There’s no getting away from the fact that New Yorkers are loud. Whether they’re talking to a friend on the street, or snarling out curses like
SmartiesM&Ms to passers-by who have the temerity to cross the road infront of them, New Yorkers have a volume control that is set at least 25% higher than the rest of the world’s. Their idea of an intimate conversation is just one in which they don’t bother to use the megaphone.
Of course, this is all grist to the mill of the accidental voyeur. Back in London I had to use all manner of devices and props, from newspapers to earphones attached to an iPod that wasn’t turned on, in an attempt to listen in to other people’s conversations. Here in the US, you just make sure that you’re on the same block and you’re in with a shout. Quite literally, in some cases.
Since moving here, I’ve heard all manner of bizarre chats between New York residents. I’ve heard more about people’s love lives than I ever needed to know, listened to a man on his phone threatening to wreak all manner of damage on his ex’s house if she didn’t go out and find his cat, and effectively sat in on a brainstorming session between two ad execs planning a campaign for a drug to combat high blood pressure.
Above the babble and din as I wandered through Chelsea Market at lunchtime, I heard two guys bantering after presumably bumping into each other on their lunch hours. As usual, raised voices were the order of the day, despite the two guys awkwardly hugging and standing mere inches apart as a result.
“How are you, asshole?” laughed the first guy.
“Dude, I don’t even know you,” shouted the other.
I walked alongside the first guy as the pair separated, his smile fading as he turned around to take another look at his friend.
“S**t, it wasn’t even the guy I know after all,” he muttered to himself as he walked off, his face reddening.
Embarrassment and shame – a very private error in the rest of the world, open-air theatrical performance for the benefit of everyone in New York…