Tag Archives: embarrassment

New York cranks it up to 11

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…

Coming to terms with shame

I’ve been in hiding for a week or so, as you’ll have noticed by the lack of posts on here. It’s not because I’ve lost any of my desire to give you witty, charming and considered tracts on life in New York (one day I hope to deliver on that dream), or because I just don’t get the love or validation that I so desperately need having been a New Yorker for all of 19 months. No reader, it’s not you – it’s me.

Embarrassment, you see, causes me to shrink into the background – to bury my head and not re-emerge until I believe that the coast is clear. Any vague sense of shame essentially leads me to retreat to my metaphorical nuclear bunker, never to return unless I think I can nip down to the shops without having my arm mutate into a three foot proboscis. Or without people pointing and laughing, more to the point.

Such enforced exiles only happen from time to time, it has to be said. Like when I was a thirteen year old and walked into the ladies changing rooms at a department store, much to the open amusement of a gaggle of schoolgirls standing outside it (less amused, it has to be said, was the woman inside wearing only a bra and a frown). Or the time when my baffled friends looked on as I told the Queen that I had two years left at school, despite having only about a week to go. And especially the time when I got so drunk at a Christmas party that I knocked the DJ’s decks off a table, causing the glitterati of London’s media world to turn around and stare. You can only imagine their looks when I did it for the second time a few minutes later.

Now New York has inflicted an embarrassment on me that has had me wanting to disappear under my duvet (or whatever it is that Americans call that thing that you put on top of your bed to keep you warm at night), and only emerge when the house is completely empty. And it’s all the fault of a slice of pizza.

A week last Friday, I decided that some pizza would be the perfect start to the weekend. Ah, the joyous combination of crispy dough, flavoursome tomato sauce and a layer of grilled-to-perfection cheese – excluding the unexpected arrival of Heidi Klum looking for a place to stay, what better way can there be to celebrate the start of two days off?

Sadly my enthusiasm became a little too much for me, and I set about the task with all the indecent haste of an AIG executive banking his bonus. Realising that it was under attack, the pizza instituted emergency procedures and dispatched an area of tomato sauce and cheese (that had clearly been heated through nuclear fission) on a seek-and-destroy mission to the corner of my mouth. Shocked and stunned by the unexpected arrival of a globule of molten lava on my lip, I could barely move – and by the time I had, my mouth suddenly featured a rather fetching crater.

For the last week, I’ve been walking around with what looks like a ridiculously virile cold sore on my bottom lip. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I always think that it’s difficult to foster an air of respect when you look like you’ve got an outbreak of herpes on your face. I try to explain that it’s actually a third degree burn that was inflicted by a maverick Italian snack product, but nobody’s having it.

Thankfully the pain and the scarring is slowly receding, but the emotional scars will last a lifetime. I’ll go out in public again one day, but for the moment it’s back to hiding underneath the bedcovers. I’ve got enough food to last me another week. I think I’m going to need every bit of it before the shame finally fades.