Before we send our evangelists to the streets of New York, we give them extensive training on witnessing, conversation and confrontation techniques. But there are some things about witnessing in New York City that you learn only through experience:
1. Smile a lot. That always makes everyone in New York wonder what you’re up to and will confuse potential adversaries.
2. If it sounds like people are screaming at you, don’t worry. In New York everyone talks that loudly just to be heard. It’s really a New York style whisper.
3. Italian ice is not a weather term. It’s a yummy, cool sherbet treat that you can get from vendors on street corners.
4. If someone yells, Whaddya crazy?” he doesn’t want a notarized certificate about the state of your mental health. It’s merely a noncommittal way of saying, “May I have one of those pamphlets?”
5. The weeping and gnashing of teeth you may hear in a subway does not indicate that the world has come to an end. It’s the sound of commuters reading the Wall Street Journal on their way to the Financial District.
6. If a middle-aged lady with a shopping bag asks, “Does your mother know you’re doing this?” it’s because she’s a mother and is wondering if her daughter is doing the same thing in San Francisco.
7. Be aggressive about getting on and off the subway trains. Otherwise you could end up in the Bronx when you only wanted to go two stops in Manhattan.
8. You will need to learn to interpret some of the New York dialect. Here are a few words to broaden your New York vocabulary:
Donder is not one of Santa’s reindeer. It’s a direction as in, “I already got one of those pamphlets donder on 32nd Street.”
Canchasea is not a swimming beach near Brooklyn. It’s an admonition like, “Canchasea my hands are full of packages and I can’t take a pamphlet?”
Swat is not what you do to pesky flies. It’s a remark that denotes indifference, as in, “Swat if you call yourselves Jews for Jesus? I’m a Muslim for pork.”