When I first got to New York, I rented a small apartment in Brooklyn from a great guy called Ray Jones. The apartment was meant to be temporary, as I was going to be there for a month only. It already had furniture and all that, and it was just something I could use as a base of operations to rent my real apartment – something I could only do after I had my Social Security Number, a bank account, and all those kinds of things that are usually required for a normal apartment lease. The bureaucracy of moving from another country is a very complicated thing, so I had to stay on that temporary apartment for a while until I could sort everything out.
To my surprise, when I first got to that temporary apartment, all the door locks in the building seemed upside down to me, forcing me to use the keys on a different orientation I’d normally expect. It was odd, but since that was an old building, I assumed they may had replaced the doors, flipped the locks, or something of the sort. Maybe whoever did maintenance was just reckless; it’s not that uncommon for people to have locks or door handles incorrectly installed, I guess, and this was not the most luxurious apartment ever anyway. So I didn’t think much of it at the time.
I used that first apartment to sort my documentation out, and to hunt for a long-term place I could rent. So after that first month was over, I finally moved to my new home. This new apartment was also in Brooklyn, and it was a pretty cool building; everything was brand new, really shiny and white and polished. Except that all door locks there were also upside down.
It was pretty baffling to me that people could manage to get the door locks installed wrong in a new building. But at a certain point I just decided to have a better look at the lock. There was a name engraved on it; the brand of the lock maker, I think. To my surprise, the name was perfectly oriented – that is, it wasn’t upside down at all.
That’s when I realized that that lock, as well as the other locks I had encountered before, were not really upside down; they were always meant to be that way, and they were correctly installed.
So, as it turns out, keys are used around here in a different fashion from where I come from. Depending on where one comes from, it can said that I am using them wrong, and that this whole time, before moving, I’ve been using locks that are actually upside down, only to now finally start using them the right way.
And as irrelevant as the orientation of a key lock is, it is still pretty emblematic of my experience in this city so far. Of course, everything I see is supposed to be new to me, so I really didn’t have any well-defined set of expectations; that is, I’m constantly prepared to be surprised, and to embrace the experience when that happens. However, sometimes, the smallest things end up getting you off-guard, just because certain conventions you considered to be universal are not quite like that. Not better or worse, really, just different. You realize that, sometimes, your expectations are just upside down. And, in all honesty, this is what I hope these stories are all about.
It’s not supposed to be funny. I’m pretty sure it’s quite boring, actually.