Once, twice, three times a New Yorker

New York and its population come with a certain reputation for fieriness. To be fair, some of that is deserved. Hell, I even perpetuate it myself, telling tales of being whacked in the arm by an old man and his umbrella, or being pursued around a supermarketgrocery store by a woman with rage management issues. But like the dog that’s had its teeth removed and replaced with foam molars, New York’s bark is much worse than its bite.

The problem is that it’s not as good a story to say that the people of New York are essentially fine upstanding citizens who love their mothers and do a lot of great work for charity. It’s so much easier to stick with the notion that all New Yorkers are impatient and crazy, and more-than-capable of dropkicking a cat more than 60 metresmeters at the end of a particularly bad day.

Thankfully, every so often (generally just when you think you’re at the end of your tether) New York musters all its strength to give you a demonstration of why it’s actually not that bad after all (and why you shouldn’t allow yourself to be affected by the stereotypes). And the last couple of days have given me some great examples to reassure me of New York’s loving intent.

1. The car crash victim
Walking to the opticians on Friday, the idyll of a bracing stroll through the streets of Chelsea was broken by the sickening crunch of metal on metal. Looking up, I watched as two cars pulled into the side street to survey the damage caused by an accidental low-speed crash. This being New York, I readied myself for screaming and shouting as the ‘wronged man’ stepped out of his car to survey the damage. With swearing expected at the minimum, and full on flying fists as a distinct possibility, surrounding pedestrians waited for the theatreer to begin.

Instead the driver looked at the minor dent on the bumper of his car, smiled understandingly at the quivering wreck of a man sitting in the car behind, and waved him on his way. New York was robbed of another drama, and Friday evening went on undisturbed.

2. The chorus line
A couple of blocks down the road, I looked up to see a crazy young(ish) woman around fifty meters away, walking towards me ranting at the top of her voice. Here we go again, I thought – I’m about to be verbally abused by a mad woman who hasn’t been seen in the same postcodezipcode as ‘sanity’ since 1987. Denied the opportunity to cross the road by fast-moving oncoming traffic, I readied myself to put my head down and hope for the best.

Then two small children skipped out from behind the woman, and I quickly realised that, far from being crazy, the three of them were actually giving a full on walking Broadway version of one of the songs from Annie. It was like seeing a female Von Trapp trio traipsing through the cold city streets, content in each other’s company and happy to fend off the cold without a care for what anyone else thought. Damn them for their cheeriness, I thought, before quickly self-flagellating myself for my grumpy New York attitude.

3. The patisserie lady
Last night I went into a high-end grocery store to pick up a dessert for a dinner party we’d been invited to. The queueline snaked past the patisserie counter, making it difficult to tell a pecan pie from an apple tart given the vast array of coats, scarves and bags obscuring the view. My plaintive mumblings of ‘excuse me’ were ignored by every single member of the line, with each one clearly fearful that I was using my desire to buy pastry-based products as some sneaky way of cutting infront of them.

Just as I was giving up hope, a lovely looking old lady looked at me, and backed away to allow me room to see what delights were on offer. She seemed to smile as she did so, a knowing glance between us regarding the sad state of affairs that is modern manners these days. As I started to look into the cabinet, I took a second to remember that New York is all too willing to show you its softer side, if you just give it a chance.

Then the crotchety old bag stuck her head right in my face and shouted at me to back off and not push infront of her, before ranting mercilessly about the ‘youth of today’.

Ah New York, it never lets you down.

17 thoughts on “Once, twice, three times a New Yorker

  1. Trixie Trouble

    Heaven! Did it have a thin crust and a lovely squidgy centre akin to a treacle tart with nuts? That’s my fav type.

  2. Mike

    Clearly the driver who had his bumper dented was a fugitive and didn’t want to exchange papers. On the “sunshiney” woman and her children, sounds to me like a group Prozac thing. The last one at least was dependable. Damn, I love me some pecan pie.

  3. Expat Mum

    Well I’m glad you saw the irony in the situations. Mine would have been –
    1. Car crash – uninsured. That’s THE only reason anyone ever leaves the scene.
    2. Chorus line – crazy mother! (Don’t care what she was singing – it’s too cold to be doing that).
    3. Patisserie queue/line – derrr? You’re in New York!
    Happy Thxgvg.

  4. MikeH

    That dinner party didn’t happen to be a Thanksgiving dinner party, did it? I suppose not, as then you would have been legally required to buy pumpkin pie.

    And the woman in example 2 was obviously crazy.

  5. Brooklyn

    I’m wondering, did you say “Excuse me,” or “Excuse me, I just want to see what they have.”. In my experience, anyone would have stepped aside in response to the latter.

  6. Dylan

    Brooklyn – I think I said just ‘excuse me’ to be fair. Although I don’t know many queue/line jumpers who politely ask to move infront of you, so it should have been pretty obvious…

    And pumpkin pie? There’s a whole blog entry in there about the awfulness of it. Blee. Don’t come anywhere near me with that stuff. And you can keep your egg nog too. Although eggnog latte is bizarrely pleasurable…

  7. Trixie Trouble

    You are mistaken – pumpkin pie (apart from the crust) is delish! In fact I’ve just been to Wholefoods and bought one for ‘im indoors and the mother-in-law so that they can have a ‘nod to Thanksgiving’ dinner whilst I go out with my friends!

  8. Richard

    Please no denouncing pumpkin pie. Store bought is probably not very good, but a properly made, spiced and baked pumpkin pie is really worthwhile. Eggnog is horrible.

    As one of the “natives” I must let you in on the long standing secret: We cultivate the “NY Attitude” to help weed out the serious from the tourist.

    Like any large city the only way such a huge gathering of people can succeed is through cooperation and etiquette.

  9. Silverback

    It’s just that accent.

    We’re over in Clearwater right now and were at the Doubletree on North Redington Beach last night. This morning our waitress had an accent that would cut glass and she sounded just like that “Ohh My God Chandler Bing” woman from Friends.

    I just HAD to ask and sure enough, she told us she was from NY.

    No surprise there then. Woke us up faster than the coffee.

  10. Brooklyn

    Dylan: The explanation IS necessary. In NY, the rule is do not give a possible line jumper the benefit of any doubt. Happy Thanksgiving to those for whom it is a holiday.

  11. Esther

    Your post made me pine for some London misery and rudeness. I’ve been in LA for a year and a half and the constant smiles and positive attitudes are beginning to grind me down.

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