On my way to work, I saw a woman drop what looked to be a pretty pricey cashmere scarf. A man in passing picked it up and proceeded to chase her for half a block before she noticed. She grabbed her scarf barely breaking her stride to even look at him, let alone say thank you. He rolled his eyes so hard at her lack of gratitude I thought he would pop a blood vessel.
I’ve been living in New York for about nine months and I’ve got to say, this city is not the rude, crude place movies and media make it out to be. Even though a lot of people here lack some common courtesies, I find New Yorkers to be much help in a few big city-specific ways.
On The Train
I once saw a man leap through the train doors just as they were closing. His body made it, but his back pack didn’t. He wiggled around for a bit, waiting for the doors to re-open, but they never did.
Just as the train was about to pull off a woman standing on the platform took it upon herself to swiftly front kick him in his back with the perfect amount of force, not to injure, but to help him complete his dive onto the train.
Maybe this woman really wanted to help or maybe she was heading to a job she hates and simply saw it as an opportunity to relieve some stress (because we rarely get an open opportunity to full on Jackie Chan-style kick someone during rush hour without consequences). Either way, it was the greatest 30 seconds of struggle and release I’ve ever witnessed. Peak New York assistance.
As an incoming high school freshman, I was told to never ask seniors for directions because they would intentionally send you to the wrong classroom. So not only would you wind up late for class, you would become a prime target for pranks for the rest of the year. Because of this, I never once asked for help finding my class and I still have an irrational fear of asking more experienced folk for directions because I feel like they will send me off as a joke.
Living in New York, I’ve had to face my fear because some signs are difficult and many train routes just don’t make sense. Each time I’ve asked for directions, I’ve been given a list of multiple trains and connections, peppered with a confusing mix of avenues and street numbers.
The fact is, if asked for directions, after taking a quick second to judge you for not using google maps, New Yorkers will try to give you directions, whether or not you understand them is on you.
Remember streets run east and west. Avenues run north and south. Now meeting someone on the corner of 42nd and 7th doesn’t seem so confusing, does it?
Bodega Price Verifiers
My issue with bodegas is that there is no price consistency. Bodega owners rarely put price tags on their products and a covert investigation would probably reveal that they make up most of the prices on the spot.
Almond Milk at my corner store is $5.99 and just one block over its $3.99 for the same brand and same size carton. This makes no sense.
A few weeks ago I needed to purchase a lighter so I asked the guy behind the counter for their cheapest one. He pulled out a small $1 lighter. The girl next to me – a stranger – promptly and very loudly – spoke up and said, “She asked for the cheapest one, you betta give her the 50 cent lighter!”
I forgot to tell you thank you girl! I dedicate this post to you and the 50 cents you saved me!
So no, New Yorkers may not say hello when passing on the street, they really don’t care to make small talk in public, and they may not always stop and say thank you for chasing them down for half a block in an attempt to give back a lost item.
What matters is that they show up when and where they see a fellow lost, overcharged fellow commuter struggling to survive in this crazy city.