One thing that makes a New Yorker stand out from the crowd is their absolute stubborn refusal to accept that they could ever be wrong. You could be an undisputed world expert in a particularly obscure field of quantum physics, and yet you would still find a New York street cleaner who’d be more than happy to pick a quarrel with you regarding your chosen specialism. And don’t even think about chancing your arm in an argument with a New Yorker over a topic they think they might know something about. Like coffee, swearing, or honking your car horn when it’s least necessary.
The necessary adjunct is that if you’re never going to be wrong, then you need to know everything. Luckily New Yorkers aren’t shy in proclaiming their knowledge of anything and indeed everything. Google is good, but if you really need to get an answer, then you need a New Yorker. You may not get the right answer, but you’ll get it with a hell of a lot of conviction.
I’m lucky that – in the shape of The Special One (who has been resident in New York for around 20 years) – I live with the world’s leading expert on absolutely everything. It’s like living with a living breathing encyclopedia, albeit one that occasionally makes the kind of claims that make Wikipedia look like the font of all knowledge. There is literally nothing that she doesn’t know the answer to, whether it’s the identity of the 1946 FA Cup winners or the colour of the pants I’m wearing right now. And woe betide you if you dare even timidly question her belief that it was a) the Birmingham Raiders and b) neon pink.
Just occasionally though, it would be great if a New Yorker could put their hand up in the air and say “you know, maybe I am not the all-seeing one.”
On Saturday, I went to a local dry cleaners to pick up some clothes that had languished there for about five weeks; what can I say, I always like to test out their policy on how long they keep clothes. Anyway, as I walked in, a clearly frantic young woman was stood at the counter with a white silk Armani top laid out on the counter. The owner, a Chinese man who from previous experience has good but limited English, stood patiently as the woman pointed out some stains that had accidentally found their way onto the top.
Now, there are two things to say about these stains. Firstly, from where I was standing (which was pretty close), I couldn’t see even one. Secondly, there was not a single place on the blouse that she did not indicate had a stain on it. The owner looked on in disbelief as she urged him to place a ‘stain’ sticker on around forty seven different positions. According to her, the top was less ‘blouse’ and more ‘all over stain carrier’.
Having indicated all the stains, the desperate woman asked if there was any chance that the dry cleaning was going to make the stains any worse. Given that the entire top was apparently stained, I don’t know whether she thought that the dry cleaner was going to pour a gallon of crude oil on top of it, but that seems to be the only way that he could have made it worse.
Once the woman had finally accepted that the owner had at least seen all the stains, she then asked whether he thought that they would all come out. The owner insisted that they would.
“But why do you think they’ll come out?” she bleated.
“Because it’s the dry cleaning. All the stains will come out,” he insisted.
“But what makes you say that?”
“They’ll come out, I really think.”
“But what makes you think that they’ll come out?”
“The dry cleaning process will just get the stains out.”
“But what makes you say that?”
The woman turned to me, smiled awkwardly, and gave me the conspiratorial look that says something along the lines of “this guy just isn’t really getting what I’m saying, is he?”
Finally my indignation at her became too much, and I snapped “it’s because he’s the expert at dry cleaning, and you’re not.”
The woman turned back to the man, took her ticket, and stomped out. To be fair, she slammed the door like a complete expert.