By Geo Ong
Despite being the most populous city in the United States, New York City can also be one of its most alienating. Its fast pace and forward movement can oftentimes leave you feeling left in the dust, be it professionally, financially, romantically, or, in the case of this particular piece, socially.
It can sometimes be quite difficult to meet people here in New York City. At times it feels like everyone is on separate tracks, not to be disrupted; if you put yourself out there, there’s a good chance you’ll just get run over.
Well I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that difficult. With an open mind, some luck, and some chance, meeting people can actually be quite effortless.
Last week a friend of mine celebrated his birthday, and his partner was throwing him a small party at her apartment and kindly extended an invitation to me. It took about a week for me to decide whether or not I was going to attend, but in an extreme act of courage, I decided to put forth the effort and go to a party full of people I may not know. It has been so hot these past few weeks that I was more worried about wearing jeans for more than an hour.
Characteristically, I arrived at the front door of the building all too early. Rather than die outside, I decided to risk some awkward small talk for twenty or however many minutes in exchange for the cool possibility of air conditioning, an oscillating fan, or, in the very least, permission to take off my trousers. As I made this decision a delivery man, who had apparently been standing next to me as I reasoned out loud with myself this whole time, was buzzed into the building and held the front door open for me to step inside.
The apartment was located on the fifth floor of a walk-up, and by the time I made it, my hazy vision was able to make out the apartment’s wide-open door. From the inside of the apartment, a young woman saw me in the hallway and smiled. Instinctively I smiled back and walked toward her. ‘Hey there,’ I said, sticking my head into the apartment. ‘Sorry I’m a little early.’ The woman, whom I’ve never met, was seated at a table, and there was a guy across the room who looked like he just came from the gym that was seated on the couch. I must be really early, I thought as I walked in and sat opposite the woman at the table.
‘So how long have you lived here?’ the woman asked the guy on the couch. Apparently they were just meeting each other also. ‘I moved here from Los Angeles three years ago.’ I happily joined in the conversation, telling him I too hailed from Los Angeles. We got more specific, and he confessed he was actually from Orange County, which of course is a completely different city from Los Angeles. I let that one slide; I was too busy wondering when they’ll bring the beer out.
The woman rejoined the conversation. She told us she was going to Burning Man in Nevada by way of Northern California and that she’d be leaving for a flight to San Francisco in the morning. As the two spoke, I snuck glances at the apartment. The doors to all the bedrooms were wide open and none of the beds were made. Suddenly I realised that there was a very large chance I walked into the wrong apartment. Just as this realisation brought itself to the forefront of my brain, the guy on the couch asked me, ‘So how do you know Alice?’
I wanted to tell him, ‘I don’t,’ followed by, ‘I suppose I’ll be jumping out of that window now.’ Instead I contemplated silently for a good length of time; it most likely appeared to them that I was trying to remember how I met this Alice person, when really I was formulating escape plans. The two people waited politely, and after a moment I took control of the situation. ‘You know,’ I began slowly, ‘it has just occurred to me that I may be in the wrong apartment. Is this apartment 20?’
‘No,’ the guy answered darkly. ‘This is 21.’
I scratched my chin and pondered his answer while the silence enveloped and suffocated us all. ‘Well,’ I said, standing up slowly, ‘thank you for your hospitality.’ Then I walked swiftly out through the still-open front door and bounded down the stairs, thinking only much later that the least I could’ve done to make up for trespassing was close the front door behind me to spare them these occurrences in the future.