By Lauren DeFranco
As New Yorkers, we are all guilty of it - at least most of us, and not just the so-called one percent. Step foot out of the tri-state area and we inadvertently go into "lock jaw" mode, turning our noses up at the rest of the world.
It's something we can't control.
I recently took a trip to Phoenix, Ariz. and began to ponder the error of my ways. I didn't like being a social snob, and it made me wonder why I am part of this New York clique that doesn't readily accept outsiders.
Exiting the plane, I felt some anxiety and my senses were on overdrive. Phoenix Sky Harbor airport was not bustling with activity, like JFK or Laguardia. There was a sereneness that made me nervous. I looked at the kiosks and the duty free shops and realized I was surrounded by people that were not of my ilk. I noticed women dressed in pastel mini skirts, and colored shoes with skinny little kitten heels. Where had all the black leggings and motorcycle boots gone? I frowned at the glaring fashion faux pas, and tried not to show my disdain. The men weren't any better. I was disgusted by beer bellies, and (not ironically worn) Members Only jackets with Air Jordan sneakers. Really? Say it isn't so. My mood ring turned from blue to black.
Driving to the hotel, I asked, "Where is all the traffic?" There were no yellow cabs, no impatient drivers blowing their horns, and the only sound I could hear was the voice inside my head saying "Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore".
Phoenix is spread out, and desert mountains serve as a backdrop to the downtown area. As though it were a mirage, I spot a Starbucks on the horizon! Surely, this would be my home away from home. A place that I could relate to in a city dweller kind of way. I stood in line anxiously awaiting my coffee buzz, about to put all of my judgmental bull**** aside and accept the Arizonians like an extended family.
The goodness in my soul lasted about as long as it took to make my caramel macchiato. A woman in front of me wearing tight blue shorts and scrunchy orange boots started hemming and hawing over Frappuccino flavors! How could this be? Did she not want her usual venti latte with extra foam and a shot of sugar free vanilla? What was worse is that the barista allowing this too happen was so laid back he could have been at a Grateful Dead show.
Finally, I needed intense therapy after dealing with the "friendly" people. At every turn, strange faces were smiling at you for no apparent reason. My instant reaction was, what is their hidden agenda? "What exactly do they want from me and why are they being so NICE?" It didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, quite the contrary. I wanted to punch the next person who waved "hi" to me on the street. How rude!
A few back massages into the journey, and I begin to speak to the folks who I had been avoiding at all costs. I ENGAGED out of sheer boredom and resolved to be a more loving, uninhibited human being. I decided to make small talk with the women coming out of a health product convention. They were blonde, and pink and freakishly stepford-wife-ish.
One woman told me she is reading the memoir that I am in the middle of. Another was well versed on the news of the day. We were connected. I convinced myself that people are people and maybe it's okay to take your time ordering a latte. So what if someone has on a polka-dot dress and fuchsia toenail polish! Does that make them a bad person? Lets face it, being nice is a good thing! Perhaps we are too much of everything in New York. Too sophisticated. Too fit. Too hurried. Too fashion forward. Too stand-offish.
As I returned to JFK, my eyes were wide open even after a few drinks on the red eye. I had Arizona blood running through my veins and a life lesson under my belt. Without any hesitation, I raced toward the first Starbucks I saw and as I place my order I turn to the woman next to me and exclaim, "Good to be home... God, I love New York!"