Friday, February 11, 2011

Diane vs. the Toddlers of New York

We were in a large park in Munich when I first heard it: a child speaking German.

This shouldn't have surprised me, of course. We were in Germany, after all. But somehow, even throughout my six years of studying the language, I had never heard anyone of the elementary set speaking it. The tot whose tongue effortlessly rolled off the sentences and phrases I could barely put together almost made me stop in my tracks

That same feeling returns whenever I heard a toddler rattle of the subway lines faster than I can.

To them, it's probably akin to learning the alphabet -- it practically is the alphabet. But, when you're a new New Yorker, it's discouraging to hear a 5-year-old ask his mother if they are going to transfer to the N when you can barely make it to your own destination without looking at a map five times.

I know the routes well enough now that no toddler will show me up ever again. And maybe those kids aren't as city smart as I took them for when we first moved here. A coworker and native New Yorker told me that she, as a child, knew the subway lines near her house but was at a loss in other neighborhoods. I now have at least a rough idea of the lines that go to neighborhoods I've never even been too.

Take that, two-year-olds.

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