The next time people ask me what it's like to live in New York City, I'm going to refer them to today's New York Times story about Aaron Vansintjan, the 21-year-old Belgian college student who managed to undergo about four key New York experiences in the span of a few hours.
First, Vansintjan kicked the day off with New York Experiences 1 and 2: Shopping and Fine Art:
"He spent the early part of the day shopping at Macy's with his mother. Then he headed uptown by subway to meet friends at the Cloisters, the collection of medieval art housed high above the Hudson in the towering splendor of Fort Tryon Park."
Vansintjan began to climb up the hill on which the Cloisters stands, at which point he underwent... New York Experience 3: Arrest:
"Someone ran at me with a gun drawn, screamed at me to get down to the ground, pushed me onto my knees, and then put my face in the ground. [...] As he was being held on the street, he said, 'they told me someone had reported the theft of a Macy's bag.'"
As a component of the New York Arrest Experience, he was taken to the station and interrogated by police, who never informed him of his right to be silent or right to representation. He spent most of the day in jail before being released. He was never told why. Which brings us right to New York Experience 4: Crazy Guy:
"[T]he man who reported the burglary told the police that there had been no break-in, and that people were out to get him, according to [Police spokesman Paul J.] Browne. He was taken to a psychiatric hospital, Mr. Browne said."
Look at that: a real "New York" day. And don't forget, of course, all the wonderful things he learned about our fine city's legal system:
Mr. Vansintjan knew nothing of this until I told him on Tuesday. When he was in the holding cell, he was the only white; the 10 others were all being held on pot charges. "If I weren't white," he said, he might have been held overnight.
The NYPD should really consider a "forceful arrest and interrogation" tourist package.