Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Hate Times Square

I did not see this movie.

This was both the second year I spent New Year’s Eve in New York City and the second year I made sure to stay as far away from Times Square as possible. Only this time, it wasn’t enough to just stay away from Times Square. I also felt the need to have multiple conversations with my friends about why I wanted to stay away from Times Square and how I couldn’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would ever voluntarily go spend eight hours in such a crowded, cold, bathroom-less place.

In short, I don’t like Times Square very much, and the occurrence of yet another New Year’s Eve gave me an opportunity to think about why.

It’s not the tourists. Yes, they make it exceedingly difficult to walk, and yes, I become incensed every time I see someone stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk to take a picture of the M&M store, but Times Square is a tourist attraction. If I got angry with tourists for visiting Times Square, I would have to retroactively get angry with myself for visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Lincoln Memorial in DC, etc., etc. I hate mankind and myself for plenty of things already. I don’t think I can handle adding “visiting tourist attractions when you’re a tourist” to the list.

No, the reason I hate Times Square is the same reason I hate Paris Hilton (sorry if that reference is too dated): it’s famous, but it doesn’t deserve to be. In other words, I don’t begrudge tourists for visiting it; I just don’t understand why they visit it in the first place. I’ve been there plenty of times (rarely by choice, just so you know that this piece isn’t a giant exercise in hypocrisy), and the most complimentary thing I can think of to say about it is that it looks kind of cool at night when everything is lit up.

Apart from that, it’s always appeared to me as nothing more than a collection of larger and more neon versions of stores that exist pretty much everywhere else in the country. The logic of going to New York City and eating at an Olive Garden even though the food is going to taste exactly the same as it did in Davenport except hey look at how cool the sign is at this one completely escapes me and brings back memories of Michael Scott’s first trip here. If you’re in the mood for Italian food, why not go to, say, Little Italy? Or pretty much anywhere. As Jon Stewart once pointed out, New York is a pretty good place to get Italian food.

The same could be said about the McDonald’s, the T.G.I. Friday’s, and, yes, even the M&M store. I’ll admit that it offers more variety than your typical candy shop, but ultimately, a bag of personalized mauve M&Ms is going to taste about the same as a bag you buy from CVS.

CVS, by the way, currently operates over 7,000 stores across the United States.

I can’t imagine this will actually change anyone’s mind about Times Square, given that it’s been famous for over 100 years and I haven’t gotten recognized on the street since I switched to contacts in 2005 and stopped getting mistaken for Harry Potter. But on the off chance that anyone reads this who’s thinking about visiting New York City, please trust me: there are several better tourist attractions to go to than Times Square.

Unless Olive Garden is doing its Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion. That deal is too good to pass up. The trick is to order a bowl after you aren't hungry anymore, have one bite, and then take it home. Boom: second dinner.

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