How To Spot Tourists in NYC – Lesson 1

This is not the most obvious way to spot tourists, but it is the most interesting, and thus the most blogworthy.

Visitors to Our Fair Apple are often from parts of the world where personal space is not so much at a premium.  Accordingly, their body movements are not so imbued with the innate sensitivities to possible space violations that us urbanites learn to quickly develop (or else you are stabbed).  In other words, the tourist will move about assuming he/she has a greater freedom of movement then he/she does.

As an example, I present a diagram of such a movement as recorded by one of our field specialists in a Subway restaurant in Manhattan’s Financial District.  Our subject is here represented by the black dots.


In this case, the tourist wished to exit the restaurant.  As you can see, she (for in this case ‘twas a female) moves for several feel in a direction other than that in which she is looking.  Unsurprisingly to me, but surprisingly to her, she slammed into a businessman entering the restaurant through the door by which she wished to leave.

Her pattern of movement in this case is indicative of an over-learned assumption that at any time one has a least a few feet of dead air behind one.  In her defense, in most places on earth I’d say she’d be correct, but not in a dense population center like New York City.  It may also be interesting to note that her problem (and thus the spectacle) was compounded by that fact that she was wearing a large backpack and carrying a beverage.  To a New Yorker, she resembled an inebriated version of the Racing Snail from Neverending Story.

Thus we have evidence of how culture and environment inform and shape what I call one’s ‘external proprioception’, that is, the organism’s innate assumptions of and sensitivities to changes in its field of movement.  Only through your funding can studies like this be pursued to their only logical conclusion: eugenics on a massive scale.

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