What is Union Square? Maps tell me it is a square (really more of a rectangle) that sits in the middle of Manhattan, but why do we have it? Is it actually a physical place, or is it just a mindset? When is a person really “in” Union Square? When they are on 14th Street? When they are in Chipotle? When they are having anxiety? Can it be used as an adjective to describe capitalists who drink smoothies for lunch? Is it an invisible portal, like Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, accessible only if you are wearing a bluetooth headset or dead? Am I, in fact, dead?
These are all important questions that I—as a person who works near, but not in, Union Square—ask myself every day, but it was Real Housewives of New York City cast member Ramona who first brought this line of inquiry to the public. According to Page Six, Singer, who has lived in New York for upwards of 100 years, recently asked a group of strangers “What is Union Square?” while riding uptown on the N train.
“Ramona looked around to everyone and exclaims, ‘What is Union Square? Is it 20th Street? Like, what is it? Fourteenth?’” a fan posted as part of a private “Housewives” Facebook group.
The witness added of the befuddled Bravo personality: “No one responds or looks at [Singer] … she looks directly at me, I manage to say, ‘It’s 14th.’ She says, ‘So, we passed 20th already?’ and follows me off the train … All I can manage to do is look at her sorrowfully and say, ‘Ummmmm … yeah, ya did,’ to which she says, ‘Damn!’ ”
In response, Singer told Page Six that actually, she does know Union Square—though what, really, does it mean to “know” Union Square? “I didn’t say ‘Damn,’” she clarified. “I was thinking, ‘S—t, how did I miss 20th Street?’ I was on my phone looking at emails. I was going to the doctor. I know Union Square! I was double-checking. I missed a stop.”
There is no 20th Street stop on the subway, but the many questions surrounding Union Square remain open-ended.