Not remarkable

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.

2 Responses to “Not remarkable”

  1. Bern says:

    I agree. When my dear friend Janet collapsed on the subway in January, two people picked her up and made sure she got to a place where she would be safe…I have lived in many cities in my life and New York by far is one of the friendliest, unlike LA and San Francisco. New York just gets a bad rap because (and you would not believe this) most people on the west coast who speak badly about New York have never been there for more than 2 days….Of course, I keep myself far away from these people because their ignorance is gleaming.
    I think there are good shepherds everywhere and even in LA!

  2. Lisa says:

    Even in LA indeed. It took me many years to get over my annoyance at being back in the states after I moved to England (people were too loud and false friendly service staff made me want to rip my eyes and ears out), but it was a trip to LA where we used only public transport to get around that finally made me appreciate the US again. My daughter and I were travelling on bus and Red Line and everyone was so incredibly helpful. A man on the downtown LA bus insisted on giving up his seat to me, even though he was a good 30 years older. A woman, upon being asked directions, got off the train with us and walked us to our next stop even though it wasn’t her stop to get off.

    And of course, there was the group of hockey fans on the train between Newark and Manhattan who got off to shepherd my wayward daughter back onto the train when she inadvertantly got off with a surging crowd at the wrong stop.

    Maybe it’s a public transport thing… US public transport though. You’d never see anyone being nice on London transport, sadly.

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