29 December 2006

More Fun with Numbers and Google

Every year, it takes me by surprise: tourists come to Manhattan over the Christmas break. They come all year 'round, of course -- a record 44 million of them in 2006 -- but I never expect them now. Sure, we are experiencing our second unusually mild winter in a row (it's partly to do with strong El Nino cycle, according to my friend Clive, and not entirely unrelated to global warming), making both a visit to the climate-controlled Rockefeller Center skating rink and a saunter through Central Park possible and comfortable. But isn't it nicer to be home, playing video games and eating cookies and staying in your pajamas until noon? That's what I'd be doing if I had the week off.

What really gets me is how early the tourists hit the streets. On my walk to work this morning, before 9am, I had to dart around several packs of them, as they meandered four abreast on the sidewalk, and stopped at the corner as the Don't Walk light began to flash. Don't they know the flashing only means Start Walking Faster? I was on 35th Street, thinking that staying off 34th, with its Empire State Building and Macy's and Penn Station, would mean an uninterrupted walk. Silly me.

Can we just go back to that 44 million number for a minute? That's approximately the population of South Africa. The entire state of California could have visited us, and they could have brought along the state of Virginia. Every American with osteoporosis could have come. Every American without health insurance. Every victim of identity theft. Every woman at risk of thyroid deficiency due to rocket fuel pollution.

Oh, I do amuse myself.

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