One thing that we British can’t exactly say we’re experts at is expressing emotion. Anybody who saw me celebrating Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute winner for Manchester United against Fulham last season would probably beg to differ, but on the whole, we’re not a race that’s particularly comfortable with expressing ourselves in public.
The same can’t be said of New Yorkers. Walking out through a revolving door of a jewellery shop on Fifth Avenue today, an old man who had unwittingly wandered into the door’s radius exclaimed “Shit, you nearly gave me a heart attack then” as my swing of the door almost ripped his arm from its socket. If the tables had been turned, I would have apologised profusely to the door swinger, and possibly offered my first-born as recompense for the inconvenience.
New Yorkers have no compunction about arguing in public. In fact, it’s actually a way of life. Whether it’s casual bickering about slack service in a shop, or balls-out stand-up slanging matches in laundr
etteomats, New Yorkers love to air their grievances infront of anyone who cares to listen. And if nobody wants to listen, they’ll air ‘em anyway.
Walking out of the office yesterday, celebrating the start of the Christmasholiday break, I almost bumped into two
blokesmen having what seemed like a lovers tiffquarrel. But unlike in Britain, where any heated discussion would still have been kept to a quiet (though passionate) whisper, these two were in a full on verbal battle:
Bald man with a sneer: “You’re a f***ing piece of shit, you know.”
Darked hair guy with bad skin: “Don’t you f***ing shout at me.”
BMWAS: “I have to shout at you because you never f***ing listen to me.”
DHGWBS: “F*** you.”
I ended up following them for a couple of blocks as I headed off to the subway, and the pair argued all the way. There was no embarrassment at their blazing row, and no awareness of anybody having noticed. And to be honest, nobody had noticed. Even though it would have been easier to miss a rhinoceros walking down 9th Avenue in a negligee.
Unsurprisingly, with our stiff upper lips and legendary sense of reserve, the British have been accused of having emotional constipation. On all the evidence I’ve seen so far, New Yorkers have been taking laxatives for years.