I was surprised that people thought I was describing something exceptional in yesterday’s post. In fact I was merely reporting something completely unexceptional, something that happens every day here. Of course people jumped in to help that old man. New Yorkers are very practical people: If there’s a problem we can solve, we generally prefer just to solve it.
For example, if there is a parent with a baby carriage at the bottom of the subway steps, someone will immediately offer to pick up one end and help carry it to the top. Afterward the volunteer is more than likely to forget that s/he even did it. That’s just the way things work in this city.
My friend Jon pointed out to me today that the misconception that New Yorkers are indifferent might come from the fact that (with so many people in such a small space) people here have a very good B.S. filter. You just know, in much less than a second, when somebody is about to come on to you and pretend they need a handout. You can feel the sense of practice in their pitch, even before they open their mouth.
But a legitimate problem, like this ninety-something year old man needing to get from point A to point B, is a whole different thing. People are actually relieved to be able to do something to help make this town a more manageable place.
I am aware that there are places in the world where jumping in to help an old man get somewhere he needs to go is considered remarkable. But New York City isn’t one of them.