The day I got stuck in the Puerto Rican Day Parade
It wasn’t Seinfeld.
It was real life.
The summer after my sophomore year of College. In New York City. My blonde, 5’1″ tall, 105 pound self (soaking wet) got caught in the middle of the famous Puerto Rican Day Parade.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Seinfeld made Puerto Rican Day and the chaos of the New York City Parade famous in 1998. In the episode, the characters all get stuck in standstill traffic due to the parade.
Here’s a clip of the infamous Kramer accidentally burning the Puerto Rican Flag. (A no-no, that actually garnered a lot of negative political press for Seinfeld.)
The Parade is serious business.
So there I was. A hot summer circa 2005ish, thinking “I’m going to go check out the shops on 5th Avenue. What fun!”
Off I went, blindly and happily making my way to the Rockefeller Center.
Only to get off the subway and find myself in the middle of…chaos.
No way to cross the street. No way to get back to the subway. Definitely no way to get to any of the stores.
The crowds were ginormous. Hooting, hollering, dancing, screaming, it was a parade alright.
But the problem was, it wasn’t *my* parade.
At first, people were polite when I tried to push through to find a way, any way, to get out of the parade. (Short of joining it!)
But the men.
I am not trying to make any kind of comment on Puerto Ricans. I have friends from Puerto Rico, former co-workers from Puerto Rico, and someday hope to visit Puerto Rico. But when it is the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC, the Puerto Rican men go crazzzzyyyy. Toss in a little blonde girl who is clearly lost (I was the only blonde for miles)–and suddenly you get a bunch of jerky, drunk, horny men with no sensors.
I had guys hoot at me.
Whistle at me.
Jeer at me.
Try to grab my butt.
Sing to me.
Try to dance with me.
Comment on my hair.
Make fun of my (at the time) total lack of breasts.
Hit on me with every sexist name.
Hit on me with names and “compliments” I am sure were sexist, but I had no idea what they meant.
Yell at me in Spanish.
Repeat: try to grab my butt, try to pinch me, try to put their arms around me, you name it.
TRY TO KISS ME!!
Swear at me when I ignored them, insult me, call me every negative white person insult and, even worse, every negative white *woman* insult. And blondes. Why did they think all blondes were playboy bimbos?
It was awful. Absolutely awful. And completely petrifying to a barely 20-year old from a college in Georgia.
Somehow, miraculously, I made it to Dean and Deluca–the haven of the Upper East Side society.
And I hid.
I was the only customer.
The clerks even felt bad for me. (Who were, interestingly enough that day, entirely males. There was not a single female staff member present.) They brought me extra coffee and water.
This was before smart phones. I couldn’t post my trauma to facebook or twitter. I couldn’t look up details on the parade on the web to figure out when it would be safe to go home. I didn’t have any friends I could iMessage with to help me. No Pinterest to kill time. I was stuck. And totally alone.
Nothing but an old fashioned cell phone, a chocolate croissant, and me, myself, and I–huddled in the back room of the Rockefeller Center Dean and Deluca. While the robust music and cheers of the Puerto Rican Day Parade passed by. For hours. And hours. And…well, you get the picture.
Eventually, it was sorta kinda maybe less of the crowded. The parade began to move a bit more uptown. I risked leaving the store–even bid goodbye to my new Dean and Deluca staff friends.
And I think I almost ran all the way back to my dorm room. Over 40 blocks away. In the NYC summer heat. I never did make it back to the subway!
Scary day. Funny in hindsight. But scary. Oh so scary.
This is the Wikipedia picture from 2004 of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Times the crowd by 10. Add more men. More noise. Dancing. Looooootsss of garbage.
Imagine: TRYING TO CROSS THE STREET!!!!
That was my Parade.
I hope not to get stuck in a Puerto Rican Day Parade ever again. But if I do? I seriously hope there is a film crew following me. Because people would not *believe* how crazy it was. Or how seriously awful and petrifying a place it was for a 20 year old girl. Or how probably hysterical my hiding in the Dean and Deluca was.
But at least I got to enjoy a chocolate pastry.
Too bad technology wasn’t advanced enough for me to instagram it!