Don’t Believe the Hype, NYC is Kind

November 1, 2018

(Shannon Holly)

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I commute into NYC every weekday and while not everyone on the train or subway is a “morning person” there is a code of conduct that takes place and there’s kindness in it. To be fair, NYC kindness is just dressed differently than in other cities. For example, no one actually talks on the train or subway. However, there is the ceremonial head nod that says, “go ahead of me” and even without words, that’s nice. 

New Yorkers get a bad rap in the friendly department but it’s not for a lack of being kind or good.  Here’s my theory:  It’s about energy conservation.  If you are from somewhere else you can’t begin to imagine how much it takes to navigate a city of this population and pace every day. You have to be “on” at all times. Just crossing the street is a game of Frogger and it gets exhausting. So If you can let someone know that they’re welcome to cut in front of you with a simplified nod instead of a full conversation why wouldn’t you? Precious energy was saved and the nice thing was still done. In NYC that kind of energy conservation adds up, believe me. 

Sometimes you see kindness that only resonates on the deepest level solely because the norm here is limited interaction. Yesterday, I stopped on King Street to take a phone call (which must have gotten pretty animated) when a construction worker stopped what he was doing, walked over to me and said, “Hey you OK? You need anything?” Nothing was actually wrong.  The Italian in me talks with her hands, and apparently using headphones for work my entire life has done a number on my hearing so basically I yell when I talk. How kind was it for this big burly construction worker (who was a total stranger) to ask if I was OK? After my call, I walked back to find him and let him know that I appreciated his concern and to shake his hand. He quickly took off his work glove, shook my hand and said I just wanted to know if you were ok. God bless you.” 

Then, last Monday commuting into work, we were on a shoulder-to-shoulder subway line pushing ourselves through the turnstiles to get on the 1 Downtown. An older lady in front of me had insufficient funds on her Metro card. This meant fighting the same massive crowd again, but this time against traffic only to wait on another line just to refill her card and then do it all over again. I told her not to get out of line, I swiped my Metro card and paid her way. It was in my awareness to do that only because two times in the past 3 months a stranger did the same exact thing for me, one of which, if I had to guess was homeless.

Look, I get it. People from North Jersey and NYC talk fast, we even cut people off mid-sentence to implement some word economy. I’ll admit you’re more likely to spot Bigfoot in Times Square than have a New Yorker start small talk with you but is that a bad thing? If we’re honest, isn’t small talk a total energy and time suck anyway? We simply can’t afford to do it and keep up with the demands of living here.  HOWEVER, when it counts, I’ve seen more east coast “I’ve got your back” than anywhere else in the country. 

Kindness does live in NYC... you just have to take a New York minute to see it. 

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