You might have noticed a little change in the subtitle of our Silicon Valley Tales blog. Four years ago, I invited my friends to write about their experiences in Silicon Valley. After two years, the posts slowed to a crawl. Many of us, including me, had life changes that included relocation. First I moved to Portland, Oregon and now I live New York City. Some of the other authors are traveling the world or living in different states and countries. The booming tech economy is spreading across the globe, and I finally realized it gives us the opportunity to tell new stories.
I’ll start with New York City. Most people move to this little island at the start of their careers. It’s a bit weird to arrive here in the middle, but it’s been a great adventure so far. The hardest thing to get used to isn’t the weather, (although everyone tried to scare the crap out of this West Coaster) it’s the sheer volume of people. 1.6 million people live in the 22 square mile space that makes up the island of Manhattan. Think about doubling the population of San Francisco in half of the space. On top of that, the number of people doubles in any given weekday from employees commuting into work.
I knew I was signing up for a lot of neighbors when I moved, but there have been two times in the last five months where the sheer volume of people just shocked me. The first time, I was trying to find my way to my new office in the morning commute. Yes, I was one of “those people.” I was wandering down the street, phone in hand, trying to use Google Maps. I missed a turn and wanted to course correct. I looked up to make sure I wasn’t going to get run over by stopping my tracks. I was. For sure, I was. There was nowhere to step out of the way of the traffic stream. A block later, I finally navigated into a gap to catch my breath. After I finished having a panic attack, I found my building and walked around the block to get back to the correct set of doors.
Finding the right entry doors in Manhattan is kind of like a game, especially when you take the subway. This is where the second “crowd-experience” happened. When I lived in the Bay Area, I took BART for ten years. Before I left, commuters politely queued for the next train and boarded in an orderly fashion. That doesn’t happen here. Luckily, I only live one express stop away from my office. Every morning, I head down the subway stairs and stand with the rest of the crowd on the platform. Then, we all try and shove in the train the best that we can. As a side note, it’s been interesting to watch the subway crowd size change based on the days of the week, holidays and the weather. One day, right before Christmas, I was standing on the platform. My train pulled up and stopped. The doors opened, and the force of the crowd shoved me into the train. I’m not sure that I even took one step. It was one of the weirdest sensations that I have ever had.
Even with all the people, you can have some amazing experiences in the pockets of quiet. One night I was wandering home pretty late, and it started snowing. It was my first snow experience in New York City, and it was magical. There were maybe five other people in Union Square at the time. I was standing on the sidewalk in heels with no gloves or hat, staring at the sky and smiling like a crazy person. I looked over at a guy who was manning his food cart. He chuckled at me and gave me a thumbs up. That pretty much sums up my New York experience so far. It’s a little crazy. I’m not quite prepared. There are a ton of people, but most of them are pretty great.