Rudeness with a smile on its face

I’ve said before that New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and surly. The idea is not without some small justification. After all, in just 17 months of living here, I’ve been bashed out of the way with an umbrella, been screamed at in a supermarketgrocery store by an old lady, and been given death stares by everyone from ten year old kids to grumpy old waiters.

In reality, most locals are actually no more rude than the residents of any other city. And indeed, many are among the most friendly people you could hope to meet. It’s almost enough to make you forget about the man ranting at staff in the coffee shop for using whole milk instead of skim milk. 

After last night though, I’m wondering if this general air of new-found politeness could actually just be part of an elaborate sham. A plot, if you will, to lull me into thinking that New York is a blissful Disney-style paradise where everybody is kind to each other.

Having walked up the steps from the L train to the N train platform, the scene at the top suggested that Manhattan was under attack and everybody was being evacuated to Bay Ridge. People thronged everywhere as they attempted to get off or on trains coming into the station, and the ten yard walk to the N train that had just pulled into the platform seemed to take forever.

All of this posed a problem for the middle-aged mustachioed man on the far side of the platform. Of course, he desperately wanted to get on the train, but at the same time, he needed to adhere to New York’s nascent “let’s be polite” policy. But the two things were mutually exclusive – honorably edge his way through pedestrian traffic and he’d miss the train.

His solution was breathtaking, and I swear that however long I stay in New York, I will never see this again. First he put his arms in the air and clasped his hands together. An unusual move in rush hour, I think you’ll appreciate, and one that didn’t go unnoticed by fellow travellers. Then swiftly he brought down his still clasped arms/hands at 90 degrees to the rest of his body, taking a pose last seen on the starting blocks for the 50 metresmeters men’s freestyle final at the Olympic swimming pool in Beijing. Having got everybody’s attention, he simply jet propelled himself through the crowd to the door of the train, using his arms to part the Red Sea of people ahead of him.

So far, so rude. Or at least, it would have been had he not been shouting at the top of his voice as he did it, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am trying to get on this train, thank you very much.” He may have skittled all commuters in his path, but at least he did it politely, right?

Sadly for him, the doors weren’t open when he got to the train, and he had to spend a good thirty seconds staring into space and trying to ignore the looks of the astonished fellow passengers that he’d belted out of the way. I’m guessing that the anger they vented in his general direction wasn’t quite so well-mannered…

10 thoughts on “Rudeness with a smile on its face

  1. Brooklyn

    I’m reminded of a line from the TV version of the Addams Family (I may be paraphrasing a bit, this is from memory):

    Gomez [to Morticia]: Carida, that is what we in the business world call “cutting your competitor’s throat without getting blood on his tie.”

  2. Expat Mum

    I saw a Chicago incident yesterday that took my breath away. A woman in a car, got to the traffic lights, (on green), stopped the car right at the corner, got out to get a newspaper and completely ignored the honking cars behind her. It was a single lane road so no one was going anywhere until she got her paper.
    We call these people “special”.

  3. Dylan

    I’m so glad you clarified, Lisa…I know you don’t live in a bustling metropolis, but even you don’t have to pay a piece of wood to keep you amused!

  4. IanB

    There is a technique invented in London for just this situation; one where you are part of the crowd and not the ‘running man’ as we will politely refer to him.

    The technique is called: “tactical tripping”. It must be followed by “tactical pretending it wasn’t you” and “tactical gesturing with eyebrows towards innocent bystander just in case”.

    Ah the joys of the Victoria Line at rush hour, I miss you…not.

  5. Brooklyn

    In NYC, that would be followed by the simultaneous “tactical use of the compound word for female parent and sexual intercouse” and “tactical right uppercut.”

  6. Pingback: Coming Through! :: Englishman in New York

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