This Doesn't Make Me A Target, Right?
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Politics and Activism

This Doesn't Make Me A Target, Right?

This is the question I should of asked with every decision I made in the first 30 minutes of being in New York City.

This Doesn't Make Me A Target, Right?
Garrett Schulte

Imagine you were told that you were playing a game where you had to stay standing at any cost. Notice that there is no option to play, you're just thrown into the arena.

The only condition is that, at the start, you have to be leaning backwards. Sounds a little fishy, but hey, it also sounds like a fun, harmless game. The light flashes green, game starts and before you can do anything, someone you didn't see pushes you down. They then yell and beat their chest in primal celebration while you stare wide-eyed from the ground. All that flashes across your mind's eye is the infamous quick-escalation "Anchorman" meme.

You lose. Let's play again. You've learned and adapted from the first time, so this time, you grab onto that person who comes from the shadows for dear life, and you use their weight to stay upright. Well, that's the plan, anyway. Maybe you fall again, maybe you don't.

The point is, eventually you learn that "at any cost" is the way of the game. The other players in the arena have already learned this rule; you are playing catch-up.

Say hello to my experience in New York City.

I walked off of the bus, and I was the largest target you have ever seen. Both in reality and metaphorically. I felt great, though. I'd just taken a huge nap, school had just ended and I was rocking a favorite look of mine: I had a tank top on, so I automatically couldn't be sad, and I was also sporting Hawaiian shorts. Maybe that's not the right description. You know those shirts with the flowers all over them? Well, transport the flowers to my shorts and voilà, my pride and joy!

However, as I entered this completely foreign place,there was something I hadn't thought of (shocking, I know): Who in the world owns those shorts and wears them with a tank top?

Maybe avid beachgoers? Probably a lot of people, actually. But at that point in time, the most applicable answer to that question was: not people in New York City when it is 45 degrees outside.

Yeah, I underestimated the weather. I at least threw on a jacket to keep warm and indirectly made myself look like less of a target.

The biggest characteristic that made me stand out was that I was carting around two checked-style bags of 50 pounds, with one backpack on my back and another on my chest. Basically, there was no moving fast.

I walked out to the street and needed to find transportation to my friend's house. Though I'd never done this on a busy New York street before, I thought I'd try taking one of the many taxis in the city. But, as it turned out, the taxi stand was closed.

And then this guy asked me where I was going. My answer didn't satisfy him, and he said, "Oh, just grab a cab at the taxi stand," and pushed me off.

First of all, I was confused because the stand was closed. I'd also never hailed a cab on the side of the road, and the whole waving thing didn't seem legit. (Side note for any noobs like me: it's totally legit. In fact, it is the only way to do it. Lesson learned.)

Anyway, I approached him again and asked where he meant for me to go.

Wrong choice. Done. Killed. He immediately realized that I had no idea what I was doing.

He told me that hotels were a great place to get them, and he walked me to one while saying, "Only dumb question is a question you don't ask!" which made me feel pretty good about him.

But once he got me there, he surprised me by asking me for money. I said no, but I felt bad because he had helped me out, so I checked my wallet. Another big mistake: I showed that I was willing to give money. Mistake No. 5 (or something like that, I've honestly lost count): I had no cash.

That didn't stop him. He paraded me around to four ATM's, as the first three didn't work. I let him do this because I didn't want to tell him, "No." If I had, he probably would've left me alone. I just needed to tell him, "Yo, I appreciate what you're doing, I don't have the money, I'll find my own way, bye."

Instead, I let him take me around because I felt some sort of obligation to pay him. Finally, we found an ATM that worked, and it hit me that ATMs only give multiples of 20. Well, no worries, I could just get change from the guy, right? (...right?)

He finally hailed a cab like he'd said he would 15 minutes earlier, and I was flanked by words and questions from both him and the taxi driver. I didn't manage to ask him for change because the taxi driver started talking to me, so he ran off with the $20. The taxi driver thought I didn't understand that I'd also have to pay him, the guy actually doing the work, so he threw another flurry of words at me while I was simply not in the mood. I looked at him, pulled out my card and said, "Do you take this? Yes? Great, you'll get paid, let's go."

Oosah. Oosah.

What did I learn? A lot of things, about both myself and people in general, but these three lessons stand out.

Don't be a target. Take actions confidently and without pause. There will be people who see hesitation as a chance to use you as much as they can, until you finally stop it. Whether it is a new job, a new living environment, or a new city, be confident. If you mess up, at least it was your mistake that you can learn from, not something that you were manipulated into.

Don't let people abuse your personality. For example, don't let someone use your initial willingness to help as a means of making you feel obligated to do anything you can to help them out. Notice when people are being manipulative and don't tolerate it. Stand up for yourself every step of the way, but be willing to help others stand if you can.

Don't be a nice person 100 percent of the time. This goes hand in hand with the above lesson, but it is slightly different. In my life, I've found that I can be nicer to people I've met for the first time than even my own friends. I race one of my friends to the elevator because she hates unneeded chivalry. But random people? I'm not going to race them into an elevator and throw 'bows to win. I've bestowed a respect on them because I don't want to be a sarcastic ass or jerk to a stranger I will only interact with for five minutes in my life. I automatically do things that I think will make the interaction positive for both parties.

My friends, on the other hand — well, we have been through enough together for me to make up for it another time. Unlike strangers, friends understand you well enough to know when you're kidding, and because you already know each other, you don't need to be so careful about making a good first impression. It's a friendship. There is a difference between the two groups of people. (I feel like I'm not explaining it well, and I hope I don't look like a terrible friend.)

The problem is that if you are too nice to a stranger, that five-minute encounter can be turned on you for the entire duration, and that's not fair to you.

People deserve the benefit of the doubt — but not at the cost of your own self-worth. We need to respect the importance of everybody, including ourselves. It becomes a balancing act: you want to be a good person, but you also don't want to be used. Everyone is playing at varying intensities of "at any cost." You need to find your level in life and be willing to accept the outcomes of that level as well as be willing to change it if you feel it necessary.

My rant is over. Maybe the guy did need the money, and in that case, it's good that it went down that way. Maybe everyone is looking at me and thinking, "Gee, what an idiot!". That's totally fine, and I hope that it was at least funny to read. Honestly, it feels good to write about it, just to get some clarity and learn from the experience. I'm ready to take on the world again!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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