How To Look Like a Tourist in NYC: Feed the Squirrels

If you were an animal, what would you be?

It is something of a clichéd question. One commonly encountered in interviews, get-to-know-you games, and personality tests. There are typical answers: lion, otter, eagle.

Me? I think I’d be a squirrel. I can never sit still, I’m always dashing around the city in a helter-skelter way. Not exactly a klutz or uncoordinated, but I’m certainly not graceful. I might fall out of a tree, but I’ll bounce right back up again like it never happened. You can call me a hard worker, resourceful and madly adaptable. Quick and clever and cute, but I’m not cuddly, or chipmunk-adorable. If you f— with me I will piercingly chatter my head off at you. And just as squirrels overturn bird feeders, I’ve been known to be kind of a jerk, sometimes taking a joke too far. Also, I’ve been known to cram nuts into my cheeks. See, I’m a jerk! I’ll take a joke too far even at my own expense!

Why else would I be a squirrel? Because I live in New York City, like so many of these furry creatures. Take a walk in any city park and you will see dozens of squirrels skittering around, digging holes, burying nuts. Locals don’t give squirrels a second glance. Tourists, on the other hand, they go crazy over squirrels.

Perhaps it’s because they look so cute (like I said, I can relate) and they’re remarkably ballsy- so unafraid of humans that they will actually jump on you if you let them. Maybe visitors go gaga over squirrels because any other wildlife they are likely to encounter in this city is disgusting- rats, pigeons, cockroaches.

I watched this group of squirrels steal the scene in Union Square. Surrounding observers fought for their attention, coaxing the animals with bits of food, making chirping noises to draw them closer. A blond woman, whose obvious beauty would have her rarely vying for attention, was desperate for the affections of a squirrel. She offered her hand, courting and cajoling, smiling with triumphant glee when the object of her desire at last gave in an scampered up her pant-leg.

Alas, I failed to capture the moment on film

I watched all this amused and of course I rolled my eyes. That’s what New York inhabitants do when we see the silly antics of tourists. We shake our heads, roll our eyes, and mutter “tourists.” It’s almost cliché. While taking photographs for this post, I was extremely self-conscious, knowing any New Yorker who saw me with my camera out would assume I was a tourist. It’s a pride thing- no one who calls NYC home likes being mistaken for someone who doesn’t. If you don’t want to be mistaken for a tourist, don’t feed the squirrels.

I’m lucky. I got any desire to feed rodents out of my system as a child.

8-year old me feeding chipmunks while on vacation in St. Elmo, Colorado. One of the main attractions is feeding the chipmunks that inhabit the woodpiles of this ghost town. (Click the picture if you want to read more about the chipmunks of St. Elmo!)

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

2 thoughts on “How To Look Like a Tourist in NYC: Feed the Squirrels

  1. You know, it’s funny… I’d never made that connection between the tourists and the squirrels. It might be because I tend to frequent parks that aren’t typically high on tourist’s radar, but I’ve seen lots of natives fawning over the squirrels and feeding them. I always just assumed the native fascination with squirrels was because it was the only real wildlife that they had that wasn’t overly annoying because they tend to keep to wooded areas. Whereas, I figured I had the tendency to ignore them and be all, “Oh for god sakes, don’t feed the damn things.” because I grew up in the woods and those little critters had a habit of figuring out ways to get into our house… which was the reason why my dad shot one in the house with a handgun once and liked to use them for target practice out the bathroom window….

  2. I do not think I would like a squirrel climbing my leg. I encountered a very upset squirrel on the trail in Yosemite when I would not share my trail mix. I told the little dude too much salt and sweet for him and he looked at me with attack intent – no one was harmed though:) Great Post – Happy Tuesday:)

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