Losing control

Outside the USA, it’s an almost universally held notion that Americans are rude. It’s probably a belief prompted by people’s experiences of relatively elderly US tourists who plod their way around cities and landmarks weighed down by impossibly large cameras and an equally sizeable belief that the world would shudder to a halt without Americans to boss everyone around.

Having been brought up in Chester – a tourist trap for Americans if ever there was one – I’m well used to the spectacle of swarming tourists causing offence to everybody within fifty paces. As well as setting new highs for patronising locals, this particular brand of tourist seems to leave their volume control in a small box at passport control back in the US. As a result, they’re forced to communicate with friends sitting next to them at a level suggesting a previous life as one of the military experts who used high decibel noise in an effort to persuade Manuel Noriega to surrender in Panama.

Of course, New Yorkers of all ages have a reputation for being, let’s say, ‘a little brusque’. It’s rare that anyone says thank you if you hold a door open for them, and it’s not unusual to be pushed out of the way in shops or the subway if you somehow forget to put up your ‘don’t even think about messing with me’ forcefield before you leave your home in the morning.

Make any trip outside the metropolitan New York area, and you realise that the vast majority of Americans are perfectly normal, polite and friendly people. To be honest, most New Yorkers would probably be the same if they weren’t under the spell of a city that brings out the inner serial killer in even the most saintly of characters. No wonder Mayor Bloomberg felt the need to launch a campaign to encourage better communications between tourists and locals.

When you live in a city like New York, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that rudeness is actually a universal human trait rather than specific to the five boroughs. Which is why it was almost a relief to witness a German man berating a poor unsuspecting Apple Store staff member yesterday, as I waited patiently to get my (brand new) iPod fixed.

Ignoring the throngs of people all waiting for their allotted time with a ‘genius’ at the ‘genius bar’, this man strolled straight up to one aforementioned genius who was knee-deep in a poorly MacBook Pro and demanded to know why his power supply wasn’t working. Once he’d been politely pointed in the direction of somebody who could help him make a proper appointment, he proceeded to shout and rant at anybody who’d listen, particularly after he discovered that there were no more appointments for that day.

Like the classic chicken-and-egg situation, it’s hard to know whether some outsiders come to New York as ready-made angry individuals, or whether it’s New York that causes such displays of impatience and entitlement. Whatever the case, if my current career ever hits the rocks, I reckon I’ve hit upon the perfect alternative.

Anger management counselling will be easy after all this time in the Big Apple.

4 thoughts on “Losing control

  1. Babzy

    What a great post. Stress and pressure bring out the worst in folks. Just being in a stressful environment is enough to turn civilized beings into animals.

    I’ve noticed a big change in myself now that I don’t go into the big city for work. I’m much more relaxed. People in my area take the time to be courteous because they have plenty of time. They’re not pushing and shoving and rushing around to get where they’re going which must be more important than where anyone else is going.

    Busy, stressed out people don’t get that it doesn’t take any more time to use some manners. They’re just so angry.

  2. Sue

    I am really enjoying your blog, Dylan. But I can’t quite agree with you about New Yorkers. I’m told often how folks are surprised at how nice New Yorkers are.

    I studied in Paris for a semester (a million years ago) and I was struck by how lovely the Parisians were from January until May. The minute the tourists arrived the typical obnoxious Parisian attitude returned. Maybe in most situations New Yorkers are kind, but when confronted by dollar grubbing large groups of self-entitled tourists they lose their cool. And really retail establishments shouldn’t count. You could go from Boston to LA and get lousy service everywhere.

  3. Cola

    This is hilarious. I noticed the rudeness too and so have family members who came to visit. That’s why you have to travel outside of NYC too see that its just an NYC thing and you always have ot be on your guard lest it permeates your brain like a virus and you start acting the same way. Come and see me at my blog and say hi. Us Brits need ot stick together

  4. mum

    you can tell that you haven’t been in chester for a very long time. Americans don’t come here any more – town is full of the very, very polite Japanese.

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