From the NYTimes Wednesday, apparently there's an acknowledged problem when people get off the subway----they can't figure out in what direction they're going! So the city's been placing a few "direction compass" thingies on the sidewalks outside of the subways that have direction points and streets listed.
I agree---being new here, I've usually been completely lost when emerging from the subway between avenues, having no idea which way I should head. As the article mentioned, the street signs are so far apart and the avenues so far apart that you can't actually figure out where you're going, so must ask kindly New Yorkers for directions.
In the NYTimes article about the new sidewalk plaques, one interviewee said, "We need those because tourists are always asking us, 'Which way to Third Avenue?"
I couldn't quite tell if this media native was being snippy. But, she's actually right about needy tourists: I personally have asked dozens of kindly New Yorkers for directions since I've been here! To read the article in the Times, you'd think that most New Yorkers were French-like in their attitudes toward dummies asking for directions, but au contraire---every single New Yorker I've ever asked for directions in the past 8 months has been more than friendly. Bank instructions, bus instructions, park instructions, elevator instructions, how to order food, for chrissakes... I've been, now that I think about it, incredibly pathetic (!) and New Yorkers have been absolutely GREAT in response! ;p
I was taking a smoke break outside of work today with a co-worker who's a native New Yorker. We were talking about other places we'd lived (we both hated San Francisco---extremely provincial; and she'd heard good things about my home-town of Austin). I was telling her how much I didn't feel at home in either Austin (despite my 25 years there) or San Fran, and wondering if my extreme liking of New York was warranted after only 8 months...
"Why do you like New York so much?"
"It's gorgeous. And everything's going on. And I love the people. And back in Austin, when I was driving, I would honk when people in front of me wouldn't move when the light turned green. And anyone riding in the car with me would be incredibly embarrassed. And people there always commented that I talked too fast and walked too fast..."
"You're a New Yorker."