New York City is intimidating for tourists. A decade past my first fumblings, I want to forget what it was like to climb up those subway stairs, unsure if I was even supposed to look people in the eye, and feel the stare of the buildings glowering me into the nearest Starbucks where I could comport myself over a familiar sludge. But that indelible memory of fear is part of why so many of us feel so proud about knowing how to operate the city properly. Which, hey! Fine. But as annoying as tourists may be, we transplants don’t get to hate them. (If you’re a native please hate as you like.)
Which is why I’m not going to sneer at this new map app for tourists that replaces landmarks with, well, mostly just places to shop. Sure, New York is so much more than just shopping and eating and going to shows. But if nothing else, tourists’ eyes will be scanning the shops for familiar brands and logos to use as landmarks, which are about as much help as we give them navigationally, since our subways and public transportation signage and systems are built for locals, not visitors.
Training wheels. And maybe after a couple of days of thinking “Hey, New York is an awful lot like a big outdoor mall” tourists will start wondering where the unique New York they’ve heard so much about is hidden and will start to explore for real.