have visitors. This incident aside, New York City rocks so far.

      Comment by Brian Anthony Hernandez | August 5, 2010 | Reply

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